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Who Signed Me Up?

09/27/2019 12:02:48 PM


How would you feel if I signed you up to something without you knowing? Nowadays, whenever I place an order online, even if I uncheck the box asking for my permission to send me emails of newsletters and new deals from the company, it seems like I’m added to their email database nonetheless. Isn’t it annoying and downright dishonest!

We always read the Torah portion of Nitzavim before Rosh Hashanah. In the portion we read about the Covenant G-d made with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and Moses describes how every Jew to ever live in the future is bound by this covenant.

But seemingly we didn’t sign on to it. We weren’t there, only our ancestors were. How and why are we bound by the subscription of our ancestors?

One famous answer is that not only were the Jews physically living during that time present at the Mount Sinai spectacle, but also all souls of all future lives that will ever live were also in attendance. Thus, the covenant was accepted by each and every one of us.

Another answer provides a very important message for us, one that is most appropriate as we head into the awesome days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

According to Judaic law, though a person has no right to sign another person up to an obligation without their consent, they may sign someone up unknowingly if the nature of the subscription is one of great fortune. In such an instance, due to the great benefit of the subscription, it is assumed that were you to have known about the offer you wouldn’t have blinked before subscribing, and if someone who had the opportunity to sign you up didn’t do so, you would have been very upset. Hence, someone else may legally do this on your behalf, and effectively bind you to the commitment.

For example, if someone comes to your office to give a gift to your co-worker, but your co-worker is out for lunch, instead of turning the person away or asking them to come back later, you are allowed to accept the gift on your co-worker’s behalf. When you do this, the gift has been legally acquired into the possession of your co-worker even before he returns, and neither you nor the gift-giver are allowed to retract on the gift.

But if a salesperson comes to the office to sell a certain product, unless your co-worker has clearly expressed interest in this product and you are certain that your co-worker desperately wants this product, you have no right to make the order on your friends’ behalf. And if you do, he has the right to reject the order and subsequently you will be liable to pay for it.

Thus, on this last day of his life, Moses was teaching the Jews a timeless and crucial message: The Jewish tradition is a gift of great fortune – it is a heritage which no sensible person would even blink before acquiring. For a Jew, it is the hottest product available. Life would be infinitely less fortunate without it.

The mitzvot are not 613 burdens, but rather 613 life-tips for added meaning and purpose. And it’s free!

So, it is true that our ancestors signed us up unknowingly. In the simple sense, we didn’t even exist back then. But the subscription was one that if they hadn’t signed us up, we would have been duly disappointed.

Is this how you feel?

Who will you help sign up this year?

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784