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    We’re all involved – Shof’tim

    Surprising, isn’t it, that when a dead body is found in between two settlements, the elders of both places have to bring proofs to say, “It wasn’t our fault!” (Deut. 21:1-9).

    Now would anyone have suspected the elders? (That’s the question the Talmud asks in Sanhedrin 48b.)

    For that matter, whenever there is a horrific occurrence anywhere, would anyone have blamed the local lord mayor or town council?

    The teaching of Jewish ethics says “yes”.

    We rightly blame the perpetrator, we probably attach blame to their family… but is it necessary to also blame their school, their shopping centre, their local municipality?

    It seems we have to. The whole of society is implicated in the deeds of any of its members.

    True, most of us disclaim any responsibility: “We’re fair-minded, decent, law-abiding, honest, generous, aren’t we?”

    Of course we are all these things and more, but maybe we were wrong to go along with unwise immigration policies, over-tolerant educational techniques and inadequate policing.

    There are ways in which we can all make the ethical climate of our society more respectful, ways in which we can make our environment safer, ways in which we can counter the poison of fanaticism.

    Archibald MacLeish, the American poet, said, “We are neither weak nor few, as long as one man does what one man can do.”

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