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Thought for the Day: Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh La'Zeh

There is one siman of the Shulchan Aruch that I found particularly frustrating for years.  As difficult as it has been to learn Hebrew well enough to learn, Aramaic has been even more challenging.  ArtScroll and Mesivata help out, translating and (more importantly!) punctuating the text.  When it comes to Shulchan Aruch, though, there isn't much available.  That's what makes siman 484 so challenging; the entire siman (all one siyef of it) is in Aramaic.  The siman is about how to run several s'darim in different houses, one after the other.  The main difficulty is that you can't eat after the afikomen, so the siman is mostly about how and which mitzvos and brachos you can make for other both before and after you yourself have fulfilled your own obligation.  Not for the faint of heart.  My guess is the m'chaber reasoned that if you didn't know Aramaic well enough to understand the instructions; don't do this.

Once you get passed the frustration, however, this siman is quite a nice application of both shomei'a k'ona and kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh -- all Jews are guarantors for one another.  We have discussed shomei'a k'ona before, but there is one detail we slid over: the shomei'a who answers can at most have the same level of mitzvah fulfillment as the ona.  An example is very helpful at this point.  Consider the obligation regarding m'gilas esther: a man is obligated to read the megila, whereas a woman's level of obligation is only to hear the m'gila.  That being the case, a man cannot fulfill his obligation vis a vis m'gilas esther by listening to woman read.

What about kiddush Friday night?  The man (according to most shitos) has already fulfilled his d'oraisah obligation of kiddush with his ma'ariv.  A woman, however, still has her d'oraisah obligation for kiddush; so how can he make kiddush for her?  Enter: kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh.  Just as a guarantor for a loan is on the hook as long as the borrower has not repaid his loan, so to we are all all on the hook as long as there is a Jew who has not fulfilled a torah obligation.  Hence, the man can make kiddush for his wife.  In fact, he can go around making kiddush in many houses and make kiddush time and time again.  Kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh gives him the obligation; shomei'a k'ona gives him the ability.

This shared responsibility came into being with the acceptance of the Torah, which makes for an interesting situation for gerim.  (In case you ever meet up with one...)  Some rishonim hold that when klal yisrael accepted responsibility for each other, it included all future geirim.  A second opinion is that only the original group (and their descendents) are included.  A third opinion holds that klal yisrael is not responsible for the mitzvah observance of gerim, but that part of the geirus process is to accept responsibility for the rest of klal yisrael.

Fortunately for geirim everywhere, we pasken like the first shita (whew!).

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