In the Talmud Bavli (Sh’vuot 39a), we read the aphorism: כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה. One possible translation of this teaching is, “All Jews are guarantors for one another.” Understood metaphorically, guarantors in this context mean that all Jews are responsible for one another.
A 17th century teaching which beautifully epitomizes this notion comes from Rabbi Jehiel Michal Epstein, a German rabbi and author. In his Kitzur Sh’nei Luhot haBerit (1683) he writes, “Many of the precepts apply only to certain individuals, places and circumstances. It is only when all Jews are together as a community that the whole Torah can be fulfilled.”
According to Rabbi Jehiel Michal Epstein, in order for us to fulfill the entire Torah all Jews must be together as a community. We must fight against a tendency towards exclusivity because other Jews may be different from us: different denominations, different levels of observance, different appearances, and different beliefs. It is imperative for us to work towards greater inclusivity for all Jews, because only then we will be able to fulfill the whole Torah.
Special thanks to Dan Savitt – Summer 15 moreh at Yavneh for sharing his thoughts on כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה.