In light of the above we can understand a perplexing saying by our sages who said, “All of Israel are responsible for one another.” Furthermore, Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon adds that, “The world is judged by the majority.”
It follows, that we are also responsible for all the nations of the world. I wonder; this seems to be something that the mind cannot tolerate. How can one be responsible for the sins of another whom he does not know? It is said specifically that, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Now we can understand the meaning of the words in utter simplicity. It is clearly impossible to keep the Torah and Mitzvot if the entire nation does not participate.
It turns out that each and every person has become responsible for his friend. This means that those who are reckless make those who keep the Torah remain in their filth. They cannot be corrected and come to love bestowal upon one’s fellow person without the participation of the reckless. Thus, if some among the nation are sinners, they make the rest of the nation suffer.
It is written in the Midrash, “Israel, one of them sins and all of them feel.” Rabbi Shimon said about that: “It is like people who were seated in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill under his seat. His friends told him, ‘What are you doing?’ He replied, “Why should you care? Am I not drilling under me?’ They replied, ‘The water is flooding the boat.’” As we’ve explained above, because the reckless are immersed in self-love, their acts create a wall of steel that detains those who keep the Torah from even beginning to keep the Torah and Mitzvot, as they should be kept.
Now we will clarify the words of Rabbi Eliezar, son of Rabbi Shimon, who says, “Since the world is judged by the majority, and the individual is judged by the majority, if one performs one Mitzva, blessed be he, for he sentences himself and the entire world to a scale of merit. If he commits one sin, woe unto him for he sentences himself and the entire world to a scale of demerit. It is said, ‘But one sinner destroyeth much good.’”
We see that Rabbi Abba, son of Rabbi Shimon takes the issue of the Arvut (mutual responsibility) even further, for he says, “The world is judged by its majority.” This is because he thinks it is not enough for one nation to receive the Torah and Mitzvot. Either he came to this opinion by observing reality, for we see that the end has not yet come, or he received it from his teachers.
The text also supports him, as it promises us that at the time of redemption, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” and also, “all nations shall flow onto him,” and many more verses. That is the reason he conditioned the Arvut in the participation of the entire world. It shows that an individual cannot come to the desired goal by observing Torah and Mitzvot, if not through the aid of all the people of the world.
Thus, each and every Mitzva that one performs affects the whole world. It is like a person who weighs beans on a scale. Just like each and every bean one puts on the scale induces the final desired decision, so each Mitzva that the individual performs before the whole earth is full of the knowledge develops the world in that direction.
It is said, “But one sinner destroyeth much good.” It means that one’s sinning reduces the weight on the scale, as though that person took back the beans he had put on the scale. By that one turns the world backwards.