By Yochanan Gordon
What follows is a secret in the sense that it is being written for a specific purpose, to a specific, undisclosed person; however, the message is universal so I am writing about it here. There have been instances in history where public discourses were published for the sake of individuals, and that manner of communication has always intrigued me so I am trying it on for size.
The Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, son of the Ba’al HaTanya, wrote a few discourses and even full sefarim that he dedicated to individuals. He wrote a sefer called Imrei Binah to a chassid by the name of Reb Yekusiel Lieppler. He wrote a kuntres called Pokeach Ivrim, which was an ethical treatise, on behalf of a ba’al teshuvah by the name Reb Shloime Leib. Lastly, in the year 1820 he penned a ma’amar titled “Al tatzer es Moav—do not trouble the Moabites”, which was specifically written for and delivered to Rav Akiva Eiger, with whom he had a warm personal relationship.
More recently, I was at a Tishah B’av program in Monsey in 2021 where Rabbi YY Jacobson gave a class on the controversy surrounding the Get of Cleves, a drawn-out 18th-century saga regarding the halachic viability of a divorce document, which spanned the globe and has been addressed by some of history’s greatest halachic authorities.
In the months leading up to that class, Rabbi Jacobson had been involved in trying to persuade a recalcitrant husband to give his wife a divorce. The man had reneged on a commitment to show up in beis din and then in a subsequent e-mail called his fitness to give a divorce into question on the basis of insanity. It was within the context of this historical saga, which was centered on a similar theme, that Rabbi YY responded to that Jew’s e-mail.
While the issue that compelled this article has nothing to do with a literal divorce, the case can be made that it is somewhat similar. The Gemara in Sanhedrin on 105a records a debate between Yirmiyahu HaNavi and the Jews of his time, an attempt to urge them to repent. The people, in what seemed to be a decisive response, turned to the prophet and asked, “Does a master who sold his slave have any jurisdiction over him, or a husband any relationship to his divorced wife?”
To that G-d responded, “Where is the divorce document that I have issued you? To which creditors have I sold you? For your iniquities you’ve sold yourselves and for your transgressions was your mother sent away.”
To that end, despite the fact that Judaism and its institutions continue to flourish all over the globe, the grim statistics regarding assimilation and growing numbers of disenfranchisement among yeshiva-educated young boys and girls do not seem to be dwindling. The organizations that deal with religious oppression and young men and women within our communities looking to defect are not going out of business, and podcasts that interview experts in the field of dealing with discontented children are becoming more ubiquitous, not less. An overwhelming majority of world Jewry truly believes that G-d divorced us long ago, leading some to a life of non-belief or other belief systems, while yet others suffer spiritual bankruptcy and a life of quiet desperation.
Our own communities—the observant, yeshiva-educated communities that are busy learning and davening and fulfilling mitzvos—are often resigned to mitzvas anashim melumadah, fulfilling mitzvos and davening in order to check off another obligation on their daily to-do list. And it isn’t their fault. Torah and tefillah emanate such intense light that processing it oftentimes requires assistance from spiritually sensitive mentors and mashpi’im with elevated souls.
Before the Ba’al HaTanya wrote his magnum opus, Sefer HaTanya, he would meet individually with Chassidim seeking his advice and counsel on any given number of issues. In his introduction to the work, he writes that this book contains all the answers to all the questions that could stand in the way of a person achieving a life of spiritual wholesomeness and closeness to G-d. He continues, stating that given the difficulty some may have in deciphering his words or understanding them clearly and how they pertain to the issues irking them in their own lives, the mashpi’im in each town have the responsibility to be there to reveal the good light within the words and a spirit of respite and healing to the weary souls.
The issue is that these talented, genuine, G-d-fearing individuals stand up in shul on Friday night and Shabbos and deliver sermons—fiery, transformative, and enlightening words of Torah—which speak to the hearts and souls of their congregants, but often the message stops there. Even if there are people inspired enough to invest time and patience repeating the words of these individuals and disseminating them in print, they often get lost in translation, and even if not, they are read only by people who are looking to light a fire in their souls.
There are tools and technologies that have been decried as public enemy number one that have the ability to reach the entire world. Instagram, TikTok, and podcasts can reach people with their guard down. Even if it isn’t appropriate for a rav to have his own social media account, there are podcasts that reach audiences of all observance levels and persuasions across the entire globe.
Many Chassidic masters have already drawn parallels between the rise of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the industrial revolution that pertains to the flood that occurred in the days of Noach. The progressive rise of the technological advancements, which have come to a head in our day and age, points clearly to the need to utilize these tools to flood the world with the light of G-dliness.
There are people, who know exactly who they are, who have proven their G-d-given ability to speak directly to the hearts and souls of audiences of all backgrounds and persuasions—from the most advanced rabbanim and roshei yeshiva to the least educated observant Jew.
Our world continues to freefall into the abyss. If our grandparents knew to what extent the level of morality would deteriorate in the lives of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they would have prayed that the morality that they decried in their own times should remain the same in the subsequent generations.
As I have written numerous times, the world is waiting for someone to communicate to them that G-d loves them unconditionally and that they are here to fulfill a unique purpose. Jews and non-Jews alike are waiting for a spiritually sensitive Jew with a heightened soul and feelings for the direction of the world to emerge from within his four cubits and speak to the world as a whole. The stage is set, the lights and the mic are switched on, and the time has come to speak.
Yochanan Gordon can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Yochanan’s articles at 5TJT.com.