Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Elul 5765 - September 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








What is the Key to the Heart?

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

In recent years, thousands of hearts have been opened to Ovinu Shebashomayim. What is the key that opened their hearts? That is the question we laid at the door of the veterans in the field of kiruv work. Each one, in his own words and with his own style, gives us a peek at the key to people's hearts that he has at his disposal. At the key to the heart. Maybe we can help open someone's heart at this time of year, as we begin Elul and the Yomim Noraim season. And maybe — just maybe — we can learn something about opening our own hearts as well.

Rabbi Yitzchok Alchmeister, Tzohar Organization:

In one sentence, you could say what Shlomo Hamelech said: Kemayim haponim leponim kein leiv haodom leodom — like water face to face so is the heart of man to man (Mishlei 27:19). If the person you are facing sees that you really care about him, and you reach out to him and give to him, then his heart just simply opens. It does not depend on him, it depends on you—whether you have a real desire to give. He feels whether or not you really care about him!

And why, in fact, should you care about him?

Whoever loves the King wants others to love Him too.

Before you open someone else's heart you have to open yours first. Then when your heart opens, so will his, even against his will. I see this in day-to-day reality. This is the vort of: "Every person possessing yiras Shomayim will be heard." Because if a person speaks with emes, if he truly believes in what he is doing and has a genuine desire to do it, then people's hearts will open up.

Then the key has to be in the heart of the influencer, rather than in the heart of the one being influenced.

Exactly! But one has to have the desire, and not to have any ulterior motive — and then success will come!

There are people who genuinely have the desire, but they don't have the shprach. They do not know how to communicate in this situation.

There are two answers to this: 1) Siyata deShmaya is necessary; 2) If they would really care and really want to have an impact, there is no doubt that they would be heard, and then all of us would look different than we do.

We are, all of us, on a ship where a hole has been drilled in the floor of one of the cabins—and the water is seeping in! That being the case, there is absolutely no room to say, `we would not know how to communicate.' With the water flowing in and the ship in danger of sinking, you have to search and find a way to get the message across . . .

HaRav Moshe Frank, One of the Leaders of the Teshuva Movement

What opens a person's heart? When you speak to his heart! But obviously, it has to be done with common sense, with delicacy and consideration. Whatever you give over has to be adapted to the person's level of understanding.

When I give lectures I always try to inculcate the taam (reason) for all the mitzvos, whether it be the festivals or other mitzvos. I emphasize what the mitzvah gives a person — what it means to you and what you can learn from it. The goal is to get to the naaseh venishma.

In other words, what is the naaseh of doing the mitzvos? We have to come out nishma, having learned, sensed and felt the meaning of the mitzvos that we keep . . . that's what brings a person to feeling an identification and a connection with the words given over.

Taamu ure'u ki tov . . .

We must explain that the Torah provides meaning and joy in life. We are not just robots who do things without any reason behind them. In a lecture to baalei teshuvoh (actual or potential) there is no point in reading the posuk, Ki holachnu kedoranis mipnei Hashem Tzevokos (For we walked mournfully before the L-rd of Hosts) (Malachi 3:14). The reason is that they do not yet have the tools to understand it.

In general, I do not lecture to general audiences, but rather to young people—those whom you would call `rebellious' and intelligent. They are people who are yearning for meaning and substance. The issue of reward and punishment would not affect them that much.

`Punishment' I could understand not working. But why would discussing the `reward' not work?

For them, it is like a `postdated check' — pie in the sky. Besides, a person prefers not to hear about the reward either, so as not to spoil the taste of the sin. Even though we are dealing with an intellectual sector, it turns out that the pure logic of proving the truth of the Torah is still not enough to convince even a person like that, as long as he has not also seen the `good' of the Torah, the spiritual experience now, in this world!

In one of our most successful seminars, many secular people attended who were professors. They attended lectures from senior lecturers and then went up to them and asked: We hear a lot about the wisdom of the Torah, but . . . what is the Torah?

