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"He took it from their hands and bound it up in a cloth, and fashioned it into a molten calf. And they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt'" (Shemos 32:4).
The structure of this passage makes it evident that there is some outside party speaking to the Children of Israel and enticing them to believe in the powers of the Calf of Gold. Therefore, the Sages understood that it was the Eiruv Rav - the great mixture of converts who left Egypt with the Jews - who were steeped in idolatry, who caused the Israelites to sin. By doing this, they brought upon the Jewish People a tragedy which has remained with us throughout our history. As the Rabbis of the Talmud taught, "There is no punishment which befalls the Jewish People which does not bear with it a part of the retribution for the sin of the Calf of Gold." Indeed, causing even one person to sin is a terrible thing; one which can totally ruin his or her life, G-d forbid.
On the positive side, though, causing one to repent and come closer to Hashem and His Torah, is a wonderful thing; one which can totally save his or her life. Often these moves have a snowball effect which causes the original act to multiply geometrically.
Today, thank G-d, there are many organizations and individuals who are involved in outreach work and they are successfully bringing thousands of people, around the world, and especially in Israel, back to their roots. It is important, however, not to just take someone part of the way, and leave him stranded to cope for himself. It is the responsibility of the activist to see to it that the one he or she has reached out to is standing firmly on solid ground before letting go and reaching out to someone else.
I often heard my mentor, Rabbi Meir Mintz zt"l quote the Mashgiach of the Mirer Yeshiva, Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz ztvk"l, who would say that "a shidduch (a marital match) is a crossroad in a person's life." The kind of life one will lead depends mainly on the type of partner he or she will marry. Therefore, they said, one of the greatest acts of loving kindness one can do for another is to help him or her find a suitable marriage partner. Even the greatest and busiest Rabbis spend countless hours of time helping young ones find a proper mate.
It is told in one of the books about Harav Shach z"l that before going to Minchah (the Afternoon prayers) in the Ponevizher Yeshiva, he received a phone call and was asked advice regarding a shidduch. Rav Shach answered as he felt fit and rushed to yeshiva. In the middle of Shemonah Esrei, Rav Shach suddenly interrupted his prayers and rushed back home where he frantically called the person he had just spoken to. "I hope you have not yet acted on that shidduch you asked me about a little while ago," the Rosh Yeshiva said anxiously. When the fellow replied that he had not yet had the time to deal with the matter, Rav Shach sighed with relief. "I thought over your question again," he said, "and I realized that what you should do is exactly the opposite of what I advised you before."
Only when the Rosh Yeshiva was sure that he had given proper counsel did he return to yeshiva to complete his prayers.
These last few weeks, whenever I come home, I find my wife on the phone, deeply involved in helping a newly engaged bride prepare for her upcoming wedding. What makes this girl different from so many others is that two years ago she had been engaged to marry a Gentile boy. My son, Yussie, intervened and succeeded, thank G-d, in breaking up that terrible mismatch. But Yussie realized that this was not enough. If the girl had been prepared to marry out of her religion, then obviously her ties to her roots were extremely weak. He arranged to have her accepted in Neveh Yerushalayim, raising money for her expenses and tuition, where she received an excellent Jewish education for two years. Recently, she told us that she had met a Jewish boy, also a ba'al teshuvah, and they were contemplating marriage. Yussie asked his mother and me to meet him and when we did, we were totally shocked to be introduced to a very fine, perfectly normal, Torah scholar. Since their engagement, Yussie and my wife have been working around the clock to raise money for them and find organizations who help such couples build their future homes together.
Rabbi Grossman, shlita, Dean and Founder of Migdal Ohr, always says that he only knows that he has completed his job when he stands under the chupah of his students and sees them preparing to build a Torah home together with their spouses.
It is, perhaps, the greatest mitzvah one can do. I am very proud of my wife and my son, and I pray that Hashem will surely repay them for their kindness and concern for others.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network