A Demand for Spiritual Guidance | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

As in previous articles, I have written about the prophecies unfolding before our eyes. We just celebrated Shavuos, and as we read Megillas Rus, I began to ponder: What lessons can we learn from this story about current events? This curiosity led me to delve deeper into Midrash Rus, where I was amazed by what I discovered.

The Impact of the Prophecy of Famine

Reflecting on Midrash Rus 1:4 (see the commentary by Etz Yosef), the prophecy of a spiritual famine becomes strikingly relevant. The Midrash references a posuk from Amos 8:11, “I will send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Hashem.”

This spiritual famine is evident in the voices of those reaching out to us. Klal Yisroel is experiencing a profound hunger for spiritual nourishment and guidance, a fulfillment that material abundance cannot provide.

Since the recent launch of my book, “I Can Learn” by Feldheim Publishers, I have received calls from England, California, New York, Lakewood, Baltimore, and Eretz Yisrael, spanning ages 8 to 75. The common thread in these conversations is poignant: people are desperately seeking spiritual guidance, whether they are Ba’alei Teshuva (BT) or Frum from Birth (FFB).

Hashem is showing firsthand how the prophecy of Amos is unfolding right before our eyes. It is a profound realization that the spiritual famine foretold by Nevi’im and Chazal is manifesting in the lives of individuals today.

The phone calls usually begin the same way. The caller describes how they stumbled across my book in a Jewish bookstore, and as they were reading it, they had the chilling and uncanny feeling that I had somehow stepped inside their brain, read their mind, and told their own story on the pages of the book! It is gratifying to know that readers feel understood and no longer alone with their problems. At the same time, it is sad to see how widespread the educational crisis is that I describe.

8-Year-Old David*

“Would you be able to help my son? He is fully medicated. Can you help me, too? I’m 38 years old and FFB. I’ve been through the Yeshiva system. I’m unable to learn on my own. Your book caught my attention in the Jewish bookstore. It spoke to me. I use ArtScroll; it’s all in English.”

15-Year-Old Chaim*

Chaim’s parents noticed my book in a seforim store. While scheduling an evaluation for Chaim, his mother noted he was on medication for ADHD. She had read in my book that I advise coming off such medications for 24 to 48 hours before the evaluation session to assess baseline abilities without the “help” of medication. So, we pushed off the initial evaluation for a few days to allow for this.

During the evaluation, Chaim exhibited familiar struggles: interchanging letters, slow letter recognition, reading in syllables (not whole words), and not knowing the “shvah” rules. Because of these reading challenges, his vocabulary was very poor, and he also had a hard time reading Rashi. The resulting chaos in his mind was understandably affecting his behavior in class. The mother was shocked that the school had pushed medication rather than identifying underdeveloped skills that needed to be addressed.

A Long-Time Chabad Member’s Journey

“I have been relearning my Alef Beis with Rabbi Abenson for the last two months. I was recommended by a friend of mine from Chabad. I have been davening by Chabad in Chicago for over 30 years. I never truly understood the importance of taking my time to read the words and not just say them by memorizing the sounds I hear at Shul. I learned and continue to learn that davening is not a race to finish but a time to be concise and accurate. By working with the Rabbi, I continued learning the Hebrew letters correctly and not how I was taught as a youngster in a Conservative synagogue. I have always enjoyed davening at Chabad, but these lessons have opened up a new world for me while attending synagogue at Chabad.

I always thought I knew what I was reading. I was able to read what I knew phonetically, but I was not truly paying attention to the vowels and that the letters were said in a proper Ashkenaz manner. I guess I was finally ready to take the leap and get serious with my reading. Through the program, my davening is much more clear and concise. It also has helped with my learning of Chitas”.

* names have been changed

Since my early Yeshiva life in the early 80s, the presence of Gedolim has been profoundly felt. Today, however, we are experiencing a different reality. It has been said that after Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky was nifter on March 18, 2022, we no longer have anyone left of that caliber. This realization aligns with what is stated in the Etz Yosef commentary, explaining the Midrash, ובאחרית הימים לעת קץ תלמידי חכמים מתמעטים (“At the end of days, before the coming of Moshiach, talmidei chachomim will diminish”) Sanhedrin 97a.

In these times, it is crucial to provide the necessary support and resources to those striving to deepen their understanding and practice of the Torah. The lack of great Torah scholars today underscores the importance of ensuring that the next generation receives the education and guidance needed to continue our rich mesorah of Torah learning. The story of Rus and the insights from Midrash Rus remind us that spiritual famine can be as devastating as physical hunger and that the search for spiritual fulfillment is a fundamental human drive. As we navigate our complex world, these ancient prophecies offer guidance and hope, urging us to seek and share the words of Hashem.


I Can’t Learn Published by Feldheim.

Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Since the launch of my recent book “I CAN LEARN”, people have reached out to me expressing their appreciation of my addressing “their story” in the book.


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