The Israelites say to the Creator they know that when they were at Sinai they accepted responsibility for themselves, the world, and those around them, but then ask the Creator if they are held responsible for negative actions or lack of positive actions that they do not see. The Creator says, “No. Do not worry. You will not receive any negativity from things that you do not see.”
However, the Creator tells them they do have a responsibility for the things revealed to them and that they do see, such as somebody who is doing a negative action they can’t stop, somebody who is not living their potential, or somebody who is not revealing the Light he or she is meant to reveal in this world. And not only do they have that responsibility, if they do not take action, then whatever darkness that person either reveals or has not removed becomes their darkness.
It says in the Talmud that if a person sees his family, those around him, or his close circle of friends doing something negative or not living up to their potential, and they do nothing about it, then all the negative actions that he sees them doing become part of his account; any darkness that they reveal is part of his, any lack of growth that they have is part of his. For example, when we came to Rosh Hashanah we might have been right in that as far as our own accounting of positive and negative goes, we are doing pretty well; however, we all have a bunch of other accounting that we might not be thinking of. Because every time we see somebody doing something that we could help them do differently, every time we see somebody not living to their potential where there’s a possibility we can help them in growing to that potential, and we do nothing, then that lack and darkness come onto us.
And it does not just go for those people who are around us. If a person sees people in the city where he lives doing negative things and there is something that he can do about it and does not, all of the negative actions that he sees become his. If a person sees negativity happening in the world – meaning people either doing negative things or not pushing themselves in ways that they can grow and reveal more Light in this world – and he or she does not do anything about it, the individual receives the darkness of the world upon him. Therefore, on this Shabbat, it says not to worry about the things that we do not see, but to know that the things revealed to us are revealed for a purpose, and, as such, we need to do something about it.
It’s not just that this is a nice, positive, spiritual message; it’s important to know the other side of this message, too, which is that once we have that responsibility, it is not just about doing better next time if we didn’t do it this time, or about finding somebody else we can help. If we saw somebody and did not help, if we saw somebody doing something negative and could have stopped them from doing it but did not try, then whatever negativity they have done, whatever lack of Light they have in their lives, comes to us.
There’s a story in the Talmud in which Rav Acha said that never in human history has the Creator given a blessing to an individual or group of individuals and taken that blessing back. Meaning, if the Creator says, “I am going to give a blessing to a person,” then no matter what that person does, he or she will receive the blessing.
There was, however, one time in history when the Creator sent down a blessing to an individual and took it back.
In Ezekiel, the Creator tells the Angel Gabriel to go into the city of Jerusalem and find the righteous, find those that are connected to the Light of the Creator, and write a letter of protection in spiritual ink on their forehead, and to also go and find those that are disconnected from the Light of the Creator, those that have murdered, stolen, and done negative things, and mark a note of blood on their forehead. The Angel of Destruction will not be able to touch those who have the protection from the Angel Gabriel, but those who have the blood mark on their forehead will be open to the Angel of Destruction to come.
So, the Creator tells the Angel Gabriel to give protection to the righteous and give an opening of destruction to those who are disconnected. But before Gabriel is ready to go and do this task for the Creator, the Force of Judgment and Justice in this world comes to the Creator and asks, “Master of the World, why are the righteous different than those who are disconnected?” The Creator answers, “Because these people are good, and those people are bad. These people are connected, and those people are disconnected.” The Force of Justice and Judgment in this world says to the Creator, “It’s true that while these people live their lives perfectly and those people live their lives in the most terrible way, the righteous should have tried to help the negative.” To which the Creator responds, “I know there is no hope for those people. Even if the righteous would have done everything in their power to try to save them and change them, they would not have changed, and therefore, they do not deserve any repercussions. The righteous do not deserve any repercussions for not trying to assist those who are negative.”
The force of Justice and Judgment in this world said to the Creator, “You know that, but they did not know that. The righteous did not know that there is no way they could have helped. And because they did not do anything, You cannot give them the power of protection.”
This was the one time in history where although the Creator had already commanded the Angel Gabriel to give the power of protection to the righteous, it was removed. Therefore it says, unfortunately, that the Angel of Destruction came and brought death and destruction to both the righteous and the negative.
We learn an amazing lesson from this. These are completely righteous people. We look at them, and they act in ways that are only sharing and giving 24 hours a day. They do nothing of a selfish nature, ever. Yet, they were living at a time when they saw people doing negative things. And while there was absolutely nothing they could have done or said that would have changed these negative people, they did not even try in the hopeless situation, and therefore, the Angels of Destruction were allowed to come to them. So, we learn from here, again, the danger in seeing an opportunity to assist, change, or stop negativity, and not doing so; it’s not just a spiritual, positive thing to do. If we see it, even if we know there is absolutely nothing that will happen from the actions we take, we still have to do it.
In Ezekiel, in the case of the righteous in Jerusalem, there was nothing they could have done to assist the others, because, as the Creator makes clear, nothing could change them. Nevertheless, because they did not even try, the power of protection was not given to them.
It says not to worry about the things we do not see, but that the things which are revealed to us are not a coincidence. Not because we will necessarily have the power to change it, but because we have to take the opportunity to try to change it. And if we take the opportunity to try to change it, then we have protection, even if you do not change it; if we have taken the opportunity, we receive the protection of the Light of the Creator.