Kiruv

The first mitzvah in the Torah tells us to “Be fruitful and multiply,” which in its spiritual meaning is the obligation to “make another Jew” — i.e., to bring another Jew closer to Torah and mitzvos.1

Outreach in its widest possible sense is the greatest demonstration of true ahavas Yisrael. It is the greatest honor for the Torah when one explains to the largest possible audience — to all Israel — that the Torah is the wisdom and will of G‑d, that it is eternal, and that this eternal life has been planted among us with a life lived in accordance to Torah and mitzvos.2

The greatest thing that one can give another is life.3 True ahavas Yisrael is giving another true life — a life of Torah and mitzvos. One should make the greatest effort to inject “life”4 into one’s friends and students by imbuing them with a “chayos” (vivaciousness) and a “bren” (passion) for Torah and mitzvos. Such feeling should be contagious and should be spread widely.5

One can never have a true feeling of simchah if a fellow Jew is lacking something, and how much more so in the spiritual realm if he is lacking his “life” — Torah and mitzvos. All efforts must be exerted in the spirit of ahavas Yisrael to give him that life.6

Even when it may be necessary to rebuke one’s fellow, the rebuke should be done privately7 and preceded with kiruv. Only then will the words of rebuke be heard and accepted. This sequence is reflected in the words of the mishnah,8 “Love the creations and draw them near to the Torah.” First there should be, “Love the creations,” which if practiced properly will ultimately lead to “and draw them near to the Torah.”9

The correct perspective in outreach work is:10

1. Never to look down at one who is not yet observant (with a “holier than thou” attitude) but always to elevate and bring out the best in a person.

2. To know and to feel that the person can potentially be drawn near.

A Jew should never be completely consumed with self-perfection11 but must also have ahavas Yisrael and do a favor for another.12 Since ahavas Yisrael is “the entire Torah,” it therefore follows that one who is actively engaged in fulfilling this mitzvah is connected to the entire Torah.13 One may not think, “I have saved my own soul so there is no necessity to worry about anybody else,” for this is the opposite of ahavas Yisrael.14

Self-Sacrifice for Outreach

A Jew must have self-sacrifice to spread Yiddishkeit not only within his immediate circle, but for all those in his environs, for all those in his town, and for all those in his country. Why is it his responsibility? Because the Torah states, “Love your fellow as yourself.” Far from transcending reason, the rationale is clear: Just as a person invests great effort to insure the health of one of his limbs, with the same intensity he also invests great effort in his other limbs. Since all Jews, says the Talmud, are limbs of one and the same body, the good of the other is really one’s own good. Contemplation in this matter will lead one to have self-sacrifice to spread Yiddishkeit.

On a deeper level, when one contemplates what was stated above in Tanya, that each soul is a part of the Divine and comes from the same source, then it becomes clear that, in actuality, helping another soul deeply affects G‑d Himself. When one soul is lost or missing something, this affects G‑d. In all of our troubles, the Shechinah is with us. So, too, a soul in need of help is a part of the Divine awaiting redemption. The energy behind one’s activities in spreading Yiddishkeit will obviously be heightened by contemplating that this effort helps to bring about the complete revelation of the Divine in the world below.15

A Personal Mission

Well known is the Talmudic law that “The emissary of a person is considered as the person himself.” In the area of outreach, every Jew must realize that although he is a part of one large national Jewish soul, each individual soul was sent by G‑d to the earth in a particular time and a particular place with a specific mission to fulfill. Each soul is to be viewed as a personal emissary of the Divine whose mission is to create “an abode for G‑d in the lowest of all worlds,”16 each one in his or her place.17 Every person is obligated to use his talents in the fulfillment of this mission and in his efforts in outreach.

The obligation to bring Jews closer to Judaism rests upon every Jew, no matter what his individual standing: no one is exempt. Whether one is on the highest spiritual level, or one has just begun to swim in the sea of the Torah, each must do his part according to his individual capabilities. A Jew cannot lock himself away in the privacy of his own devotions for fear of being sullied by contact with those of less lofty standards; nor can he excuse himself with protests of inadequacy. If one is fortunate enough to be in possession of that which is “our life and the length of our days,”18 i.e., Torah and mitzvos, he must share it with others.

A person was once in private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rebbe asked him not only to learn Torah but also to teach Torah. The man replied that he only knows the alef-beis to which the Rebbe responded that his mission is to take a Jew who only knows an alef and teach him beis!

