Light to The Jews

We as Jews are failing our own people. Many people’s experiences with Judaism have clearly not been warm or inspiring enough for them to seek out more than a superficial level of involvement in Judaism. I believe that BTs especially need to be comfortable enough in their choice to become observant so as not to depict Judaism as a set of rigid rules. I think FFBs, due to more confidence, are generally better at showing others the beauty of Yiddishkeit.

IMHO, in dealing with secular (or Reform or Conservative) Jews, the focus must be on hashkafa and not necessarily halacha. We must be shining examples of mitvot bein adam l’haveiro, kindness, chesed, yashrut, etc. I cannot count the number of Jews (American & Israeli) who had negative preconceived notions of frum Jews, who told me “I’ve never met a religious Jew like you before”.

Our unique look (kippah, modest dress, etc.) makes us stand out and we are held to a higher standard by the general public because of it. We are walking advertisements for Observant Judaism; we must not ever forget this. If anything comes out of this thread, I hope it’s that.

– A Recent Comment By Susan

29 comments on “Light to The Jews

  1. @Arthur; It is sad that these tragedies happen, Chas V’Shalom. I think that the spiritual ideas and insights which our gedolim seek to share with us are meant to apply to the individual as well as the group or the community. I pray that Hashem will give comfort to you and to your family, and protect you and send only simchas to you and all Klal Yisroel.

  2. My point was that these Jewish heroes found ways to live on Jewishly after their familes were decimated in the Shoah, so we must have access to some inner powers to deal with other, more localized tragedies in our lives.

  3. Steve/Bob
    I dont think that something as enormous as the Shoa can be used to compare to any other type of tragedy, it is to large to all encompassing.


  4. AMR/Arthur wrote, “Do you think that the Shoa can compare to the loss of a child?”

    The Rebbeim in my links above lost multiple family members, including their own children, in the Shoah.

  5. Arthur; sorry, I want to understand your post. are you saying that it can’t compare? or were you simply asking a question? please let me know. thanks.

  6. Bob

    I am sorry that it took me so long to read the articles that you posted.

    Do you think that the Shoa can compare to the loss of a child?


  7. To Always a BT #20: The past Friday night, at candle lighting, I said a short Tefillah that G-d should send a Refuah Sheleimah to Chaya bat Kalo and Kalo bat Sara. I hope Blee Neder to continue saying these Tefillot for your mother and sister every Friday evening.

    If there is a Yeshivah or Shule sponsoring the writing of a Sefer Torah, try to purchase the Tefillah of Moshe Rabbeinu for his sister Miriam: Refa Na La.

    May G-d hear our prayers and send your dear ones a swift and complete recovery.

  8. my sister’s name is:
    Chaya bat Kalo (kah-LOW)–accent is on the last syllable

    my mother’s name (also for refuah sheleima) is:
    Kalo bat Sara

    thanks for your kindness and tefillot

  9. To Always a BT #18: If you will tell us your sister’s Hebrew name and your mom’s Hebrew name, I will Blee Neder daven for her. May HKBH send her a complete Refuah.

  10. Judy,
    My BIL actually looked into what I think you are talking about. It involves giving the patient a certain brand of sleeping pill in small doses. There have been cases where it “woke up” the brain for a short time (until the meds wore off). He has to get clearance from the doctor to try this. So far, no luck. Here’s a link to an article about this:

    Unfortunately, my sister is unlikely to make much improvement, as the brain damage is extensive & global. At times, she seems to know & respond to her husband’s voice. But, it’s not consistent or measurable enough to be considered “responsive”–she cannot respond on command at all. Brain function cannot be measured unless the patient can respond in some way (blink, nod, wiggle toes, etc.).

    The way medicine is practiced today, it’s very difficult to get testing/therapies for a patient in PVS. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure to end the life of patients like my sister (think Terry Schiavo). We have exhausted every option available.

    The only thing more we can do is daven.

  11. Always a BT: Perhaps there is more that can be done medically for your sister? I am not trivializing her situation, nor am I promoting a quack cure or mushy spiritualism.

    I remember in April 2010 sitting in my doctor’s waiting room and reading there in a recent issue of Popular Science about a doctor who had some success with persistent vegetative state cases by refusing to sit back in complacency but instead taking a proactive role toward “feeding” the brain. I don’t remember the doctor’s name nor do I remember which issue that was. This was not snake oil but a genuine medical facility taking an aggressive approach toward reviving PVS patients.

