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You have probably all heard these nice stories that are supposed to prove the “truth” of the Tora. The Purim-Fest story* or that there are only 4 kinds of animals that display one of the kosher signs**, etc.

It may be a nice story and the Kiruv-candidate may be impressed by it. But after a while he will find out that these nice little stories have holes. Not minor holes, but quite big ones. So what happens then? He thinks about all the other “cool” things he has learned and starts to wonder. Maybe all of this is just made up? Why trust anything after this? “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!” And then, the risk is, that he will turn away from Judaism. I think we need to critically rethink this approach to kiruv and take a more serious and rationalist turn. It may not be as “cool”, but more durable.

I’m not the only one who thinks this, here a story (you have to back everything with what a rabbi says, although I admit I just got that from Wikipedia that claims to have it from “B’Mechitzasam Shel Gedolei Hador, Vol. 2. Jerusalem. by Shlomo Lorincz. Pg. 588”):

A certain Jew in Toronto came to Rabbi Kamenetsky and told him, “Rabbi, I have decided to stop the work at my business on the Sabbath and try to be Shomer Shabbat in my house as well. The reason for my decision was because Chabad people revealed to me that soon their Rebbe will be revealed as the Messiah. I said to myself, ‘How will I appear when the Messiah comes, and I am desecrating the Sabbath?'” Rabbi Kamenetsky responded, “Don’t believe them. The messiah, to our disappointment, is still not omed lavoh. . . Even though we hope every day that the Messiah will come, it is incorrect to believe what they told you, that the messiah will come in the very near future. It is on us to believe that even though the Messiah delays, we still have hope that he will come.” After the man left, those present asked Rabbi Kamenetsky, “Why did our teacher withhold this Jew from keeping Shabbos? Now, after our teacher has nullified the words of the Chabad people, he will for sure continue to desecrate Shabbos?” Rabbi Kamenetsky responded, “This understanding of the Chabad people is an imaginary understanding, that its benefit will be outweighed by its detriment. In the near future, when this Jew sees that the assurance has not been fulfilled and the Messiah has not come, he will begin to desecrate the Sabbath again. More than this, until now he believed with simplicity and certainty in the coming of the messiah, and if he is to be disappointed, he will lose one of the important foundations in Judaism — the belief in the coming of the Messiah.”


* Why this is a bad proof: Steicher and Purim (Dov Bear, 2013), Purimfest 1946!! (Dov Bear, 2005)
** Why this is a bad proof: The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax (Natan Slifkin, 2011)

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