Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kiruv XII - Torah mitzva for kiruv

Before getting into the issue of how to do kiruv. The more appropriate question is: Is there a mitzva to do kiruv? What if any is the obligation to make other Jews more observant? All the discussions I have seen recently revolve around relatively superficial issues of whether kiruv is a type of marketing. Is it honest? Is it corrupt? Does it care about the individual? Are the consequences lasting?

In other words the first concern that must be addressed is: What are the sources in Torah, halacha and seforim that talk about the issue of kiruv?

I came across an interesting site devoted to these issues Oz Nidberu. I don't know who is behind it - They seem to acknowledge all Orthodox kiruv organizations as valid. But it does address the issues. In particular they have a 7 pagd pdf by Rav Yitzchok Berkowitz just listing Hebrew sources.

Here are some of the citations in English:

Devarim(6:5): And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might

Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos #3): To love G‑d…This mitzva also includes that we should seek and reach out to all men that they should serve G‑d and to believe in Him. This is to make G‑d beloved of man and that He should be thought about and praised and man should be encourged to love Him… This also includes without doubt that the heretics and fools should also be approached and encouraged to know the truth that you know. The Sifre says that loving of G‑d is to make Him beloved of mankind just as Avraham did as it says in Bereishis (12:5), “The souls which he made in Charan.” In other words just as Avraham - since he was beloved of G‑d as Yeshaya (41:8): “Avraham My beloved” - wanted to increase awareness of G‑d so he encouraged men to faith and strenghened love of G‑d. You should also love G‑d and therefore encourage men to come close to G‑d.

Chofetz Chaim
: The one who truly loves Hashem calls out to those far removed, that they should believe. If we want our words should be accpted we need to bestow onto them kindness for their own needs

Chinuch(#418 Concerning the obligation to love G-d): Sifre (Devarim 33) While it is stated and you shall love, I do not know haw a man is to love G‑d, hence Scripture states, “And these words which I command you this day shall be on your heart (Devarim 6:6) for as a result of this you will “recognize” the One who soke and the world came into existene. In other words, with reflection understanding in the Torah the love of G-d settles perforce in the heart. And the Sages said (Sifre Devarim 32) that this love should impel a man to arouse people about love for Him to serve and worship Him as we find in the instance of Avraham

Seder HaYom(Seder Tisha B'av):
One may judged in the World to Come if he was able to be mekarev and didnt, and if one does not have the capabilties he must find someone that does

Ohr HaChaim: The highest form of a Korban is to be mekarev rechokim

Ohr HaChaim
: Hashem punishes those who turn a blind eye to rechokim

: The righteous must pursue the sinners to bring them tachas kanfie H'Shechina


  1. see the current R' YA post on cross currents

    joel rich

  2. Check out this link. This is an interesting topic for discussion on this blog.


    Court: Husband who refused divorce must pay damages

    New precedent set by Jerusalem Family Court forces husbands who refuse to give wives divorce to pay damages for all years of their refusal. Center for Women's Justice: Civil court finally compensating for rabbinical courts' failures

  3. http://www.kiruv.com/Why_Kiruv/index.php

    Its a nice website IMO.

  4. Interesting how none of those sources seem to advocate converting the wife of an intermarried man as a means of Kiruv.


    Dear Dr. Eidensohn: By asking for "sources" to do kiruv you are slipping into your old mindset that shows that you don't get it, that kiruv does not require "sources" as such since it's as basic as 1-2-3 that just as all Jews must show and practice Ahavas Yisroel ("love thy fellow Jew"), do hatzolas nefashos ("save a Jewish life"), and be melamed ("provide for Jewish education"), and help by tzedaka ("Jewish charity") for BOTH their children and those of their fellow Jews ANYWHERE (why else do Jews contribute to Jewish educational institutions all over the world), likewise kiruv is an expression of all the mitzvas and Torah literature that are the basis for Ahavas Yisroel, Hilchos Chinuch, Pikuach Nefesh, Tzedaka and much more.

