I offer my congratulations to Mrs. Grace Novick, the grand-prize winner in our raffle, to Yonah Landau of Los Angeles, second-prize winner, and to Meir Nemetsky, our third-prize winner. Special thanks to Mrs. Shifra Yudkowsky, the lead seller of over $10,500-worth of tickets and to Mrs. Leeba Taitelbaum in second place, with close to $5,000 in sales. We greatly appreciate their efforts in making sure that we reached our $50,000 goal for this campaign.
“Inreach and outreach – which is more important?” is an age-old discussion among kiruv professionals and rabbonim. When I say age-old, we can look back at the mishteh of Achashveirosh, which the Jews were invited to attend. Mordechai advised them not to go, understanding that it would be to their spiritual detriment. In fact, the entire decree against the Jews was because they failed to listen to Mordechai and instead imbibed the pleasures of the party.
The Torah describes the multi-colored tachash hide used to cover the exterior of the mishkon. Rav Kook explains that Moshe had decided that a multi-colored tapestry of Klal Yisrael would be a good thing. He therefore allowed the Eirev Rav to join Klal Yisrael, even though their actions would bring about the Eigel Hazohov, the Golden Calf, and other events that lessened our high level of spirituality. In retrospect, many of the Eirev Rav were unable to tolerate the exile and eventually left the fold.
Rav Kook explains that the mere fact that the Eirev Rav experienced living among the Jewish people was a good thing. Although they were unable to make Torah life an ongoing, lifelong experience, they had nevertheless witnessed the way in which we live. Our commitment to Torah and mitzvos, our manner of dress, and our treatment of each other were all values they had witnessed and would shape them and their outlook on us, the am hanivchar, the Chosen Nation. After leaving the fold, they would still serve as witnesses to our way of life, fashioning the way in which others looked at us.
This past week, I had the opportunity to reach out to a number of dedicated Jews not currently leading an observant lifestyle but who had in one way or another been positively affected by our school. One of them mentioned to me that he was invited to a Shabbos dinner at his non-kosher country club. He decided to attend. Upon arrival, he enjoyed the wine and challah, but was quite surprised when the shellfish appetizer arrived. He complained and asked how they could serve shellfish at a Shabbos dinner; it is either a shellfish dinner or a Shabbos dinner – but not both. His hosts responded that the guests all seemed to enjoy the shellfish. He told me that that was the last Shabbos dinner he would ever attend at his club. Although his personal level of observance was somewhat weak, he still understood that a Shabbos dinner could never be compatible with shellfish. There is no question in my mind that his exposure to our school will have a positive effect on those around him and that he will be able to share his happy memories of his friends at the school. This was the tachash, the multi-colored hide used to cover the mishkon that Moshe envisioned when he allowed the Eirev Rav to join our people, even though their actions caused us much grief.
Our community is a model both for listening to the Mordechais of our time – our personal Torah leaders – and at the same time welcoming those who want to join us regardless of their religious observance. We are fortunate to have a school and community with great Torah leaders taking care of the inreach as well as the kollel and Project Shoresh reaching out to the community. These joint efforts are all our personal victory over Haman and his decrees that were overturned through the actions of the Jewish people.
Tzippy and I will be away over Purim, fundraising for the school in Lakewood, NJ, but we take this opportunity to wish the parents and friends of the school a happy Purim. We have made a donation to tzedokoh in lieu of mishloach monos and join the community in their joyous celebration of Purim. Please do not deliver mishloach monos to our home, as we will be away.
Good Shabbos and a freilichen Purim,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman