Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
"Hashem said to Moshe, 'When you go to return to Egypt, see all the wonders that I have put in your hand and perform them before Paríoh; but I shall strengthen his heart and he will not send out the people'" (Shemos 4:21).
What did Hashem mean when he said to Moshe to see all the wonders which He put in his hand and perform them before Par'oh? Rashi explains that Hashem told him, "Understand that you should go there with this purpose in mind; that you should be vigorous in carrying out my mission, to do all my wonders before Par'oh and that you should not be afraid of him."
In other words, a pre-condition to Moshe's being successful in his mission was that he be confident in his achievement.
We find a similar thing elsewhere in Tanach. When Hashem appointed Yirmiyahu to be His messenger to Israel and the nations, He told him, "Donít be afraid of them, for I am with you to save you" (Yirmiyahu 1:8). Hashem told him further (Ibid. 17), "You, therefore, gird up your loins, and arise, and speak to them all that I command you; be not afraid of them, lest I break you down before them". The Commentators explain that Hashem conditioned His help upon the Prophet's confidence in himself. If he would not be afraid, then he would succeed in his mission because Hashem would help him. But if he would be fearful, then Hashem would not help him and he would fail.
Reb Noach Weinberg, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Aish Hatorah, and one of the first to develop outreach programs in our generation, trains his students on how to bring a non-observant Jew closer to Yiddishkeit. One of the first, and most important, rules is: "Be confident. We know that we have the Truth. Donít hesitate to teach it to others. The best salesman is the one who really believes in his product."
Reb Noach tells his "soldiers" that their attitude, when approaching a potential baal teshuvah (penitent) should not be, "Iíll try to succeed." Or even, "I'll do the best I can." Their attitude must be, "With Hashem's help, I will definitely succeed!" To illustrate this point, the Rosh Yeshiva tells the following story:
In the USA, an Orthodox Jew owned and operated an old-age home. Most of his clients were religious Jews who were happy to receive the Glatt Kosher (strictly kosher) food he supplied them with. However, one old woman, in her eighties, demanded to have bacon and eggs for breakfast. The owner tried to explain to her that the food he was giving her was better, cleaner and healthier, but to no avail...she wanted the food she had been used to since she was a child; so many decades ago.
One day, the old lady was visited by her children who asked her how she enjoyed the accommodations they had provided her with in the home for the elderly. She told them that most things there were o.k., even above average. However, she was dismayed that she couldn't get the breakfast she wanted and asked for repeatedly. After doing a little research, the children realized that the management did not want to serve non-kosher food. One of the sons was a lawyer and he decided that this was a form of discrimination against certain groups; something which a licensed institution, getting government funds, was strictly forbidden to do. He promptly sent the owner a letter threatening to sue them if they don't provide all kinds of food to all of their clientele, without forcing them to comply with a specific religious standard. In his letter, the son pointed out that the home would most probably lose its license and support from the U.S. Government if he were convicted of discrimination by the courts.
The owner was at his wits ends. He knew the son was absolutely right. He remembered well how, in order to get his license, he had had to sign a declaration, and advertise in the newspapers, that his home was absolutely non-discriminatory to any race, creed or religion. Nevertheless, he had always tried to attract only religious Jews, so that he wouldn't have to serve non-kosher food to non-observant Jews; something which is forbidden by the Torah. Now, after all of these years, this stubborn old lady was ruining everything. What could he possibly do?
After many sleepless nights, he realized that there was only one way out of this mess. He would have to make the woman religious, so that she would not want non-kosher food anymore! But, although he had heard that the Torah's prediction was coming true, and there was a great Teshuvah Movement in our generation, right before the coming of Moshiach, still, he was discouraged to discover that most of the newly religious were younger people; and almost none of them, senior citizens. But he couldn't think of any other solution, so he went for this one.
Every day, the owner spent hours with the old woman; beginning with the basics of Judaism and moving on. At first she was not really interested in the topic, but, feeling lonely and alone, she was happy that someone spent some time with her, regardless of the topic. Little by little, he began to make progress until finally the day came when the topic was kashrus. Slowly but persistently, the owner of the home taught his old-new "student" the Torah's views on dietary laws. Once again, the woman was initially totally disinterested, and even a bit antagonistic, but her "mentor" would not give up. It took a long while, but, eventually, the old lady became a complete ba'alas teshuvah. She no longer wanted to eat treif (non-kosher food) and she told her children that she was now happier than she ever was in her life. Accordingly, the son dropped his claim, and the owner was able to continue to run his home according to the Torah's edicts.
Someone asked the owner how in the world he was able to make a ba'alas teshuvah from such a difficult "student?" After all, everyone knows that "You canít teach an old dog new tricks."
The owner had one answer: "I had no choice. Otherwise, they would have closed me down!"
"But how were you able to do it?" his friend persisted.
"I told you," came the answer, "I had no choice."
This, says Reb Noach, is the attitude we all have to have when we speak to someone about Yiddishkeit. Not, "I'll try"; not even, "I'll do my best." But, "I have no choice but to succeed." With the proper training and the right attitude, he will have siyata di'Shemaya (Heavenly assistance) and he will succeed in one of the biggest mitzvahs of the Torah: To bring someone else close to Hashem.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network