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The Responsibility of Shavuos

When the Jewish Nation accepted the Torah, on the Holiday of Shavuos, at the Mountain of Sinai, we did not accept it for ourselves alone. We received it for all of our future generations. Even more than that, we became responsible to try our best to see to it that others accept it and observe it properly too.

But not everyone knows how to appropriately influence people to make the right choice which will grant them happiness in this world and in the World-to-Come. Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, shlita, is known as "the Disco Rabbi" due to his amazing success at reaching out to boys and girls in their own "habitat" and bringing them closer to Hashem and His Torah. There are many amazing stories about this remarkable person and his unconditional love for every single Jew. The following was published by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat who witnessed it.

Allow me to share with you a story from my previous life (in the exile of the West Side of New York City) which taught me how the word can bring sanctity into the most unlikely of places. In the early 1970's, a disco opened up in a window storefront building on 72nd Street and Broadway; despite the fact that it was called the Tel Aviv Disco and was owned by Israelis living in New York, it remained open every night of the year, even Kol Nidre night. I must have placed at least two dozen calls to the owners to try to persuade them to close at least on the night of Yom Kippur, only to have finally received a message from their secretary informing me that the owners would not speak to rabbis!!

During this period, Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman - a beloved and respected friend who is the Rav of Migdal Ha'Emek - spent Shabbat with us at Lincoln Square Synagogue. He is a charismatic religious leader who is well-known for the many prisoners and other alienated Jews whom he has brought back to religious observance. After a delightful Friday evening meal at my home, replete with inspiring Hassidic melodies and words of Torah, he suggested that we go for a shpatzir (Yiddish for a leisurely walk). I tried to explain that the general atmosphere of the West Side streets of Manhattan were hardly conducive to Sabbath sanctity - but to no avail. His steps led us in the direction of 72nd Street and Broadway, right in front of the window revealing the frenzied disco dancers. "Did you ever see a mosquito captured in a glass jar?," he asked me in Yiddish (our language of discourse). "The mosquito is moving with all sorts of contortions, and appears to be dancing. In reality, however, the mosquito is gasping for air. That is the situation of those "dancers" in the disco. They are really gasping for air, struggling in their search for a real Shabbos. Let's go in and show them Shabbos."

Before I could say "Jackie Robinson," he was inside the disco - and as a good host, I felt constrained to follow him. He sported a long beard and side-locks, and was wearing a shtreimel (fur hat) and kapute (silk gaberdine), and I was dressed in my Sabbath Prince Albert, kippa and ritual fringes out; as we entered the disco, the band of Israelis immediately stopped playing. I immediately recognized three young men from the Synagogue - who seemed totally discombobulated; two ran out covering their faces, and the third tried to explain to me that he wasn't really there, that his mother had had some kind of attack and he thought that her doctor might be at the disco… Rav Grossman began to sing, Sabbath melodies. Almost miraculously, the men danced on one side, the women on the other. After about twenty minutes, he urged me to speak to them in English. I told them of the magical beauty, the joy and the love of the Sabbath, and they listened with rapt attention. Rav Grossman led them in one more song - and we left.

I cannot tell you that the miracle continued, it didn't take five minutes, and we could hear the resumption of the disco band music. However, before the next Yom Kippur, the Tel Aviv Disco closed down; I don't know why, because the owners wouldn't speak to rabbis. And for the next two years, at least a dozen young singles joined Lincoln Square Synagogue because they had been inspired by our Disco visit!

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel