Achrayut - Responsibility

Some say the root of achrayut is achar, which means “after.” Others say it is acher, meaning “other.” These two different sources reveal different aspects of the soul-trait of responsibility. Ultimately, though, they both come to point at the same issue in living.

Morinis, Alan. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar (p. 198). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

אמר להם אידין מתקרי חכים אמרו ליה איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד אמר להם אידין מתקרי גבור אמרו לו איזהו גבור הכובש את יצרו אמר להן אידין מתקרי עשיר אמרו ליה איזהו עשיר השמח בחלקו
Alexander said to the Elders: Who is truly worthy of being called wise? They said to him, citing a tradition (see Avot 2:9): Who is the wise person? The one who sees and anticipates the consequences of his behavior. He said to them: Who is truly worthy of being called mighty? They said to him, again citing a tradition (see Avot 4:1): Who is the mighty person? The one who masters his desire. He said to them: Who is worthy of being called wealthy? They said to him: Who is the wealthy person? The one who is pleased with his own portion (see Avot 4:1).

The court report section of the daily newspaper reveals what an uncommonly elevated way of being this is. We human beings far prefer to put on blinders and adopt all sorts of rationalizations that permit us to avoid shouldering responsibility and even to do all kinds of harm. When confronted with the damage we have caused, we are prone to taking refuge in denial.

Morinis, Alan. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar (pp. 200-201). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel

This is the reason why our ancestors occupied themselves as shepherds like Jacob, peace be upon him, and David. Moses our teacher was also a shepherd because he wanted to accustom himself to bear the burden even of the simple creatures and all the more so of fellow human beings. . . . David would bring out the young sheep first to pasture in order that they could graze the best grass. Afterward, he would take out the old ones in order to give them ordinary grass. Finally, he would bring out the strong ones who could graze on the tough grass. . . . As our Rabbis said: “When Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was the shepherd of Yitro, one of my lambs fled and Moses ran after it until it reached a watering hole where the lamb had stopped to drink. When Moses arrived he said: ‘I did not know that you fled on account of thirst. You must be tired.’ He lifted him on his shoulders and walked.”

There were almost no employees in the large yeshiva Rabbi Simcha Zissel ran. Every task was performed by the students themselves. The more menial the task, the more highly it was valued, with the most menial tasks going only to the senior students. One of the mottos of the small groups within his yeshiva to which students were assigned was: “Do not go a single day without doing something for someone else, whether directly or by money or by speech.”

Morinis, Alan. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar (p. 205). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־קַ֔יִן אֵ֖י הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יךָ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי׃
The LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
(א) לֹֽא־תִרְאֶה֩ אֶת־שׁ֨וֹר אָחִ֜יךָ א֤וֹ אֶת־שֵׂיוֹ֙ נִדָּחִ֔ים וְהִתְעַלַּמְתָּ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם הָשֵׁ֥ב תְּשִׁיבֵ֖ם לְאָחִֽיךָ׃ (ב) וְאִם־לֹ֨א קָר֥וֹב אָחִ֛יךָ אֵלֶ֖יךָ וְלֹ֣א יְדַעְתּ֑וֹ וַאֲסַפְתּוֹ֙ אֶל־תּ֣וֹךְ בֵּיתֶ֔ךָ וְהָיָ֣ה עִמְּךָ֗ עַ֣ד דְּרֹ֤שׁ אָחִ֙יךָ֙ אֹת֔וֹ וַהֲשֵׁבֹת֖וֹ לֽוֹ׃ (ג) וְכֵ֧ן תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לַחֲמֹר֗וֹ וְכֵ֣ן תַּעֲשֶׂה֮ לְשִׂמְלָתוֹ֒ וְכֵ֣ן תַּעֲשֶׂ֜ה לְכָל־אֲבֵדַ֥ת אָחִ֛יךָ אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאבַ֥ד מִמֶּ֖נּוּ וּמְצָאתָ֑הּ לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לְהִתְעַלֵּֽם׃ (ס)
(1) If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. (2) If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. (3) You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.