Don't Hesitate to Take Action!
Rabbi Yehoishophot OliverFrom time to time, a person may face a difficult predicament. He notices that a certain area of practice is neglected, or a breach has not been rectified, yet he hesitates to take action because he sees that respected members of the community, who may even be aware of the situation, are doing nothing. The Rebbe addresses this concern in the sicha below:
There are things about which the leaders of the generation are silent, and yet this does not always prove that nothing need be done, and that calculation and scholarly reasoning must be used to slip one’s way out of it. If one sees that he can do something, he must do it.The leader of the tribe of Shimon, Zimri, committed the sin of publicly taking a Midianite woman into his tent, Kozbi, and having relations with her. This terrible, open rebellion against Hashem caused a plague to spread among the Jewish people. Pinchas was the only one to remember the law taught by Moses that “If one has relations with a gentile woman, zealots may attack him” (Sanhedrin 81b). Even Moshe himself forgot this law. When Pinchas slew Zimri and Kozbi, the plague ceased. Hashem then rewarded him by granting him and all his descendants the status of Kohanim. Rashi on Bamidbar 25:6 says that the reason Moshe forgot the law was “so that Pinchas would come and take that which was fit for him”—i.e., the reward of priestly status.
The fact that those greater than him say nothing may be similar to the fact that Pinchas was granted the opportunity to slay Zimri in order to become a Cohen. This was his portion that he was destined to refine, and only by doing so could he attain personal perfection. Just as everyone is designated his own portion of material wealth, and no one can encroach upon someone else’s livelihood, so is it, and all the more, in the spiritual realm, for everyone has his share in Torah.
So if one observes a community leader doing nothing about a certain issue, one should not necessarily conclude that this proves that no action is necessary, or that that leader is at fault for his inaction. Regardless of whether the leader is at fault, the one who sees clearly that a certain task needs to be done for the benefit of the community, and sees that he is able to carry it out, should know that this is his personal duty, and that the reason that he noticed this problem and that he is in a position to fix it, is that in so doing he will reach his personal tikkun, the rectification of his neshamah.