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Responsibility

Topic: Consciousness | Posted:January 17, 2013

We in the United States experienced a tragedy a month ago. Twenty children and six adults were killed. If you are like me, you wanted to watch the news coverage, but could not see those beautiful faces without crying and feeling deep pain and sadness. It is at times like these that you hear statements to the effect that “this changes everything”; “nothing will be the same again.” Unfortunately, history has taught us that these feelings are short lived and that real change does not often follow such tragedies. But sometimes they do and that is why I feel this message is so important.

The debate has already begun as to what legislation and laws should be enacted to make sure these kinds of tragedies do not occur again. Of course there is no agreement between those on different sides of this debate, but the issues seem to have boiled down to three: guns, culture (movies, games, etc.) and mental health care. Of course these issues are important and hopefully they will be addressed. However, I believe the most important issue has not been discussed enough. And that is our responsibility for each other.

Many of us know that story of the revelation of the Torah (Bible) at Mount Sinai. For some it is the advent of the Judeo-Christian tradition. For others it is simply a set of laws given by God for man to follow. But the kabbalists have a unique view on what actually happened in the Sinai Dessert thousands of years ago, and most importantly, for what purpose. They teach that prior to the revelation at Sinai, Moses asked the over two million people whether they would accept responsibility for the care and needs of everybody else. And only after this group of people all accepted this reciprocal responsibility for each other did the revelation at Sinai occur. They teach that this acceptance of responsibility was the truly important aspect of what occurred.

This means that at the core of what we know as religion or spirituality is this most important tenet, we must accept responsibility for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, and our world. If we think we are religious, but do not have this sense of responsibly, then we have missed the basic teaching from which our religion came.

There is a beautiful section in the book of Isaiah where God, through his prophet, answers the oft-asked question, “why does God not answer our prayers?” or as it is written, “why did we fast and You (God) did not notice?” The answer is that then, as now, people forgot the purpose of religion and really of life. “..give food to the poor, and housing to the impoverished, when you see a man naked, clothe him...then your Light shall shine like the dawn and your healing will quickly come…then when you call out, God will hear, when you cry, He will say ‘I am here.’” As we behave towards others, so will happen to us. If we are there when others are in need, then when we are in need, we are heard. This acceptance of responsibility is why we are in this world. Only when each of us takes upon ourselves this responsibility can our world change, can great tragedies be averted.

Think about a world where the majority of people are listening and ready to help when they see a need, when they see a lack. One can imagine then that most of the pain and suffering can be eliminated. This is the world which we must be striving and working towards. We must begin to see ourselves as responsible. Unfortunately, many of us unconsciously are unaware -as the biblical brothers say about themselves- “we are guilty for we saw our brother’s anguish when he begged us to help him, but we did not hear, therefore this tragedy has befallen us.”

The choice is not so much a choice any more. Our world is so interconnected. We are so dependent and interconnected as a society today that there is not doubt that if we continue to shirk our responsibility, we will feel the effects of this.

There is a story in the Zohar of two men in a ship and one sees his friend digging a hole in the bottom of the boat. The man of course begins yelling at him to stop burrowing. The other man retorts, “what do you care? I am only digging in my cabin.” His friend replies, “Stupid man, we are all in the same boat. We either survive together or perish together.” So as our world grows more and more interconnected, the choice disappears. We either begin living a life of responsibility, or begin feeling the lack and pain of others increasingly encroach upon all of our lives.

The solution is not simply to do an action, or a few, that assists others who need physical, emotional, or spiritual assistance. Rather, what is necessary is a real change in how we view our lives and purpose as globally responsible citizens of this world. Of course with this accepted responsibility, we will each find consistent ways in which we can care for others and live our responsibility.

I know that the world will change in this way. Our choice is whether this will happen in our lifetime or in the next generation, and how many more tragedies our world will suffer before enough of us wake up to this responsibility. But make no mistake, this change will come. It is our responsibility to ensure that this change occurs sooner rather than later.

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