Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“The Shabbos Project:” The Right and Wrong Kinds of Love

Rav Yehuda Turetsky

News reports suggest close to a million people will participate in this week’s “Shabbos Project”. South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s initiative will significantly influence the amount of people involved in Shabbat this upcoming week, and it is certainly an opportune time to reflect upon the religious value of increasing other people’s Jewish identity and religious involvement.

What follows are three brief understandings of the religious importance of Kiruv.

Rabbainu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuva 3:19) bases his apprach on the verse in Parshat Ki Tavo (Devarim 27:26), "ארור אשר לא יקים את דברי התורה הזאת". While various Mefarshim have understood that pasuk in alternate ways (See Rashi, Iben Ezra and Ramban ad loc), Rabbainu Yona offers the following suggestion from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Sotah 7:4, cited in Ramban Al-HaTorah as well). Good workers want to ensure that not only they are performing quality work, but that the others are as well. For him, one who fails to do so is the cursed individual referred to in the aforementioned verse. We are commanded to raise the banner of Torah for others.

Yet, others see Kiruv as a manifestation of love, though in alternate ways.

Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot pos. mitzvah no. 3) cites a Sifri as understanding a connection between one’s love of Hashem and one’s desire to increase others’ mitzvah observance. One who is truly in love with Hashem wants others to recognize, appreciate, and love Hashem as well.

An additional view is offered based on the Mishna in Avot’s comment (1:12) that one should be a student of Aharon, "אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה", loving others and bringing them closer to Torah. The first Lubavticher Rebbe argues in Sefer HaTanya (1:32) that one must love other Jews to the extent to which one can bring them back closer to Torah and Mitzvot. Kiruv, in his view, is routed in love of man, not only love of God.

Two important qualifications, though, must be mentioned regarding Kiruv based on love.

While Kiruv can be a manifestation of love, that certainly does not refer to love of self. Kiruv primarily based on one’s own pride or feeling of accomplishment can at times be dangerous, and one must be cautious in such situations.

An additional qualification was often mentioned by Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook.  He noted that we are not told to love others in order so that we can bring them closer. Instead, there are two separate clauses in the Mishna – one must love others, and one must also enhance their connection to Torah. That is the kind of love that will ultimately prove most effective, one that is not routed on agenda but genuine care and concern.

With these ideas in mind, we can better appreciate Rav Ilan Feldman’s ambitious model of the Orthodox Jewish community.  He writes as follows (“Why the Giant Sleeps”, Klal Perspectives)
We stand for G-d and serve Him dutifully, but we have sold out on the view of man that was the keystone of Avraham Avinu, replacing it with suspicion, cynicism, and judgment (imagine an Orthodox community today begging G-d not to destroy an evil city). This sell out, or abandonment of principle, is at the source of the “sleeping giant” phenomenon, in which our thriving observant communities, larger and more vibrant than ever, are largely ineffective as magnets in our effort to bring the majority of the Jewish family back to observance…
This is what I mean in distinguishing an observant community from a model community. An observant community is a community concerned primarily with observance. There is a sense of duty to perform an obligation, and to do it properly. Such a community emphasizes halacha, and it emphasizes proper environment…
There is an alternative world view, however, that an Orthodox community can adopt. It is the one introduced by Avraham Avinu, built on faith in G-d – as well as in people and their greatness. This approach sees community as a haven for the shechina(Divine presence). The purpose of community is not self preservation – it is nothing less than kiddush Hashem.

May we merit this Shabbat to see a fulfillment of our community’s  love of Hashem and others!

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