Kiruv Korner – by Rabbi Meir Goldberg

rabbi meir goldbergBy Rabbi Meir Goldberg, director of Meor Rutgers Jewish Xpereience. Whether we are reaching out to unaffiliated Jews or educating our own children, one of the most crucial points that we need to convey is that Judaism isn’t a religion; It is a relationship.

Secular people today often have a distaste for formal religion which often implies rigid rules and structures which don’t contain any rational basis. However, almost everyone wants to connect. We seek meaningful connection to friends and family, and to that which is deep and spiritual. Whether we are religious or secular, we all want to connect to Hashem.

Our relationship with Hashem is like a husband and wife, as is clear from Shir Hashirim and numerous sources in Chazal. We were engaged when we left Mitzrayim and we got married at Har Sinai. Our relationship endured in spite of rocky times and we remain committed to each other for eternity, in spite of the long and hard golus that we have endured, quite distant from the Bais Hamikdash and Hashem’s presence.

The positive mitzvos that we do are that which builds love between us and Hashem and the negative mitzvos that we must avoid are those which builds reverence, respect and a fear of breaking the relationship.

One of the most crucial mitzvos which conveys this idea, is Shabbos. Shabbos is the great sign of love between us and Hashem. Every healthy relationship requires time in which each spouse blocks everything out and focuses on the other. In today’s terms, we would call that a date night. Shabbos is our weekly date with Hashem. We focus exclusively on Him by not engaging in pursuits that show our ability to create within the human world – the 39 melachos – and by doing the positive commandments of Shabbos such as having a feast, dressing our best, cleaning ourselves and our homes, sanctifying the day (kiddush), etc. We daven and learn Torah more than the weekdays, for these are the most crucial ways of connecting deeply with Hashem.

The following story illustrates this idea: Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov had a custom in which he would lock himself in his office for two hours prior to erev Rosh Hashanah Slichos. The chasidim often speculated as to what he was doing there. One year they broke into the office to see what his preparations were. But they found the room empty and the window open.

“Rav Moshe Leib ascends to Shamayim to daven for the Jewish people,” they declared. But there was one chassid who was a little skeptical and didn’t believe it. So he decided that next erev Rosh Hashanah, he would hide in Rav Moshe Leib’s office before Rav Moshe Leib came in, in order to see what was really going on.

That Erev Rosh Hashnah, as Rav Moshe LEib entered his office, the chassid in hiding noticed Rav Moshe Leib going to his closet taking off his Shtreimel and Bekeshe and putting the clothing of a Russian peasant. HE then opened the window and jumped out and headed through the back alley’s of Sassov all the way to the poor section of town. THe skeptic chassid followed him the entire way, now more curious than ever. Rav Moshe Leib came to a ramshackle hut inhabited by a woman and her three children. The house was bare, the children were starving and they were in shock when they saw this ‘Russian peasant’ standing in the door way.

“Leah,” proclaimed the ‘peasant,’ I’m Ivan, your late husband’s business partner. I owed him some money and I wanted to pay you back now that he is dead. Here are the 15 rubles that I owed him. I am now free from all of my debts and you will never see me again. This money should take you through the winter.” Leah, never hearing of any business partner of her late husband, was in shock. She now had money to feed her little orphans.

Rav Moshe Leib ‘the peasant’ headed back through the alley’s and to his office. He climbed through the window, put back on his Shtreimel and bekeshe, unlocked his office door and went to daven erev Rosh Hashanah slichos.

The skeptical chassid went to all of his friends and told them, “Chevra, you got it all wrong. You think that Rav Moshe Leib ascends to heaven. He does something far greater. He brings Heaven down to Earth.”

This is Shabbos. Shabbos is when Hashem brings Heaven to Earth. Let us use Shabbos as a time of deep spiritual connection to Hashem.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg, director of Meor Rutgers Jewish Xpereience, can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. R, Meir you’re plain and poshut a Gadol b’torah and ahavas yisroel All your shvuggers look up to you as a semel of the mishpocha. You’ve made all of them embrace kiruv rechokim with the same passion you possess. Hatzlocha!

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