A story is told of a young Baalas Teshuva who has spent some time in seminary in Yerushalayim, growing, learning and becoming a bas Yisroel. This young woman had a sister to whom she was close and who she wanted to influence. The secular sister was flying into Israel for a few days before a trip to India and some exploration of Eastern spirituality. When the sister came, she agreed to join one random class at the seminary but no more. She picked the nearest room to the entrance and sat in on a class on hilchos hashavas aveida, returning lost objects. Needless to say, there was minimum inspiration and the baalas teshuva was devastated that her one shot on impacting her sister was used on a shiur about hashava aveida.
The secular sister flew to India, spending time in an ashram and following its leader around. Once, on their daily walk, the leader found a wallet full of money. “It has been divinely ordained that this money should come to me,” declared the religious leader. The secular sister was upset. Surely there was some person who had lost the money and was looking to get it back. How could this religious leader of an Ashram keep the money? She recalled the class that she had heard in her sister’s seminary and remembered some of the details and complex laws of hashavas aveida and decided that she had to return to Yerushalayim to learn more.
Much of the turmoil that has roiled the Yeshiva world in the last few months is a result of the rise of Yair Lapid and his push to draft Yeshiva Bochurim back in 2013. In truth it is not surprising that Lapid would have such views. How would we expect someone like himself to have a true appreciation for Torah or Bnei Torah? Where would he have learned the value of endless hours of ameilus batorah or have an appreciation for a Torah personality? He wouldn’t have, because he grew up decades ago and nobody was there to show him the beauty of Torah.
But let’s take a look at an alternate view of what might of happened. Imagine for a second that he did run into a campus Rabbi or some frum Jew while in college or at some point in his youth. Perhaps he would have gotten involved, developed a relationship with the Rabbi, learned some Torah and gone to a few Shabbatons. Would he have gone off to Yeshiva? Likely not. And we would have said, once he left campus and went off into the wider world, that we were unfortunately unsuccessful with him. And then he would have joined the Knesset, but instead of pursuing legislation to increase the pressure to draft the Bnei Torah, he would have recalled the Torah personality – his campus Rabbi whom he liked, who was molded by those same Yeshivos. He would have seen the value of deep Torah study even if it wasn’t for him. And perhaps he would not have pursued the legislation and the Yeshiva world in Eretz Yisroel would not have had to endure much of the turmoil that it is going through today. And nobody would have known of the great impact of the Rabbi or simple Jew and his limited success with his old student Yair Lapid.
Unfortunately, this alternate history never happened. Yet I believe it is happening every day as we speak. How many Yair Lapid’s do we encounter on a daily basis? How many of the people that we reach out to who don’t follow the path we hope for them, will go on to do something great for Klal Yisroel down the road and it is due to the caring Yid who showed them the beauty of Torah and a Torah personality? How many of our associates will refrain from hurting Klal Yisroel, solely because of the influence we had? How many of them will have children or grandchildren to which our influence will reach in some way?
So to all of you who teach Torah to our secular brethren, or even if you connect to them positively in some small way, I say ‘ashreichem,’ even if you will never know to what extent your influence reaches.
Rabbi Meir Goldberg is the director of Rutgers Jewish Xperience.
I know him personaly and he is a great person
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