Our Judaism

By Rabbi Mordechai Lewis, Based on Rabbi Yissocher Frand. All of us have gone through yeshiva: elementary school, high school and beis medrash. However, what generally happens to people when they leave the yeshiva?

Here are my observations.[1] While in yeshiva a bochur is interested in growing into becoming a talmid chocham and prodigy. He’s working on his character development,[2] davening and becoming a ben torah. The same bochur gets married. Perhaps, he spends several years in kollel, but then leaves the four walls of the beis hamedrash and begins a new stage of his life. It’s almost inevitable that his focus changes. Now he has to worry about making a living, tuitions, mortgages, building a career or a business and the myriad of responsibilities that come together with today’s busy life. Long gone are the days when a bochur’s main concern was getting the Rebbe’s lecture or understanding the difference between the two answers in tosfos.


It’s my observation that people fall into one of three categories:

  1. Some in spite of all their responsibilities want to grow as a yid and person. There learning and davening is not perfunctory, rather they are still in the growth mode of shteiging (to work one’s way up).
  2.  At the other end of the spectrum, there are those whose major drop off is in their performance of Judaism. They remain, of course, shomrei torah u’mitzvos, but their Judaism is sorely lacking.Examples:
  3.  They no longer daven three times with a minyan and may open a seifer on Shabbos if at all.
  • They come to shul to socialize or for the “kiddush club.”
  • The corrosive effect of the non-Jewish working world is apparent on them in the way they talk, act and what they think about.[3]I would like to think that this represents a small percentage of yeshiva graduates. Then, there is the third group which falls somewhere in the middle:
  1. They come to minyan, attend daf yomi, go to shul to learn with their children and go through the “motions.” However, that is precisely the problem. It’s just going through the “motions.”[4] [5] There is very little “passion”, “feeling” and “enthusiasm”. Eventually, a person is left with a feeling of emptiness and of a hollow Judaism. It’s not surprising if that hollow Judaism begins to deteriorate.So, what’s the solution? How do we inspire and desire within ourselves to keep on growing after having been out (i.e. of yeshiva) for twenty or thirty years? There are two suggestions that I would like to offer. One has to do with our children and one has to do with our souls.I’m confident in saying that we all want the same for our children. We want to derive nachas from them. In addition, we aspire that they will grow up, to be honest[6] and decent human beings who serve Hashem[7] and are working on their character traits.[8] Nevertheless, there are no silver bullets, magic formulas or segulos in life. However, the Maharal Diskin[9] shows us that there is a posuk that gives us a solution of how to ensure such children. Oddly enough, it is a posuk in the middle of the tochechah in Parshas Ki Savo. At first glance the posuk[10] seems like a terrible curse: Because you will not have listened to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe His commandments and His decrees that He commanded you… and in your children, foreverMeaning, “You didn’t do mitzvos in a way that made a lasting impression (ad olam) on your children!”
  2. That is the question we have to ask ourselves, “How will our children remember our relationship to Hashem?” If for no other reason, that is why we must put passion and feeling into our Judaism! Because if not for ourselves, then do it for our children. If all Judaism is by rote, then what can we expect from them? The other question that I think can inspire us is one of the oldest in the world, “What am I doing here? Why did Hashem put me here?” After we settle into the quotidian life of paying the mortgage and raising the kids, we become drugged by a narcotic called complacency. Then it hits us and we begin to wonder, “Isn’t there more?!” The answer is yes, there is more and that “more” is the reason why we are here.
  3. Someone told me once that it was the first night of Sukkos and it was raining. His father-in-law sat by the window “crying” because he couldn’t fulfill the mitzvah of Sukkah. Why was he upset? When Avraham Avinu wanted to invite guests into his house,[14] Hashem made it unbearably hot so as not to trouble him with guests.[15] If there are no guests, then there are no guests.[16] Sometimes the greatest measure of one’s passion for mitzvos is when one can’t do the mitzvah! Does one say, “Thank you, Hashem, I’m exempt” or does he sit there like that Jew and “cry”?
  4. I know someone’s father z”l, who worked physically a whole week. On Friday night, after the meal was over, he would be ma’aver sedra and he would fall asleep. He would wake up, read another parsha and fall asleep etc. His son who is a friend of mine says that this is how he fell asleep Friday night listening to the voice of his father being ma’aver sedra. That sticks with him because it was done with simcha, passion and feeling.
  5. There’s an old joke, “What’s the difference between a terrorist and a woman making Pesach? A terrorist you can negotiate with.” However, when one tries to explain to the ba’alas habayis that she doesn’t have to do this, the answer invariably comes back, “This is the way my mother did it, this is the way my grandmother did it and that is the way I’m going to do it.” That, if not the cleaning itself, is enviable and admirable.
  6. Why is that? The Maharal Diskin[12] explains that’s the next posuk, “Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with gladness and with goodness of heart…”[13] Your Judaism lacked simcha, passion and enthusiasm. If that’s the case, it doesn’t last with your children. If you were fortunate to have a father, mother, grandfather or grandmother who performed a particular mitzvah with great zeal, chances are you also perform that mitzvah in that fashion. You know much is made about how women clean for Pesach, most of which is not halachically mandated.
  7. Now at first glance, this posuk seems like a terrible curse, “They will be in you as a sign and as a wonder and in your children, forever” In effect, we are doomed, G-d forbid. However, the Maharal Diskin says that that’s not the way to read the posuk. The words ad olam are not going, G-d forbid, on the curses that would infer that these curses will be with us forever. Those words ad olam are referring to the previous posuk:[11]
  8. “All these curses will come upon you, until you are destroyed, because you will not have listened to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe His commandments and His decrees that He commanded you. They will be in you as a sign and as a wonder and in your children, forever…”