    And now that kiruv is so widespraed you will of course find ample sources and writings that dredge up all sorts of sources from here and there but that effort is essentially all lemafrei'a (retroactive) because the Baal Teshuva movement and the related field of kiruv rechokim did not come to be and is not sustained and practiced because of any of these sources.

    It is somewhat like asking what are the sources for the mitzvas of Yetzias Mitrayim (the Exodus) when all the mitzvas and Torah related to the events of the Exodus come about because of the events and not the other way around. Similarly (as we are in the Three Weeks), the observances and Halachos of Tisha Be'av are not because there are sources but rather there were cataclysmic events during this time and therefore a day and series of memorial observances were established backed by some sources and citations to support the remembrance of the days and not the other way around.

    Thus the Baal Teshuva Movement, also known as the Baal Teshuva Revoltion was something that happened ON ITS OWN MIN HASHAMAYIM as part of social, political, cultural and historical upheavals in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, it was NOT "invented" by rabbis or scholars, but it was secular or vaguely Jewishly traditional young Jewish people who started to search for their uniquely Jewish roots, AS PART OF A GENERATIONAL SHIFT when young people openly rebelled against the past and wanted to find MEANING IN THEIR LIVES and became open to SPIRITUAL ANSWERS, unlike their parents' generation, and gaining steam with each decade after the Holocaust so that by the 1950s a SMALL handful of visionary Orthodox rabbonim like the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, and a few Rosh Yeshivas in America (by the way, the Baal Teshuva Movement was essentially shaped and instigated in America), and you can count them on one hand hand, like Rav Yaakov Ruderman of Ner Israel in Baltimore, Rav Yitzchok Hutner of Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, and Rav JB Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University took note of it, and sent the first crop of outreach rabbis, only later called kiruv rabbis, to work with the Baalei Teshuva (as the secualr teens and young people became to be called once they turned Orthodox) and hence the field of kiruv started to take form.

    To those rabbonim it was a natural continuum of ahavas Yisroel, hatzolas nefashos, and chinuch and obviously all halachos that would go with that would naturally apply and then some, but there was also something deeper at work, they were "social scientists" of the times and they were perceptive enough to see a new changing of the tide IN THE WORLD and that it would be possible to start a process of returning the youth to the past Torah glory and heritage of the Jewish people. No great lomdus, just pikchus ("insightful smartness") and chochma ("wisdom").

    So that by asking for sources NOW as you are, you are barking up the wrong tree because there is no shortage of sources.

    It's actually very funny that you do so! Did Avrohom Avinu ask for "sources" when he faced his ten tests in life? He just wanted to hear from God. Did Moshe Rabbeinu ask for sources to start the ten plagues, split the sea, take out Bnai Yisroel from Egypt, and to go up Mt. Sinai to get the Torah, and then how to deal with all that happneed in the wilderness besides asking God for help and mercy? Are sources required to know if Jews should have been saved from the Holocaust? All efforts should have been based on pikuach nefesh and the laws of humanity. And I will touch on it delicately, when Jews are flooding Israel from all corners of the world for the last 100 years, do we need sources, or do we just say, look, the gates of Israel have been opened for any Jew to enter unlike the way it was for the previous 2,000 years. Oh yeah, there are plenty of sources about yishuv ha'aretz and even for not coming to Israel if you muct, but in the face of the tides and realities of history noone in Iraq or Yemen or Morocco was going around saying what are the sources justifying going to Israel when frenzied Arab nationalistic Islamic mobs were run after their Jewish blood. And so on and so forth.

    So go easy with your questions, you may be self-defeating yourself with your penchant for tiresome scholasticism.

    Here is what Rav Yitzchok Hutner had to say about the birth of the modern Baal Teshuva Movement in a rare article he published in the Jewish Observer, " 'Holocaust'--A Study of the Term and the Epoch it is Meant to Describe. The Jewish Observer, October 1977, pp. 3-9."