So I gave them a lecture on the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Afterwards they said how amazed they were, since it was the first time in their lives that they had heard what the Torah was.

It turned out that the scientific language used in most of the lectures had actually had no impact at all. There are two reasons for this. First, in the scientific world, it is accepted that one does not have to be convinced of everything one hears. Second, in scientific language one competes with the scientist on his own territory, and that causes him to reject what is said. But when we actualize the light of the Torah in our language, we are not competing with him but presenting him with a brand new light that he can enjoy.

HaRav Chaim Michoel Gutterman, Director of the Immigrant School Network —`Shuvu'

The key is to give lots of warmth, love and devotion to the children. This year, for the first time, we (Shuvu) opened a school that accepts Israelis as well, and not just immigrants. The secular parents approached us and informed us that they wanted only chareidi teachers! The devotion of the teaching staff is the key.

The superintendent of the organization, Rebbetzin B. Weinberger, adds: "The key is: homey warmth. The educational staff give out so much warmth and devotion. There is no other way to comprehend how it is that we have children who do not want to go out on vacation . . . "

HaRav Eliezer Sorotzkin, Director of Lev L'Achim

I have two wonderful keys in my treasury. In my years of being involved in the teshuvoh movement, I was given a clear daas Torah on these two keys, which are the most effective ones to mekarev Jews to Ovinu Shebashomayim.

Six years ago, I was summoned to the house of the great gaon HaRav Arye Leib Steinman, who put the question to me: "Can you, in the Lev L'Achim organization, put together a huge project to get children registered to Torah schools where they can be educated to keep Torah and mitzvos?"

I asked him, to make sure I understood what he meant: "What would be different about it? We are all working constantly, getting the avreichim to take action, as well as dozens of men and women in communities throughout the country."

I was told that the time was now ripe to knock at thousands of doors and offer their children a chareidi education. "But what will happen to the parents of those children?" I queried.

And the answer was: "The parents will follow in the footsteps of the children, `Veheishiv leiv ovos al bonim' (And the heart of the fathers will be restored to the sons — Mal'achi 3:24), literally.

And the key was in the form of a child . . .

I came out of HaRav Steinman's house with a new key to mekarev Jews to Ovinu Shebashomayim, and the key was in the form of a child. Take the child and teach him "komatz alef Oh" — it was a new key in the whole concept of kiruv!

Today, many years later, having organized, taken care of and referred numerous children to Torah schools, we can vouch that there is nothing to compare to that key to mekarev Jews.

We sometimes go into a class in a Torah school and ask the children, "What brochoh would you want?"

And it is not uncommon for the answer to be: "That my father and mother should do teshuvoh" — And I am talking about children in kindergarten and the youngest grades in elementary school. When we hear answers like these we feel that the key which the great gaon Rebbe Aharon Yehuda Leib Steinman deposited in our hands has indeed found its target.

The first year that we organized a massive registration project, we went to a Torah school up north, to a Siddur party. All the children in the class came from homes that did not observe Torah and mitzvos. I saw the parents watching the children singing and reciting the program, and I saw tears of joy streaming from the parent's eyes.

— And then I understood that the key had indeed opened up the hearts . . .

The second key that we got, the first actually, was the key of the Torah. Once we thought that in order to bring Jews closer to Ovinu Shebashomayim, we would have to know how to contradict Darwin's theory and things like that . . . Ten years ago the avreichim began knocking on the doors of our fellow Jews. At that time we organized a guidance conference for them, which went on from morning to night with top lecturers. We came out of that conference feeling a very strong sense of success.

That same night I went to the great gaon Rebbe Aharon Leib Steinman's house, and he spoke to me about the matter, saying: "Avreichim do not need to learn philosophy in order to do kiruv."

I asked: "Without this knowledge how will they be able to do kiruv?"

"Let them learn Torah with them—that is how they will mekarev," was the answer!

And the key was in the shape of a page of gemora . . .

