We all want it and seek numerous ways to attain that promised word! Our desire for it has spawned a newly minted genre, the so called success literature. “The Seven Principles of Success, Success is a Choice, Less Stress, More Success to name but a few. As of this writing, 375,982 Amazon books have the S word in its title. By comparison 346,851 have God in the title and 113,256 have Chocolate (although I suspect many Americans are more passionate about Chocolate than God)
Avraham, the Rambam relates, was an incredibly successful kiruv personality. His outreach efforts, MJOP (the Mesopotamian Jewish Outreach Program), kibeitz alaphim urevavos, gathered thousands and myriads of people. It was this success that evoked the wrath of Nimrod. His products were the nefesh asher asu b’Charan (12:5) of our Parsha the souls that Avraham made. How did he do it? What was the secret of Avraham’s success.
When Rambam talks about loving God, he waxes poetic. (Teshuva, 10:3)
What is appropriate love? This is an extremely strong and profound love of God, so that one’s soul is so completely bound up and so preoccupied with it that one will appear to be lovesick, a state of mind that is perpetual. Solomon said by way of example, “For I am sick with love.”
Love then is the penetration of an idea within one’s heart and mind such that it leaves one completely and utterly transfixed. But there’s more.
Rambam also describes Avraham’s transformation from idolater to monotheist par excellence (Avodah Zarah, 1:3). Once Abraham was weaned, he began contemplating and thinking day and night, Abraham was forty years old when he recognized his Creator. Once he achieved this, he began to reason with the inhabitants of Ur Casdim and to argue with them. He went and gathered people together from cities and kingdoms. He placed this important principle in their way of thinking, wrote books, and taught it to his son Isaac.
Note the two step process that connotes love. Endless contemplation yields holistic recognition. Recognition then morphs into an intense desire to share with the world. Avraham Ohavi, (Isaiah 41:8) Avraham is one who loves Me, declares God. One who is lovesick is hard pressed to keep it a secret. The very essence of that love is manifested by one’s desire to share the warmth. I have often thought that the prattle of the newly engaged couple, marked by their desire to share the very last jot and tittles of their interactions with each other, serve as a paradigm.
Woe to me in My head, Woe to me on My arm (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 6). On his way to die, the Jew who violated a capital crime is accompanied by these cries of pain emanating from the Shechina. In a stunning comment, R. Chaim Volozhin explains that God’s pain emanates from His tefillin; a tefillin, that centers around the Jewish people (Berachos 6a). Thus God’s pain is manifested in His head and on his arm, for his tefillin are now missing another letter.
The great lovers of God are bothered by His deficient tefillin. Not only do they feel the need to share the essence of Hashem’s reality with others, but their desire is to alleviate Divine pain, as it were. Propelled by a twin sense of love and compassion, they spring into action. It may then be said that Kiruv (Outreach) is the art of writing letters in God’s tefillin. As nascent Sofrim (scribes), let us hope and strive to be properly qualified in this most loving of endeavors.
Good Shabbos, Asher Brander
Rabbi Asher Brander is the Rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla, Founder/Dean of LINK (Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel) and is a Rebbe at Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.