    Rav Hutner states that the rise of the Baal Teshuva movement is a result of the internal disappointment the Jewish People felt in the gentiles of the world as a result of what happened during the Holocaust:

    From http://www.jpi.org/holocaust/hlchp9a.htm

    "As recorded in an article " 'Holocaust'--A Study of the Term, and the Epoch it is Meant to Describe"(1977), Rabbi Hutner "focused on significant aspects of the Churban that were hitherto either little known or studiously avoided. " 13 The response revealed an insight into the world of yeshivah leaders as they viewed the war and its significance for Jewish life and Jewish education. Rabbi Hutner states: "By placing the Holocaust in its historical perspective, we shall uncover two new directions in recent Jewish history with reference to the gentile persecution of Jews." What is of interest to us is the statement that:

    The first of these epochal changes involves the shift from generations of gentile mistreatment of Jews, which, if unwelcome, was nevertheless expected and indeed announced by our oppressors--to an era where promises of equality were made and then broken, rights were granted and then revoked, benevolence was anticipated, only to be crushed by cruel malevolence. 14

    Citing historical examples, Rabbi Hutner shows that France after 1789, Russia after 1917, and England with its Balfour Declaration of 1917, held out the hope to Jews that their plight was finally being addressed, only to end in disappointment. "Although these reversals are dramatic and telling enough of themselves, they pale in the face of the retractions and total turnabouts made by the Germans in the 1920's and 30's." Thus it came to be that following a period of trust, the culmination of this historical period was "the Holocaust, the largest scale annihilation of a people in history, yet resulting not from lawless hordes but flowing directly from legalized and formal governmental edicts." 15

    What did this do to Jews? We have already noted Hilberg's conclusion in The Destruction of the European Jews (1973): "The effect of the German destruction process on the position of Jewry within Christianity has been twofold: the Jews have been forced into a reappraisal of the past, and they have simultaneously developed apprehensions about the future. " 16 Rabbi Hutner's conclusion is similar, but writing from within the world of Orthodoxy, he begins to reach out towards specific conclusions:

    The end-result of this period for the Jewish psyche was a significant--indeed, crucial--one. From trust in the gentile world, the Jewish nation was cruelly brought to a repudiation of that trust. In a relatively short historical period, disappointment in the non-Jewish world was deeply imprinted upon the Jewish soul. 17

    Rabbi Hutner goes a step further: "Our new understanding of the essence of our era allows us some comprehension of the phenomenon of our 'age of baalei-teshuva' ", 18 literally, "age of 'returnees' ". Davidowicz has noted that this phenomenon "became a commonplace phenomenon", and that when the "counterculture began to seduce young Jews, the Habad movement of the Lubavitch Hasidim undertook to save their souls. Other sectarian Orthodox groups followed suit. They . . . tempted them with authenticity, with a return to wholeness by way of their own tradition and a community of love among their own people." 19 Rabbi Hutner emphasizes, that it is not a single movement or group of movements that have created this state of "return", but it is rather the mark of an era or epoch:

    It has oft been noted that teshuva seems to "be in the air", and indeed the many movements currently succeeding to an unprecedented degree in bringing Jews closer to Judaism are but a reflection of the fact that the very climate is permeated with a kind of teshuva-readiness. This climate is the result of the disappointment in gentiles which demolished the first stumbling-block to teshuva, and forced the recognition that "it is because my God has not been in my midst" that the awesome events of recent times have occurred. 20

    The second of the two new directions in Jewish history in relation to gentile persecutions, according to Rabbi Hutner, has to do with the meeting of "East" and "West" in seeking the downfall of Jews. Beginning with the Mufti's close relationship with Hitler, a new trend emerges whereby "the nations of the Occident join forces with those of the East for the purpose of destroying Jews." 21 This served to increase the sense of betrayal, and enhanced the prospects of Jews"'returning" to their traditional cultural and religious heritage."


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