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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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I read Rabbi Mischel’s article on “The Lulav Jews” (October 24, 2019), and found it to be a worthwhile insight regarding a unique mission that Modern Orthodox Jews can fulfill. However, while the author notes (and clearly correctly so) that it is essential for us to strengthen our commitment to Torah and mitzvot and not consider ourselves “exempt” from any mitzvah, he does not explain how we can effectively maintain this commitment as we force ourselves to be open to the perspectives of those who lack it.

To this end, I would like to posit three suggestions. First, each of us can cultivate a strong awareness of areas in which we personally are lacking in our Avodas Hashem, and try to put ourselves in a position that encourages growth in these areas. For instance, someone who finds himself often rushing through davening without thinking about what he is saying may make a point of davening, work schedule permitting, at a Minyan that provides enough time for a more thoughtful davening. Likewise, one who finds it difficult to avoid talking in Shul may attempt to surround himself with people who will refuse to participate in such conversation, and will (gently and privately) remind him if he does start talking to others. Such self-encouragement may thus serve as a clear reminder to remain loyal to the Torah even as we embrace those who (as of yet) are not.

Second, we can make a concerted effort to be considerate of others not only regarding their physical, emotional, and monetary needs, but also (or especially) with regard to their ability to perform mitzvos. To again draw from the above Shul examples, one who normally rushes through davening can take special care, when serving as the Sheliach Tzibbur, not to go faster than is normal for the minyan lest it interfere with other people’s ability to achieve tefillah b’tzibur. Similarly, one who frequently is tempted into talking during davening can attempt to at least take care not to do so in a way that will disturb others. By showing such consideration, we will (in addition to helping us connect with those to the right of us) impress on ourselves the importance of mitzvos, thereby fortifying our commitment to them.

Finally, we can make a particular effort to establish a solid philosophical framework based in Torah values to ensure that we have a solid Torah worldview to hold on to even as we open ourselves to understanding and welcoming those who hold different views. While this latter task may be somewhat complicated, it can be essential in enabling us to set proper priorities in terms of our religious lives as well as our lives in general.

Yitzhak Kornbluth
Teaneck