To be continued…



Dedicated in memory of Kayla Rus bas Bunim Tuvia, Dovid ben Uri, Sarah bas Henoch Avraham, Altah Soshah Devorah bas Aryeh Leibush, Mashah Tzivyah bas R’ Shlomo Zalman, Shmuel Dovid HaLevi ben R’ Yosef Moshe HaLevi, Rafael Chaim Yitzchak Yaakov ben Binyamin Yehudah, Berinah Z’latah bas Reuven Yitzchak and as a merit for a complete recovery of Chayah Malka bas Bas-Sheva, Shmuel ben Channah Menuchah, Shlomo Avraham Moshe ben Rivkah Shaindel Beilah Chayah Rechamah bas Eidel and Miriam Liba bas Devorah.


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[1]    Realize that my experience is limited to yeshiva bochurim. Nevertheless, I’m sure the same could be said for Beis Yaakov graduates.

[2]    To which the As the Rambam advises us, “Accustom yourselves to habitual goodness, for habit and character are closely interwoven. Habit as it were becomes second Nature” (Hilchos Dei’os 1:2, 1:7 and Hebrew Ethical Wills by Israel Abraham, page 105).

[3]    As the Seifer HaChinuch states, “A person is fashioned by his deeds” (Parshas Bo, Mitzvah #16 “משרשי המצוה”).

[4]    See We’re All in This Together, pages 149 – 169 and Rav Schwab on Chumash, pages 463-464.

[5]    As a Ba’al Teshuvah once remarked, “There’s nothing wrong with being a FFB – (Frum From Birth). Rather, it’s becoming FFH (Frum From Habit), that one has to be concerned about.”

[6]    see Shabbos 31a.

[7]    see Yuma 86a and Avos 2:1.

[8]    Rav Chayim Vital says, “One must exert greater caution in exercising proper middos than in observance of the mitzvos.” (See Sha’arei HaKedushah 1:2). As the Medrash says, “Proper behavior comes before the Torah” (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3). The Vilna Gaon says, “All of G-d’s service depends on the improvement of one character. Character traits are fundamental to the performance of mitzvos and to Torah principles. Conversely, all sins stem from unimproved character traits” (Even Shleimah 1:1). He continues, “Most instances of good and misfortune in this world are dependent upon character traits” (Ibid. 1:7).

[9]    see Chiddushei Maharil Diskin Al HaTorah, Parshas Ki Savo “ובאו עליך וכו”.

[10] Devarim 28:45-46.

[11] Ibid. 28:45.

[12] See note 9.

[13] Devarim 28:47.

[14] See Rashi on Bereishis 18:1 “פתח האהל”.

[15] Ibid. “כחם היום”.

[16] If one wants to perform a mitzvah and he can’t the Gemara says, “The Merciful One exempts from liability one that is coerced, i.e. a victim to circumstances beyond his control” (see Avodah Zarah 54a). In addition, “Someone who is involved in a mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah.” (See also Sukkah 25a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 240:12; Aruch HaShulchan 26:2; 38:10 – 13, 93:7 and Mishnah Berurah 248:1, 640:7.

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  1. The answer is mussar,mussar,and more mussar.
    Why is it that EVERYBODY makes a big deal on siyom hashas; why dont we rejoice and make a siyom on Misilas Yeshorim ?!?

  2. Rav Malkiel Kotler SHLIT”A once said, why is it called ‘אהלו של שם ועבר’; they probably had buildings in those days? An answer is that a tent can be packed up and taken with you. So too, the lesson of yeshiva…

  3. I just saw today that in a few weeks there is a convention that will talk about emunah all weekend. Problem is its in a fancy hotel, and a little out of my budget. To bad, as its exactly the kind of thing i would need

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