Rabbi Asher Resnick initially addressed how we are meant to relate to communal challenges in an earlier essay, “Understanding Communal Difficulties & Challenges – Part I” that is found here. We now continue with Part II…
Rambam on the Mitzvat Asei (Positive Commandment) of Tza’akah (Crying out to G-d)
While the Rambam and the Ramban argue about the mitzvah of tefillah (prayer), with the Rambam holding it to be a Torah obligation, and the Ramban saying that it is Rabbinical, when it comes to crying out in response to a communal catastrophe, they both agree that this is a Torah obligation.
The Rambam describes this mitzvah in the opening chapter of Hilchot Ta’anit (1:1–3,9):
Aleph — Mitzvat asei min haTorah lizok u’l’haria b’chatzotzarot al kol tzarah sh’tavo al hatzibur — There is a positive obligation from the Torah to cry out and to blow with trumpets at all times of difficulty that come upon the community. Every difficulty — for example, famine, plague, locusts, etc., [we need to] cry out upon them and sound the trumpets.
Beit — This matter is part of the path of teshuva, because when difficulties come, and the community cries out upon them and blows the trumpets, everyone will know that it was because of their bad deeds that [these things] happened to them, as it says (Yirmeyahu 5:25) — “Your transgressions caused this.” And this will cause the difficulties to be removed from them.
Gimmel — But if they don’t cry out and don’t blow the trumpets, but rather say — it is the way of the world that this happened to them, and this difficulty is simply random, harei zo derech achzariut — this is the path of cruelty, and this will cause them to cling to their bad actions, and thus bring additional difficulties upon them. This is what it says in the Torah — “If they walk with Me casually, I will also walk with them casually, in fury. That is to say — when I bring difficulties upon them to get them to do teshuva, if they say that it’s random, I will [then] increase for them a type of fury [which will appear as] random.
Tet — Just like the community fasts for their difficulties, similarly a person fasts for the difficulties of an individual. How is this? If a person is sick, or lost in a desert, or locked up in prison, one should fast for him and request mercy in his prayers, and say the Aneinu prayer whenever he davens (prays).
Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. Olami & NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.