    I don’t remember the issue, and I just tried running a query through the Pop Sci archives without success. Not trying to add to your pain, but maybe there is a solution.

  12. Always a BT

    Kubler-Ross defined stages:

    I am pretty sure the order isnt important but everyone goes through them all.

    It is important to no get stuck on/in any of them.

    Perhaps you could help your BIL get unstuck


  13. Judy, re # 3,

    I agree that abortion is far too common, but I think that we need to be wary of laws that promote the “Right to Life” view of abortion, because that can result in the prohibition of halachically sanctioned abortions. Here is a good article on the Jewish perspective(s):

    In general response to Susan’s comment, I agree that we need to put our best foot forward whenever possible. This can be done in subtle ways, by remembering that common decency is at least as important as ritual observance.

    I took an opportunity today to carry out this maxim. During a flight, my kosher meal was delivered to me before the general meals were distributed. I don’t know anything about the people who were on either side of me, but I showed them respect by waiting until their meals arrived before I started to eat mine. It is unlikely for one to be THAT hungry or for the wait to be THAT long that this could not be done by almost any one of us.

    The big sticker that says KOSHER on your meal tells everyone who you are; it was a fine opportunity to live up to the title.

  14. AMR,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain of burying a child, no matter the age. I did not mean to trivialize anyone’s suffering from such a loss. I also find some of those sayings hollow.

    I agree; these types of tragedies are beyond human comprehension. Of course there will always be anger, but right now my brother in law blames himself. My point was that he needs to make peace with the fact that he was not/is not in control of my sister’s recovery. Good or bad, it’s all in the hands of HKBH. The circumstances of my sister’s accident and resulting disability are so bizarre, it could only have happened with Divine Intervention. IMHO, in order for my BIL to continue to function he must come to that realization and forgive himself.

  15. AMR; your post was extremely moving, and i felt quite sad after reading it. i pray that your family will have strength and comfort. It sounds like you have found strength to take a strong approach to life and to your family.

    It sounds from your post like you have a very strong conversation with Hashem. I am very moved by your thoughtfulness and insight.

    I wish i had the wisdom and insight to answer your points and ideas. i certainly do not, and have only a fraction of the deep wisdom which one might find in a rabbi or other Torah scholar who might be able to properly address these ideas and concepts. However, I wanted to express my deep gratitude to you for your heartfelt and moving ideas in your post. thanks so much.

  16. Always a BT

    I am at once both happy and sad for you. I am saddened that you are going through this trying time and I hope both for you and your sister that soon you will be released from this state so that both of you can move on.

    I am happy that you find comfort in HKBH running our lives.

    I am not disconnected from Torah.

    I have buried a daughter who was almost 14 a number of years ago, and I find no comfort in HKBH running our lives OR that everything is for the good, somehow, OR in the saying of HKBH only metes out to an individual what they can bear. I find these words empty.

    Ultimately I am left with the feeling of lack of conversation with HKBH. HKBH no longer spoke with Avraham after the Akeidah I can only imagine how Avraham felt.

    In a few weeks time we will read of Moshe Rabeinu’s ultimate question – Please Hashem show me Your Continence. Was Moshe asking to see the face of Hashem or perhaps to gain the answer to the ultimate question.

    Perhaps it was the latter since Hashem would only show Moshe Hashem’s back.

    In my mind this means we can only understand the results but not the reasons.
    Why can we not understand the reasons? For that question I have no answer.


  17. I am not convinced that frum people are more able to deal with illness than non-frum people. It depends on the family, the illness, the entire situation.

    I read a very interesting post by Rabbi Alan Brill about how frum Jews are less accepting of the inevitable than other communities, how often they even refuse to accept that a Stage V cancer has no hope for recovery and demand all sorts of treatments that don’t prolong life or increase quality of life.

    Naturally, any statement about how different groups deal with illness, suffering, and death will be a gross generalization.

    Rabbi Brill’s blog is Kavvanah on

  18. My sister is in a long term vegetative state & on life support with a slim chance of recovery. Her husband and (adult)kids are having a very rough time accepting this–they blame themselves for her accident. I’ve tried to explain that nobody had control over this–her accident is nobody’s fault, it was meant to be for reasons we cannot comprehend.

    I’ve told them they have gotten the best care possible for her throughout & that’s what matters. I’ve told them most of what happens in our lives is out of our control (HKBH runs the world) only how we deal with it. They are not receptive to this idea.

    My brother in law believes she is suffering even though there is no idication of that–she is calm & peaceful. I have tried to explain that it’s not gehinom for her but OF COURSE it’s gehinom for her family.