Privilege and Responsibility

Nevertheless, we must go further. A Jew’s mission in this world is to make of it a dwelling place for G‑d,19 to elevate and sanctify the physical; in short, to serve G‑d in all ways. This is the purpose of a soul’s descent from the lofty spiritual realms to this corporeal world. Each soul has a specific task, its particular contribution towards making the world a fit abode for G‑dliness. As quoted earlier, the Baal Shem Tov once said that a soul may come into the world and live for seventy or eighty years, just to do a favor for a Jew in either physical or spiritual matters. Your assistance to another may be the fulfillment of your mission in life; the reason your soul was sent down to this earth.

Hence, when one approaches another Jew to encourage him to return to the ways of his forebears, the approach must be made with humility and an awareness of the privilege he has been granted. One Jew is not superior to another because he happened to have the good fortune of being born into a religious family. Every Jew is precious, for, as the Baal Shem Tov said, G‑d’s love for each Jew is as the love parents have for an only child born to them in their old age. Each Jew is like the only child of the King of kings, and the King keeps a vigilant eye on how His child is treated. You are not doing that person a favor per se; rather, G‑d is granting you the great privilege of helping His child! It is an awesome responsibility and must be treated with utmost seriousness. G‑d has many messengers with which to fulfill His wishes, or G‑d Himself could heal this child of his spiritual ills. Yet you have been given the task. G‑d has had compassion for your spiritual level, and is giving you, through the merit of helping another Jew, the opportunity to elevate yourself to a loftier position.

It is thus clear that not only may one not despise his fellow for being alien to his religion, but one must approach him with the utmost respect and consideration befitting the only child of the King of kings. No vilification, G‑d forbid. No derogatory statements. No superior airs. Only love and peace, good will and graciousness.

Success

The Rebbe writes that there is a “covenant” established with effort and publicity — that they shall never be without fruit.20 It is not always for us to see the results of our actions. We are “day workers” and we must be concerned primarily with the work itself, and with dedication and patience, the fruits will show. Not every effort in kiruv will be immediately successful; nevertheless, regardless of the results, one has still fulfilled the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael and will receive a reward for loving one’s fellow man.21

If all mitzvos must be performed with great intensity, how much more so ahavas Yisrael, which is “the foundation of the entire Torah.” One must try to persuade other Jews to keep Torah and mitzvos, and if there is no initial success, one must try again. Even if the recipient reacts strongly, one should not be deterred; on the contrary, the fact that there has been a reaction is a sign that he has been touched.22 One should try time and time again until one succeeds. True, the presentation must be pleasant — as the Previous Rebbe once put it, “One should not rip the other’s nose off” — however it must be with conviction. A combination of pleasantness and intensity will ultimately succeed. If in the interim it does not, then the blame lies not with the recipient but with him. Words that come from the heart enter the heart. If one’s words did not penetrate the other’s heart, it must be that they did not emanate from the heart. Try again!23

Furthermore, one is assured of success, for one is not battling against a foe, and the goal is not the conversion of something bad to something good. The quintessence of a Jew is his soul, a soul that is always connected with its source. No matter how distant a Jew is from his religion, it is only an illusory separation. Beneath the layers of indifference that have enveloped a Jew, the soul still shines, untouched and untouchable. One need but remove the layers, and the soul is revealed.

This can be illustrated with a simple parable: Words can be written with ink on paper (or parchment), or engraved in stone. In both cases, the words can be removed or filled in. The ink can be erased from the paper, and the engraving can be filled in to obscure the letters. The difference is that the ink and the paper are two separate entities, and once the ink is removed, new writing is necessary to provide new words. But in the case of the engraving, the letters are part of the stone, and one need but remove the silt which has filled the indentations to reveal the original letters.

A Jewish soul is an engraving. A Jew’s connection to G‑d is etched upon his soul, an inseparable part of his very being. Torah is not something separate from the Jew, but part of his essence. If, G‑d forbid, a Jew has become alienated from the Torah, and the letters of the Torah engraved upon his soul have become filled with the silt of coarseness and materialism, one need only remove the silt, and the letters stand revealed. A Jew, by nature, wants to serve G‑d. We have been chosen as nothing more than the instrument with which to remove the concealments and lay bare the reality which was always present. In our work of spreading Torah and mitzvos we need but make the first move, reach out a hand, and he will come running to grasp it. The quintessential spark of Judaism within every Jew, which until now has been dormant, will ignite into a flaming torch of longing for G‑d.

