We are both individuals with needs and wants and part of a greater whole with obligations and responsibilities. Sometimes these are complementary, and sometimes they are in conflict. Using this classic story, we will examine this relationship, and especially ask the question, to whom are we responsible?
Questions for guidance, consideration, reflection:
- What is the pshat (plain meaning of the story)?
- What is the connection to the story and the verse from Numbers?
- Is “sin” the only framework for understanding the story? What might be others?
- How might we understand our individual role in society based on the parable? Is this a correct view? How is this played out today?
- Who is in your boat? In other words, if our actions affect others, to whom are you obligated? About whom do you need to be concerned? Can this story be understood in terms of “loyalty” and “disloyalty’?
- Bonus question: On Yom Kippur afternoon we read the story of Jonah. Jonah is commanded by God to go to Nineveh to preach repentance, but he tries to flee by boarding a boat for Tarshish. When the boat is threatened by a storm, Jonah tells the other sailors to throw him overboard, explaining that it is because of him that the storm has come. They do so, and the sea immediately calms. Is there a connection between these two stories? (Text follows)