Rav Uri Zohar with children newly enrolled by Lev L’Achim’s “Project Rishum” in a Torah school for the current school year

By Yochanan Gordon

This past Shabbos and Sunday, the Far Rockaway and Five Towns community was treated to an extraordinary series of inspirational speeches given by the unparalleled Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson on behalf of P’eylim / Lev L’Achim.

In what could certainly be termed a marathon of speeches, Rabbi Jacobson traveled throughout the Lawrence and Far Rockaway communities addressing seven different shuls, a Kiddush, and a motzaei Shabbos melaveh malkah, culminating with a breakfast reception on behalf of P’eylim / Lev L’Achim hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Ari and Daphna Biderman of Lawrence.

The evening had the support of many of the community rabbis and their congregations. The participating shuls were Shaaray Tefila led by Rabbi Uri Orlian, Kahal Agudas Achim led by Rabbi Elisha Horowitz, Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid led by Rabbi Mordechai Stern, Congregation Bais Avraham Zev led by Rabbi Usher Stern, Bais Medrash of Harborview led by Rabbi Yehoshua Kalish, Beis Medrash of Lawrence led by Rabbi Dovid Fordsham, Congregation Knesseth Israel led by Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Agudas Yisrael of the Five Towns led by Rav Meir Braunstein, and Agudas Yisrael of West Lawrence led by Rav Moshe Brown.

Lev L’Achim is one of the mainstay organizations that has been at the forefront of working hands-on with disenfranchised youth in Israel for over 25 years — teaching them Torah, integrating them into a healthy school setting, reuniting them with Torah and mitzvos, and ensuring the perpetuation of Yiddishkeit to their subsequent generations.

I attended a majority of the lectures, which attracted standing-room only crowds, accommodating upwards of 2,000 men and women throughout the weekend. The impactful speeches by Rabbi Jacobson highlighted the various relationships that G-d and the Jewish people enjoy and the importance of unconditional love and undying hope between father and son or husband and wife in order to ensure a healthy and nurturing environment of growth protected from the challenges and travails that oftentimes negatively impacts the morale of a child, weakening their resolve for overcoming life’s challenges.

Let us take, for example, the plight of Yosef HaTzaddik who, at the tender age of 17 years old, found himself a slave in the house of Potiphar and endured moral challenges such as the endless attempts at seduction by the wife of his master. The word the Torah employs to describe the moral resolve of this young lad at that most vulnerable time is “va’ye’ma’en,” and he refused.

Where did Yosef get this strength from? If we look back to the outset of this episode, when his brothers schemed to throw Yosef in the pit, the brothers stripped him of the coat that his father Yaakov had given him and dipped it in blood, fabricating a narrative to their father that his prized son Yosef was devoured by a beast. Upon showing Yaakov the blood-drenched coat the Torah says, “Va’ye’maen l’hisnachem,” Yaakov refused to be comforted. The reason, Chazal tell us, is that the notion of comfort and consolation are only natural vis-a-vis the dead but not someone who is still alive. Yaakov refused to lose hope and confidence in his son Yosef because despite the bleakness of the situation, Yosef was still living. It was Yaakov’s undying hope in his son Yosef that gave Yosef the strength to persevere when confronted with the advances of the wife of Potiphar. This is the significance of Yosef seeing the visage of his father Yaakov at that moment.

This relationship between Yaakov and Yosef is akin to the undying love, hope, and confidence that G-d has in each of his children regardless of their current spiritual standing—and no one realizes this and actively expresses this knowledge more than P’eylim / Lev L’Achim. Under the auspices of Rabbi Yosef Karmel and Yanky Arem, it has developed into a massive kiruv task-force operation with over 3,000 volunteers as well as offices across Israel in Netanya, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Rechovot, Modiin, Petach Tikvah, Hadera, and Haifa, addressing the needs of the not-yet-frum and newly observant men, women, and children at each of their respective stations in their journey towards a fully committed and observant lifestyle.

It is our duty to see to it that Lev L’Achim continues to succeed in bettering the lives of the people it comes in contact with because they are doing our work. As Rabbi Jacobson said during a melaveh malkah at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim Tempelman, the Baal HaTanya explains that in a deeper level the mitzvah of piryah v’rivyah is for one Jew to make another Jew. Aside from its biological implications, this mitzvah enjoins us to facilitate other lost Jews to reclaim their Jewishness. One of the four questions we are asked after 120 years is, “Did you engage in piryah v’rivyah?” On the metaphysical level the answer to this question is not answered merely by the number of biological children one has produced but rather the number of lives that one has touched throughout his or her time in this world. It is incumbent upon us to partner with Lev L’Achim in doing this holy work because it is not just their work but indeed our own.

Iurge you to visit LevLachim.org to learn more about their lifesaving work as well as donate to help them continue to thrive and see the continuation of Yiddishkeit for the millions of young and old, men and women, who through no fault of their own were not given the same opportunities as we have been given.


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