Thursday, April 28, 2011

"I Want to Tell You of my Experience" - The Rebbe

Over the years the Rebbe dealt attentively with “at-risk” individuals who questioned their faith and wandered off the path. The Avner Institute would like to present a unique letter from the Rebbe, who shares his personal experience with someone trying to bring a friend back to Torah observance. With special thanks to Rabbi Sholom Mendel Simpson, member of the Rebbe’s secretariat.

Good Shabbos

By the Grace of G-d
26 Tammuz 5725
Brooklyn, NY

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter of July 13th, in which you ask for guidance how to influence an old friend who had been quite frum in the past but has weakened in his conviction.

Needless to say, it would be difficult for you to accomplish much by way of correspondence alone. Therefore, it would be well for you to find some mutual friends on the spot, who could exercise their influence in the desired direction, while your correspondence with the party in question would act as a further stimulus from time to time, being guided by the mutual friends on the spot as to when and what to write to your friend.

As a general observation, I want to tell you of my experience which has convinced me that in most cases such as you describe, the true reason for the weakening in the convictions was not the result of a more profound study or deeper insight, but rather on the contrary, it came as a result of the fact that the convictions which one has held have proved an obstacle to the enjoyment of certain material aspects in life. And, human nature being what it is, one wishes to appease one’s troublesome conscience by trying to find faults with the convictions and spiritual aspects.

In view of the above, the most effective approach in most cases is not to attempt to debate the spiritual matters, convictions and beliefs, but rather to try to bring the person closer to the kind of daily life and activity which bring their fruits also in this material world. I have in mind an activity in the Jewish community, or in the field of kosher education in particular, where he could see the good results of his work, and at the same time gain personal satisfaction from his success. The discussions mentioned above would only be of secondary importance, so as not to leave any of his questions unanswered.

What has been said above is in general terms which would apply to most cases. However, there are undoubtedly special factors connected with the individual himself, especially with his personal character, etc. Therefore, any action directed at influencing him should first be consulted with people who know him personally and would know his reaction to such efforts.

A further point which is also valid almost always is that in such a situation a wife or a fiancée can accomplish a great deal, perhaps not so much directly as indirectly. This should therefore also be considered as a channel of influence. For as I gather from your letter, the person in question is still single. Therefore, it would be very well for him if his friends could find him a suitable shidduch.

Incidentally, insofar as “scientific proof” that the Torah is G-d-given is concerned, which seems to both your friend, the fact is, however strange this may seem, that the best proof is still the oldest, namely that the Torah was transmitted from generation to generation in an unbroken and uninterrupted chain of tradition, from the time of the Divine revelation at Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah in the presence of 600,000 adult male Jews (several million Jews in all), to the present day. There is no stronger scientific verification of any fact than the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, which has been attested to by so many witnesses from generation to generation.

With blessing,