    I can see how someone disconnected to Torah has a MUCH harder time dealing with illness. If they would be open to hearing a Torah perspective I think they could achieve some menuchat hanefesh, but they don’t want to hear any of it. Of course, I frame whatever I say in terms of emotional health, peace of mind, etc.

    Learning & practicing Torah helps us cope in times of crisis. It pains me that they could make peace with this if they would avail themselves of even a little Torah perspective.

    How do we send the message that Torah is essential to emotional health and a means to achieve hapiness? In this situation, I think the only thing I can do is to be there for support & comfort.

  19. @Judy; thanks for your reply. however, i think you slightly misstated the topic of the thread. the topic is being a light unto the Jews, not unto the nations. if you re-read the post, you’ll see it relates almost completely to relations between the Jewish comunity and BTs. so that’s what I was referring to. thanks for your post.

  20. To Steve Mantz #4: It’s important, but there’s no controversy here. People comment usually when they disagree, not when they agree. Certainly all of us BT’s agree with the Chazal that we should strive to be the best we can possibly be, in accordance with our Divine mission.

    Being a “light unto the nations” is not easy, particularly when nations don’t want to be enlightened. If having better lives that are richer both literally and figuratively than those of the Gentiles makes us the objects of envy and hatred rather than emulation, then we end up having to build walls and hire guards rather than reaching out.

    Frenzied mobs out to kill us for spreading the Black Plague (as in Europe in 1349) or for blaspheming their religion (as in Iraq in 1941) are not stopping to ask whether our lifestyle is better than theirs before snuffing out our lives.

  21. Thank you Administrator for posting my comment from the prior thread.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said, “we do little to give people an intuitive sense of what all that stands for”. People today feel they only need to be a “good” person and they don’t need all of the rules and restrictions. What less observant Jews and non-Jews don’t realize is that it’s precisely the “rules & restrictions” that we observe that shape our behavior and character. That’s why I think middot are SO important & I cringe when I see a “frum looking” Jew in the news for some wrong they have committed.

  22. To Steve Mantz #4: The December 15, 2010 article entitled “How Can We Avoid Alienating Our Families and Breaching Our Values?” has received 181 comments so far. In fact, this particular insightful and intelligent contribution by Susan came from one of her comments on that thread. What caused all the replies to that other article was the sudden appearance of postings from a non-Jewish woman named Elm telling us about her plans to marry her Jewish fiance. Naturally we BT’s jumped on her like a challah crumb on Shabbos Erev Pesach. Nothing like a little controversy, a bit of a battle, a scent of trouble, to bring out the comments. If you want more replies, go to that other thread and gently coax Elm to post here too. Then sit back and wait for the fireworks.

  23. well. i just wanted to note that in my opinion, this is the single most important topic which this website should cover. i was hoping that some more people might add their views on this. a little surprised we haven’t gotten more replies. thanks for posting this.

  24. Recently the Agudath Israel of America came out publicly against abortion, citing statistics that over 900,000 abortions had been performed in New York City alone, and that currently 42 percent of all NYC pregnancies are aborted. The spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America commented that abortion is supposed to be “safe, legal and rare,” but instead due to the permissive society and its lack of morality it is performed too often.

    I believe that one reason why Agudath Israel decided to come out publicly against abortion is because many Xtians in the U.S.A. believe that all Jews and Judaism itself support abortion. Agudath Israel wanted to make the Orthodox Jewish position known amid the ocean of secularist and non-religious clamor in favor of the procedure. It is significant that conservatives who hope to overturn Roe v. Wade push for the appointment of Catholics to the Supreme Court of the United States, whereas liberals who hope to preserve Roe push for the appointment of Jews, thinking that the “official” Jewish position is in favor of legalized abortion on demand.

  25. When secular Jews think about Orthodox Judaism, the image that appears in their minds is men wearing: black coats, white shirts, and black hats [or fur streimels and white socks].

    We must teach them that those things are the least important part of being Jewish. We must start by teaching them the 13 Principles of the Jewish faith:

    I also recommend my own Torah web site:

  26. I agree with this 110%. we are doing little to let people know that we really stand for a set of ideals. we are doing plenty to let them know that we have a unique set of affiliations, practices, etc etc. however, we do little to give people an intuitive sense of what all that stands for.

    My outlook on this may be unique, since i live in Brooklyn. however the patterns which emerge in some of the most populous Orthodox communities ought to have at least a little significance.

    [REVISED post; please delete previous one.]

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