All who go do indeed return!

Thursday, 3 December, 2015 - 1:46 pm

This past Monday night there were two speakers featured at Jewish community events. Chabad hosted a lecture by Rabbi Dov Greenberg (photos below). The JCC hosted a talk by Shulem Deen, author of All Who Go Do Not Return.

Rabbi Greenberg’s talk, entitled, My Beloved Knocks – How the Rebbe Empowered Our Generation, had a positive, uplifting message about how every Jew is open to a passionate loving relationship with G-d and what is needed is proper facilitation by people who care about others. He told the story of his own parents, who were raised in a secular environment and their journey to greater observance that was sparked by a Rabbi who was both caring and persistent. This Rabbi (who happens to be my grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Gordon) was inspired by the Rebbe’s message that every Jew is open to being engaged and connected to Hashem and that Ahavat Yisrael, love for another, and persistence are the keys to awakening that openness. Rabbi Greenberg then shared that four of his parents’ children operate Chabad Houses on college campuses around the US. Hundreds of Jewish students enjoy Shabbat, holidays, Jewish experiences and Jewish learning offered at these Chabad Houses all because one soul was touched through love and persistence. He concluded with the Rebbe’s challenge to all of us to become “shepherds” who nurture the souls of our people by engaging them one Mitzvah at a time, one person at a time.

Just up the road a different story was being shared. Shulem Deen’s book shares his journey away from his Chasidic roots and religious observance. I only read a few excerpts from the book, but they leave me with a strong feeling of compassion for the man because of the pain that he experienced (and the pain which, I suspect, he still experiences). The pain of the loss of faith, family, community. The difficulty of confronting the unfamiliar while being plagued with doubts about choices made and longing for that which is familiar. Certainly he has strong convictions about his decision to take his life in a different direction and he makes arguments for them in his book.

I couldn’t help but observe the irony of the contrast of the two messages. I also wonder that if folks who experience what Shulem did – the disenfranchisement from their roots – would only encounter a caring and persistent Rabbi such as the one that met Rabbi Greenberg’s father, whether the next chapter in their story would be different. My heart bleeds for them and their pain. I wish that they could once again allow themselves to experience a closeness to Hashem and His love for each of them as parents love an only child.

Indeed, Reb Shulem (if I may invoke an old endearing title), Hashem promises that “All who go will return.” Paraphrasing Samuel II 14:14, “No Jew will be cast away from Hashem forever.” As the prophet Isaiah states: 27:12, “and you shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel.”

My friends, the task of gathering Jews one by one has begun. It is a deeply fulfilling and meaningful mission. Be a part of it and seize the opportunity to knock on the heart of a fellow Jew so they too can be warmed by the beauty of Yiddishkeit.

It starts this weekend at Chanukah. Reach out to a Jew that may need some assistance or encouragement to light their Menorah. Invite them to Chanukah @ Riverwalk or a similar celebration. #Sharethelights. Share the warmth. Share the love.

To quote Stephen Colbert, “A Lichtige un freilichen Chanukah.”

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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