Q & A: Ask the Rabbi

The Hidabroot Approach

Question to Hidabroot:

There was a period of time when I would listen to strong disciplinary lectures with emphasis on being in trepidation of G-d. Those discourses warned that “if you do not fulfill the mitzvoth (commandments), you will only suffer” and that “all physical enjoyments end, but Gehinom (Purgatory) can last forever”. In their merit I felt closer to G-d, and I very much like to hear such lectures. So why is it that the Hidabroot organization is so sensitive in their approach? While this approach may cause a Jewish soul to love his religion, he won’t feel enough fear and pressure of obligation to force him to fulfill what he must do in practice.


To the Questioner,

You are probably well aware of what our Sages taught us: There are different personalities among the Jewish people: “Just as their faces are not the same, so too their character traits are not the same” (Berachot 58b).

In this vein, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev of blessed memory[1] explains the source of the disputes in the Talmud between the “House of Shammai” and the “House of Hillel”. While the nature of Shammai and his students was to be more strict and uncompromising, the nature of Hillel and his students was to be more accepting and accommodating[2]. One approach cannot be considered more right than the other[3]; both approaches are valid, each one for the specific personality it relates to.

It follows that the matter of choosing a strict versus a sensitive approach for kiruv (the effort to endear Jewish souls to their religion) is really just a judgment-call of each organization in their efforts to appeal to a particular type of personality – whether it be the approach of emphasizing fear, which will appeal to a stronger, more uncompromising type of personality, or whether it be the approach of being sensitive and accepting, which will appeal to a softer, more accommodating type of personality.
But there is yet another imperative factor to consider when we engage in kiruv today.

The fact that many secular Jewish souls today don’t identify with or practice Judaism does not stem at all from a conscious decision to rebel against or to disparage religious commitment. Rather, it stems mostly from a lack of knowledge. The average secular Jew today never learned the beliefs of traditional religious Orthodox Judaism, or is likely to be misinformed from various unauthentic sources as to what the beliefs of religious Judaism are.

Now, if we adopt the more strict and harsh approach to kiruv, and convey the message of how much a soul will suffer if he does not fulfill the commandments before he receives an explanation as to what the real goal of the religion is, he will automatically apply the strict doctrine that he hears to his misinformed notion as to what the obligations of Judaism are. Since very often these misinformed obligations that he has heard of are childish and, at times, even irrational, when sensing a pressure to fulfill that which is in his mind clearly inappropriate, he will only tend to feel disdain for all religious practice.

Much better then, to adopt a more sensitive and accepting approach to kiruv – yet with the clear objective of explaining why Orthodox Jews do what they do [as well as simultaneously dispelling any false information that they may have heard about the religion]; that way the soul in question will first have the proper information that he needs in order to consider religious Judaism for himself in a real way.  Understanding why religious Jews do what they do opens the door for him to choose a life of commitment in a most positive way.

Once a Jewish soul is able to hear mature and satisfying explanations for what the Torah requires, he will automatically be much more open to incorporating those values in his own life. Very often, just by receiving an explanation that he can identify with, a Jewish soul will already desire on his own to carry out some of those required obligations in practice. But even if he still needs a bit more of absorption time and study in order to integrate the new ideas he heard, certainly providing him with true information regarding his own religion and the reasons behind it, was already a step in the right direction.

This is the Hidabroot approach. Explain to an uninformed Jewish soul why religious Jews do what they do, and the dormant spark inside of him will become ignited through its identification with the truth presented which resonates with everything that he already knows – at the core of his very own being.


[1] Kedushat Levi, Likutim, piece beginning Shiru.
[2] Shabbat 31a.
[3] Kedushat Levi, Ibid, that both the opinion of Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel have acceptance within Halacha: Bet Hillel’s opinion is the Halacha of the present day, while Bet Shammai’s opinion is the Halacha in the future when Mashiach will arrive.

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