Two articles in your September 9 issue left me somewhat dissatisfied: “Why Some Choose to Be Religious and Others Do Not” by Rabbi Haim Jachter; and “How Do I Convince My Child to Be a Jew?” by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
The tragedy of massive assimilation, including an estimate that one in three yeshiva graduates are leaving Orthodoxy, is far more disastrous to the Jewish people than all the antisemitism in the world. We are losing Jews, tens of thousands, and not because of hatred. It is our greatest problem and not enough resources are being utilized to heal this plague.
The Netziv in Parashat Nitzavim, which we recently read, comments on Moshe’s final exhortations to the Jewish people. Moshe emphasizes the love of God, an inner commitment: choose the way of life that demands love and devotion. This call to love God is the real goal of the covenant, not simply observance of mitzvot.
We overemphasize teaching our children the external minutia of the rituals, the laws, the mitzvot. Our children know what makes an etrog invalid, what the maximum height of a sukkah should be, all the specifications of Aravos and Hadassim, but do we teach them what is the inner meaning of the sukkah, the four species, the holiday?
We teach our children the laws of the King, but we do not teach enough about the King, about His love, about His supervision and involvement in our lives.
Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik said contemporary followers of Orthodoxy are well grounded intellectually, but lack passion and enthusiasm. He taught how important it is not simply to know how to perform the mitzvot externally but to know and feel the inner meaning behind each one.
The Slonimer Rebbe taught that the meaning behind all the 613 mitzvot is dveikus, that is, cleaving to and loving God.
Let’s have a meaningful holiday and meaningful, fulfilling Jewish lives.