The Torah states that if a High Priest commits a sin it is because of the fault of the people and he must bring a sacrifice as an atonement (Lev 4:3). If the saintly High Priest sins it is because he was brought down by the deteriorated religious and ethical condition of the Jewish People.
No doubt God judges the individual and weighs his or her merits against his or her demerits. However, God also judges the Jewish People as a national entity. In describing the attitude of the Jewish People on Rosh Hashanah, the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael states: “But Israel wears white, eat, drink, are merry and trim their beards because they know that God will do miracles for them.” (Rosh Hashanah 1:3, 7b)
Here we discern quite clearly that God also judges the Jewish People as a whole and by their collective merits. Generally, He is keen on finding their merits and tends not only to forgive the Jewish People for their iniquity but also clears their slate to the point that He is ready to do miracles for them
The iniquitous minority shares the fate of the meritorious majority. But by the same token the meritorious minority also shares the fate of the iniquitous majority.
The Talmud of Eretz Yisrael exemplifies this as well: Rabbi Ze’ira in the name of Rabbi Haninah said: What should the great people of the generation do? For the congregation (tsibbur) is judged by its majority for we find that all thirty years that the Jewish People were like excommunicated God did not speak to Moses as its says: “And it was when all the Men of Battle ceased to die from amidst the People” (Deut. 2:16). What does it say right after that? “And God spoke to me saying etc.” ( ibid 17). (Ta’anith 3:4)
God closed Himself to the Jewish People for thirty years and during that time He would not even speak to the righteous prophet Moses, the very same man who God would speak with face to face.
The significance and implications of these passages are far reaching. When misfortune falls upon a person it is not necessarily his or her fault, but the repercussions of God’s decree upon the Jewish People. This may be even more so true (as we see on Rosh Hashanah) in the contrary situation.
About the Author: Michael Linetsky is the director of the Torat Eretz Yisrael Institute whose mission is to bring to the broader audience the teachings of the Land of Israel.
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