I am not a murderer, nor a pedophile; I’ve never been arrested for stealing and I’m yet to engage in an act of animal cruelty. Yet every time I hear that another Jew has been implicated in any crime, I feel a small personal pang.

It’s more than just guilt by association, and it’s not just the sense of embarrassment that one of our tribe has let us down so badly; it’s a sense of actualThe sin of one is the error of all culpability.

All Jews are connected, all Jews are family, and the sin of one is the error of all. Common background leads to mutual responsibility, and when my brother is ensnared by temptation, it is my role to help him escape in time. Had I truly cared and really attempted to reach out in time, perhaps the evil could have been averted. I might not be legally liable for another person’s crimes, yet I should feel morally culpable that he was allowed to fall so low.

We read this week one of the only individual sins recorded in the Torah. Early in their journey through the desert, the people were shocked one Shabbat to witness a man strolling around collecting firewood; a blatant transgression of the holy day. He was quickly arrested, brought to Moses and put on trial.

Rashi comments that “this episode reflects badly on the Jews; this was only their second week since being introduced to the mitzvah of keeping Shabbat and already one of them had profaned the day.”1

You might wonder why the entire nation should feel ashamed for the sins of an individual; he sinned, they were pure. He made the wrong choice while the rest of them remained above suspicion. But obviously, innocence does not equate to blamelessness. They might not have physically sinned and were probably totally unaware in advance of his intentions, but the very fact that sin stalked amongst them reflects badly on all.

Before I canInnocence doe snot equate to blamelessness point my finger to blame another person, I must search my own conscience. Am I part of the problem, or part of the solution? What is my contribution to the situation? What should I have done differently to date, and what can I do to ensure that this never happens again?

We are a nation. We are a tribe. We are a community. We rejoice in each other’s accomplishments and are collectively blackened by the individual failings of our fellows. We bear communal responsibility for our peers, and should feel proud and privileged to reach out in love to our brethren, offering mutual support and a helping hand to all who need our assistance.