"I left the house with a new key for drawing Jews closer to Ovinu Shebashomayim — and the key was in the shape of a page of gemora. Today I already see its impact in practice, how a Jew pilpuls with the words of the Tosafos and that's how he returns to Judaism!

Rabbi Uri Zohar told me: "At the beginning of my journey back, people proved to me that there was a Creator of the World. I became terrified and decided that I would like to keep Torah and mitzvos. I had no thought of rising spiritually or of reaching any dargos. I just wanted to cross the line from Gehennom to Gan Eden.

"A few months later, I found myself in a shul in the south of Tel Aviv. Between mincha and ma'ariv the rav sat down to learn with the congregants. I had no particular interest in learning, but they were serving tea with mint and that suited me perfectly . . . After half an hour of learning Torah I felt that, then and there, I stopped being a baal teshuvoh out of fear and became a baal teshuvoh out of love."

"A blatt gemora—the key that fits all hearts . . . "

HaRav Nota Schiller, one of the rosh yeshivas of Or Somei'ach

First of all, I would like to say that there is no specific key that fits everyone. Each person is different.

But you can begin from one starting point that is right for everyone and that is: Every Jew, wherever he is, is connected to the belief that HaKodosh Boruch Hu created the world and that He runs it. It is worth examining the peirushim of the Malbim and Rebbe Tzaddok HaCohen on the posuk, "Ani Hashem Elokecho" (I am the L-rd, your G- D). Both say the same thing: that emunoh is imprinted deep inside a person's soul!

That being so, the task of the mekarev is to help a person connect with his own inner self, or to open the listener's heart to listen to his own inner consciousness.

How do we open a person's heart, practically speaking?

In the same way as there were twelve lanes inside the Red Sea, and each tribe merited a unique and different brochoh — so does every Jew possess his own pathway. The one thing that unites everyone is his subordination to HaKodosh Boruch Hu and to keeping His mitzvos. And every single person, in accordance with his merits, and his zechus ovos, is granted the events and the people that will bring him to the truth.

Nonetheless, is there no action that could be defined as a general key?

HaRav Schiller thinks hard before replying.

First of all, one has to differentiate between a person who studied the Torah and left it and a tinok shenishba (an innocent person who is not religious out of ignorance). Somebody who once studied and then dropped it carries around a lot of baggage, so let us concentrate on the second type, the tinok shenishba.

We see instinctively that if we approach a Jew with warmth and openness and give him `credit,' he will draw closer. The `credit' is that we make it clear to him that he is not an apostate for spite, nor a `rebel,' but just a tinok shenishba. Then his inner self becomes open to listening to the emunoh that is imprinted deep inside his soul. This is accomplished without any concessions on halocho or the foundations of Yiddishkeit. But we do give him some `credit' initially and temporarily.

There is an extra point that pertains to the intellectuals. I refer to those people who got a taste of the `wisdom of the goyim,' and we have to give them a taste of the wisdom and beauty of Judaism. But here too when we add to it an interest in their material situation—not just their spiritual one—it helps them discover their inner essence. Experiencing the wisdom and beauty of Judaism, together with the warm hospitality, opens up their penimiyos.

HaRav Yosef Wallis, General Director of Arachim

That is a deep question. There is no one single key. We call the keys `levers' and there are different levers for different people. Each person has his own individual level, and each one has his own individual circumstances.

However, there is a general key, a master key. What is it then, this master key that opens a person's heart?

Every Jew, deep inside, is searching for Hashem. Deep down he believes. No matter how many layers cover him, nor how thick the peel, in essence he is always a Jew. The spark, the Jewish speck, can never be extinguished.

What kindles this spark and transforms it into a fire?

Every person has a sense of missing something, whether it be in the area of peace and quiet, parnossoh, tranquility, happiness, or health—each one has his own lack.

There is the person who on the surface appears to be lacking nothing, but underneath feels a lack of spirituality in his life and is searching for meaning and content to take away the emptiness in his life. Despite his `wealth,' he feels poor and in distress. Behind the glittering facade is concealed a human being who is searching.

