The Benefits of Outreach

 

Kiruv transforms your own avodas Hashem.

Rabbi Daniel Coren, who has made it a personal mission to try and be mekarev non-religious Jews with whom he comes into contact, spoke about his experiences at a Project Inspire Kiruv Seminar that was held in the Agudath Israel of Madison in Flatbush on May 19. Rabbi Coren attributes his development to the training and encouragement of Harav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, founder and Rosh Yeshivah of Aish HaTorah in Yerushalayim.

Perhaps the major reason holding back frum Jews from trying to be mekarev non-religious Jews they come into contact with is the “fear factor.” Rabbi Coren recalled that he first made the commitment to try to influence non-frum Yidden to become more Torah-observant when he discovered by chance that, living across the street from his Monsey home, was an Israeli family. It had never occurred to him that this family might be Jewish.

Then, a group of Gerrer Chassidim were once staying in a nearby yeshivah on Shabbos, when the electricity and air conditioning went off. An hour later, the electricity returned but they needed a “Shabbos goy” to turn on the air conditioning. The noise of a party across the street made them think that the house was home to gentiles, but when they asked the “non-Jew” to do them a favor, they were shocked to find that “gentile” telling Avi in Hebrew that the religious Jews need someone to turn on their air conditioner. Of course, once they realized that Avi and his friends were Jewish, the Chassidim refused to allow them to “help them” by turning on the air conditioner.

For Rabbi Coren, who heard of the incident, the knowledge that there was a nearby Jewish family that was not observant began a process of three or four weeks of mental torture. Repeatedly, he set out to knock on Avi’s door, to try to explain to him that he was missing something precious in his life by not knowing about the great treasures of the Torah.

After several aborted attempts to talk to Avi and his family, due to his great fears of rejection or worse, word of Rabbi Coren’s efforts spread to other frum Jews and eventually came to the attention of Rabbi Noach Weinberg of Aish HaTorah. He invited Rabbi Coren to come to Aish HaTorah for a week of kiruv instruction.

Rabbi Coren recalled that one of his hallucinations was that maybe Avi would be enraged by his efforts to be mekarev him and would come blazing out of his house with an Uzi machine gun to shoot down the “unwanted”frum intruder. However, the secret to overcoming this overwhelming fear of rejection is to understand that, if a frum Jew really cares to reach out to another Jew who knows nothing of our precious Torah way of life, theRibbono Shel Olam is going to help him out. Today, Rabbi Coren and Avi’s family get together for Yom Tov meals and Rabbi Coren teaches a weekly Torah class at Avi’s home.

He told the participants at the Agudath Israel of Madison kiruv seminar that, once you, as a frum Jew, become involved in reaching out to non-frum Jews, it becomes such an inspiration for you, the frum person. It transforms everything you were doing before from the realm of rote performance of mitzvos and makes it literally sweet as honey. For example, if you are going to try to tell a non-frum Jew about the beauty of keeping Shabbos, if you listen to what you are saying, your own appreciation for the holy day is going to become more elevated.

What was it that bothered Rabbi Coren upon learning of the existence of a non-frum Israeli Jewish neighbor? The first factor was, “If I really felt that my Yiddishkeit was emes, how is it possible that I don’t go across the street and try to explain to Avi that we have the real treasure and that he is missing out!” The Rambam writes about the third mitzvah in his Sefer Hamitzvos that one of the ways we fulfill the mitzvah of ahavas (love of)Hashem is to go out and tell everyone about Hashem.

Every day, we recite the Shema, which stresses our obligation to love Hashem with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. How many of us, Rabbi Coren asked, are really fulfilling this mitzvah? If so, the Rambam declares that we should go running out and telling all of our non-frum neighbors and associates about Hashem. This point really bothered Rabbi Coren and made him ask himself if he really loved Hashem and the Torah properly.

The second factor that made Rabbi Coren want to do kiruv was the realization that across the street there was another Jew. Truly believing that we Jews (both frum and assimilated) are banim atem laShem Elokechemmeans that we are truly brothers and sisters. If your brother or sister were living across the street and you found out about an incredible stock opportunity to invest in that was sure to shoot up in value, giving whoever purchases it fantastic profits, wouldn’t you tell your brother and sister about it?

After buying this incredible stock option, would you transform your house into a mansion, add a swimming pool and other luxurious amenities … while letting your sister or brother across the street struggle to make ends meet? If we truly believe that our Torah is a priceless treasure, how is it possible that we wouldn’t want to let all our brothers and sisters in on the secret so that they, too, could benefit from Hashem’s desire to reward His children? This awareness, Rabbi Coren said, can help one overcome his fear factor when thinking of reaching out to other Yidden who are completely ignorant of their Torah heritage.

For more information on future Project Inspire Kiruv Seminars in your community, or how to organize one in your own home, please call             (646) 291-6191

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