Jewish Journal

A Sense of Obligation

by Beit T'shuvah

June 6, 2014 | 2:01 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I have been on a mission these past few weeks to regain my addiction to Redemption. I believe that there is no better way to be redeemed than to remember our obligations. We OWE! How do I know this? I know this because I was taught this by my father, Jerry Borovitz, z”l. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last week and when this subject came up, he looked at me and said, “The issue is, where are the fathers?” I have been thinking about this all week.

Many years ago, I was upset with life and my brother Neal reminded me that I had a debt to my father to stay in touch, because he did. He reminded me that my feelings were not as important as my debts to friends, family, and God. I am still struck by this idea. I know that my father lived a life of obligation because it made him a better man, father, son, brother, uncle, etc. I know that my debts make me stop and think about, “what is the next right action?”

Yet, many people are aghast at this concept. I owe the stranger, the widow, the orphan and the poor because others have helped me when I was/am in each of these phases. I owe the rich, the friend, the family, and the community member my best in the moment because my family, my Torah, and my Judaism has taught me this. I have had many discussions about this concept and how to live it in the past few weeks.

In light of this week’s terrible turnout to vote and the rest of the year’s incredible complaining about our elected officials, I realize how many people don’t believe or aren’t taught this lesson of “owing.” What right do I have to complain about others when I am not participating in the electoral process? As any person who has come from a totalitarian system will tell you, it is a blessing to be able to vote. My 9th Grade Civics Teacher, Ed Roach, taught us that, “the right to vote is our responsibility to vote.” Mr. Roach understood the power of “owing/obligation.” How can I redeem my people (all people) if I don’t participate? How can I truly participate if I don’t have a sense of obligation/owing and realize that “it is not my responsibility to finish the work and neither am I free to nullify it!” This is from Pirke Avot and it is a prime example of this concept of owing.

I love Israel and I love Jews! I love Truth and I love God. I love my family, my community and, slowly, I am coming to love my enemies. If we believe in living a Jewish Life, if we believe in the need to be engaged in and Addicted to Redemption, then taking on the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and paying our debts and being obligated to Living Well and ensuring the Living Well of others has to become our top priority. God Bless and Keep Owing and Paying.

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