The solution lies deep inside him: Everything comes from HaKodosh Boruch Hu, and Ein Od Milvado. There are only barriers that conceal Him.

But there are those who merit to get clarity from Shomayim. Suddenly the heart opens, instantly understanding dawns and the feeling comes. That is the moment of vedodi li, the moment of hashivenu Hashem eilecho when HaKodosh Boruch Hu stretches out His Hand to those who return. All of a sudden, the eyes are opened and the heart opens up.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself hands out the key, and there are no rules as to who is zocheh to it, when, or why him and not someone else whose life followed an identical route.

All the work in kiruv, the lectures, talks and seminaries, are nothing but tools to remove the barriers, get rid of inhibitions, break down the barriers of old prejudices, and supply the knowledge.

But the key is a gift from HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself, to whoever is worthy of it. And then comes the understanding and the feeling. HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself gives the key to the mind, the feelings, and the mental strength reserves to get up and make the move.

I would conclude by saying that only the person himself, through his decision to open his heart to listen to, take an interest in, and agree to take part in a seminary — that is his making an opening kechudo shel machat (like the eye of a needle).

Arachim, using the tools that we supply, expands that opening of the needle. But then HaKodosh Boruch Hu makes the opening as wide as a hall. The key is in every person's hand, beficho uvilevovecho. And when ani leDodi (I am to my Beloved), then veDodi li (my Beloved is to me), and he is given the key to the hall.

That is the master key. But let us discuss other keys. On a practical level, what is the key that gets a person to make a move?

In our experience, what makes people change their way of life and come to avodas Hashem more than anything else, is when they perceive the combination of the intellectual and the emotional in Judaism. However, in Judaism there is a very great balance toward emotion and warmth. Judaism provides a sense of security.

A person changes the moment he gets this feeling that from an idealistic perspective the Torah is true, and from an emotional perspective it is right for him. He comes to the realization that this is actually the only way through which he can succeed in life, in marriage, in raising his children properly, and in everything else.

Judaism provides answers to a tremendous amount of questions. Each of the answers is a key to a person's heart. Does this refer to intellectual questions? Not necessarily. We have seen people who were persuaded by chareidi education, they became convinced that it is the best chinuch.

There was a person who came to the seminar and was not affected emotionally by the lectures, but when he saw the behavior of the children of the staff, he became convinced that our way of life is the right one!

"Why is it that some are persuaded by one thing, and others something else? Because the real key, as we mentioned, is the vedodi li, the key that is in the Hand of HaKodosh Boruch Hu, Who opens the gate for those who knock to return to Him, even if it sometimes entails a weak knock on the gate, the start of an interest.

"There is an extra key," adds Rabbi Wallis. "It is the key of avodas hamiddos. When I meet someone for the first time, I see before me a volcano of emotions and prejudices. I want to break through them, so that he can feel that Judaism is his true home, that he is not adjacent to Judaism but is right inside it.

How is this done in practice? In an individual way, to a large extent. Once, we took a group of secular youngsters who had taken part in the seminar that went to HaRav Eliashiv's home. They were shocked at everything they saw, even at the simplicity of his home. One of them made a wise comment: "That combination of deep learning and great modesty convinced me more than anything." In the secular world the two do not go together. All of a sudden he saw what a perfect man is, what a man who has worked on himself is!

You could say that what the secular person most admires is the middos work in Judaism. If a person works on himself, develops himself, then that is the building of his personality! He perceives an organized system in which a person can build himself, for example with the halochos of hono'as devorim (hurting people with words), honoas momon (hurting with money), the halochos of loshon hora and rechilus, the halochos of stealing, etc.

Suddenly, he realizes that here is a perfect system for building perfection in a person and a proper society. And when he links the Jewish sefer to us, who keep Torah and mitzvos, then he realizes we are authentic, and he joins us.


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