No Compromise

It must also be pointed out that our mishnah says, “draw them near to the Torah” and not “draw the Torah near to them.” This means that all efforts made to bring a Jew closer to Torah must be in keeping with the laws of Torah and the Shulchan Aruch — the Code of Jewish Law.24 The Torah should never be diluted or compromised in order to achieve success in outreach.25

In a letter concerning the sailing of passenger ships on Shabbos the Rebbe writes:

There are those who claim that due to the responsibility to fulfill the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael and to support Jews wherever they are and in particular in Israel — the land upon which the eyes of G‑d are fixed from the beginning of the year until the end — it should be permitted in order to help Israel’s economic situation.

I responded with the well-known aphorism of the Previous Rebbe who, when also asked a similar question, responded with a parable: One can compare this to putting out a fire. The person who puts out the fire is not particular that the water should be clean and fit for drinking, rather any water will do. However, if somebody comes along and wishes to extinguish the fire with gasoline — with the claim that it is also a liquid — then not only will it not have any use, it will cause further destruction. So too, one who wishes to help another Jew (and how much more so many Jews) in a way that does not comply with the Torah — a Torah that gives life — then not only is this not considered help, but on the contrary, it is destructive.”26

The Torah in Its Entirety

One should also present the Torah in its entirety and never give the impression that some mitzvos are not so applicable in the modern day. The correct approach is to explain that a Jew is obligated to keep all 613 mitzvos,27 and one should gently ask that at least one mitzvah be performed immediately.28 This one mitzvah should preferably be one of the principal mitzvos such as: ahavas Yisrael, Torah education, learning Torah, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, filling one’s house with holy books, lighting Shabbos candles, kashrus, and taharas hamishpachoh.

The rule is that “One mitzvah brings about another,”29 and through the keeping of one mitzvah this will lead him to keep another until all the mitzvos will be kept.

When one sees a Jew who previously has not been observant and who feels that because of his past actions he cannot relate to a life of Torah; who therefore feels despondent and does not wish to keep any mitzvos — he feels he is a “lost” Jew — he should be encouraged and informed that it is possible to change from one extreme to another in a moment. This is not just an encouragement, but a halachic ruling.30 By starting with one mitzvah — particularly one of the above-mentioned principal mitzvos — that mitzvah itself will refine him enough to bring him to keep another and eventually all the mitzvos.31

A Lesson From the Arba Minim — the Four Species32

The Torah instructs us that on the first day of Sukkos we should take “a fruit of the citron tree (an esrog), the branches of a date palm (a lulav), myrtle branches (hadassim), and willows that grow near a brook (aravos).”33

It is noteworthy that in reference to the first three of the species, i.e., the esrog, lulav and hadassim, the Torah implicitly gives a description that invalidates other variant species, for example:

The fruit of the citron tree (esrog): The esrog must be a “perfect fruit”34 and must also be hadar (“beautiful”); a dry esrog is invalid.35

Branches of a date palm: A lulav must have branches that are “kapos,” i.e., that can be bent and tied, not brittle.36 According to the Rogatchover Gaon,37 the Torah details “date” palms to emphasize that it is not sufficient for a lulav to come from a tree that is from the palm family, rather a lulav must come from a tree that actually produces dates.38

Myrtle branches: The hadas must be “ovos,” i.e., it must have three leaves on one stem.39 If not, it is invalid.

However, regarding the aravos, the fourth of the Arba Minim, although the Torah states that they must be “willows that grow by a brook,” the halachah is that even if the willow does not actually grow by a brook but comes from a willow that belongs to the family of willows that usually grow by a brook, then it is valid.40

This requires explanation: Why is it that when the Torah describes the first three of the species, it is detailed and exact — to the exclusion of variant minim — while regarding the aravos, the Torah just gives a general guideline about the species?

It is well known that many ideas in the Torah are difficult to explain in their simple sense without referring to their inner meaning.41 So too with the above matter, which needs clarification from the Midrash to be fully understood.

The Midrash42 tells us that the Four Species are in fact a metaphor for the four different types of Jew. The esrog,which possesses both taste and smell, refers to the Jew who is both learned and has good deeds. The lulav, which has taste but no smell, refers to the Jew who is learned but lacks in good deeds. The hadas, which has smell but no taste, refers to the Jew who lacks in learning but possesses good deeds, and the aravos, which have neither smell nor taste, refers to the Jew who is both unlearned and lacks in good deeds.

