Gather around. Get cozy. Bring blankets, maybe tea or your favorite caffeinated beverage. Settle in. Take a breath.
We’re going to wade back into responsibility from a different lens. Let’s look at the responsibility we share as a society. As you’ll recall, we defined responsibility as: Responsibility: the state of being accountable for something.
Taken in the wrong context, helping sounds like laying yourself out like a mat for everyone to walk over. It feels like a burden.
Let’s establish a few ground rules, okay?
In order to help others, you must first help yourself. Know your boundaries. Say no when necessary, and a resounding YES when the occasion is right. This is not a call to martyrdom. Responsibility is not about absorbing other people’s pain or guilt or shame.
Helping others is not about cleaning up someone else’s mess. It’s about being a messenger for positivity for others. Be the light that shows them the way.
Got it? Good.
One of the my favorite deliciously intricate and confusing Jewish sayings is: “Whoever saves a life it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a.)
This to me, exemplifies societal responsibility. This is one of the Torah’s takes on responsibility. But…what does it mean to save a life? How is an entire world contained in the life of a single human?
Think about yourself as a microcosm for the universe. You are your experiences, memories, and stories. You are the lives you’ve woven together and the lives you will touch. You are a soul on a mission. You are your ancestors, and a future ancestor. What if I snapped my fingers and that world—the world of you—disappeared?
When a life ends, a world ends.
There are many ways to end a world. But oh, my dears, there are so many ways to build up a world.
Saving a life isn’t just about physically saving a life. A person could be dead on the inside, an apathetic bag of bones. Can you spark something in them?
A person may not finding meaning and purpose in their existence. Can you show them that they matter?
Offer a smile. Be a teacher. Be a friend. Be a student. These are simple ways to save a life, no surgeries or emergency rooms required.
It’s our job to step up and own our duty to our worldly neighbors. When you own the responsibility you have, you’re telling the world that you’re invested in its purpose.
I’ve hidden behind responsibility before. I have refused to step to the plate. It takes a lot more energy to hide away and avoid responsibility than it does to empower yourself to step up to the plate. Once you recognize your path here, it’s impossible to ignore it.
We’re not meant to be a world of bystanders.
Moshe, leader of the Jewish nation, is my hero in this realm. Before he was Moshe, the Biblical hero, he was Moshe, a simple shepherd. He tended to every single sheep in his flock with the utmost care. He felt equally responsible for every sheep in his care. HaShem recognized Moshe’s quality to care so deeply, and thus, the beginning of redemption was born.
He was chosen to lead a nation out of exile because he cared.
Guys. Let’s be shepherds. The whole world is our flock.
I think it’s our duty to ourselves and to the world to act as pillars. Pillars of trust, safety, truth, and kindness. Stop waiting for someone else to be the hero. Don’t hide behind what you’re capable of.
Show up and offer the world your hand. I know it will grasp back.