The mitzvah of the Four Species is to bind all the different types of Jew together.

Looking at the mitzvah from this perspective immediately helps us to distinguish the first three species from the fourth. The first three species (i.e., types of Jew) all have in common some revealed quality:43 the esrog taste and smell, the lulav taste, and the hadas smell, whereas the aravah, the Jew who has neither learning nor good deeds, has no obvious advantage except for the fact that he is a Jew. This advantage is on an essential level rather than on a revealed one, and is common to all Jews who are descended from Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Even a tinok shenishbah (see chapter 9 below)who does not even know he is Jewish also possesses a Jewish soul and is essentially a Jew.

This explains why the Torah is so exacting about the descriptions of the first three species, whereas with the aravah, even if this particular aravah did not grow by a brook — i.e., he is a tinok shenishbah — as long as he belongs to the general species (i.e., he is Jewish), he is valid and in fact becomes a crucial part of the mitzvah.

This teaches a most important lesson:

Just as one may not perform the mitzvah without a lulav or an esrog, so, too, one cannot perform the mitzvah without the aravos. We must bind ourselves together with simple Jews — those who have neither learning nor good deeds. Moreover, since the simplicity of the simple Jew is connected to the simplicity of the essence of G‑d,44 it is particularly through the simple Jew that one connects with the essence of G‑d.

Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between how we connect with the first three species and how we connect with the aravos: In order for those Jews who possess learning or good deeds to qualify for their different categories, they must each possess their unique quality. It is not enough that someone born into a family of learned Jews, or one who is registered in a yeshiva, or one who used to learn in the past should be classified as a lamdan — he must actually be learned himself. He must actually possess the “taste” of learning. However when it comes to the simple Jew, there are no preconditions that he should be able to learn or keep mitzvos or even feel Jewish.45 Since he is Jewish, we must connect with him because he is a Jew. Such an approach of “loving the creations” will eventually lead to “draw them near to the Torah” and such a Jew will ultimately acquire taste and smell.

Unity on such a level will eventually precipitate the final Redemption, as the Sages say: “Israel will only be redeemed when they will all form one group.”46

A Diamond and a Descendant

We will close this chapter with two stories of the Rebbe which illustrate exactly how one is to view another Jew.

It is well known that on Sunday mornings the Rebbe used to distribute dollars to be given to charity. Thousands of Jews would line up each Sunday for the chance to receive a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe. On one occasion, an older lady who had been waiting a long time blurted out to the Rebbe that she marveled at how he could stand for so many hours on his feet dispensing the dollars, as she was totally exhausted from her wait!

Replied the Rebbe, “When you are counting diamonds, you don’t get tired.”

For the Rebbe, every Jew was a diamond.

Another story was related by Mr. George Rohr at a convention for the Rebbe’s emissaries in 5757.

Mr. Rohr related how, as a member of the Machne Israel Special Development Fund — a special fund established to build new Chabad centers around the world, he had the privilege to meet the Rebbe on one occasion just after Rosh Hashanah. Mr. Rohr thought that instead of asking the Rebbe for something, he would give the Rebbe a present of his own. A short time before Rosh Hashanah, he had been instrumental in setting up a beginners’ service at his shul in Manhattan. On Rosh Hashanah, 120 Jews attended this new service. Mr. Rohr decided to announce this to the Rebbe and was sure the Rebbe would receive much nachas from this good news. When his turn to meet the Rebbe arrived, he confidently strode up to the Rebbe and shared with him his good news:

“Thank G‑d, this Rosh Hashanah we set up a beginners’ service in our shul and had 120 Jews with no Jewish background participate!”

Until that point the Rebbe had a broad smile on his face, but when Mr. Rohr told him the news the Rebbe’s face dropped, and Mr. Rohr searched his words for anything he may have said that had upset the Rebbe.

“What?” said the Rebbe.

Mr. Rohr repeated, “...120 Jews with no Jewish background.”

“No Jewish background?” asked the Rebbe. “Go and tell those Jews that they are all children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov.”

Now Mr. Rohr understood. The Rebbe objected to these Jews, his children, being described as having no Jewish background. The Rebbe pointed out that every Jew has a Jewish background, a great, illustrious background — they are the children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov!