What Should The Goal of Kiruv Be?

What Should The Goal of Kiruv Be?

1) To help people become Shomer Shabbos over a period of time.

2) To help people connect to G-d without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

3) To teach people Torah without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

4) To encourage people to do more mitzvos without necessarily becoming Shomer Shabbos.

5) Something else.

26 comments on “What Should The Goal of Kiruv Be?

  1. Kiruv is only one aspect of the broader mitzvah to love our fellow Jew. This is a serious, very inclusive obligation. If we sincerely express our love, including through trying to impart Torah values and content, that is part of this mitzvah for us. We should mentally put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes to help refine our message. However, there will be cases where our message doesn’t get across through no fault of our own.

  2. I realize that this remark may be off-topic, but I would like to see more Jews participate in the Beyond BT website, both BTs and FFBs.

    Important ideas are expressed in this website, and important ideas are most helpful when they are heard by the greatest number of people.

  3. I would suggest that the ultimate and extremely desirable goal of Shemiras Shabbos should be best accomplished on a person by person, mitzvah by mitzvah procession, which will certainly entail Torah study of some kind, all of which will lead a person to realize that Torah Judaism is a 24/7 profound approach to living one’s life. FWIW, I detact no sense of back patting.

    The decision to become a Shomer Shabbos at any stage of a BT’s life, whether as a teen, college age student or adult engaged in a career is a major decision that really determines the level of one’s committment to Torah and Mitzvos. However, since the choice to become a Shomer Shabbos is individual in nature, the best that all of the kiruv oriented organizations can do is to present the incomparable beauty of Kedushas Shabbos and a life revolving around the same in contrast to a life that is missing the same.

  4. What about happy marriages and Shalom Bayit? There are hints at marrying Jewish, but nobody talks about happy marriages. I’m single, but I feel that were it not for some of the Torah oriented books that I read concerning marriage, I would end up a failure as a Jew because I would be completely unable to connect to my future wife.

    Okay, so the other part is knowledge of Judaism, but if people wait too long to get married or have unhappy marriages then what’s the point?

    Most people would agree with R’ Eli Sadan when he said (free translation) “The happiest people I know have happy marriages, and I don’t know anyone happy who has an unhappy marriage.”

  5. “Don’t make me your esrog.”

    The Mora D’Asra of our shtibl (who is heavily involved in Kiruv) talks about this topic a lot: we should not make somebody else into our esrog (that is, an inanimate mitzvah object rather than a thinking sensitive human being). Don’t go on a shiva call unless you really care about the suffering of the bereaved individual; don’t do kiruv on your latest prospect unless that person really means something to you, more than just being another trophy on the wall.

  6. I totally hear (read) what you’re saying and agree.

    The mitzvah of kiruv is helping someone get closer.

    The mitzvah of bringing yourself closer to Hashem is not the mitzvah of kiruv.

    If you follow R.K.’s line of thinking then the result of becoming Shomer Shabbos shouldn’t be the goal of kiruv.

    I think that the party line goal of kiruv should be to make others into functioning observant Jews.
    The reality is, and I think that most Kiruv professional won’t say this publically, the goal should be to bring people closer and the results will vary based on the individual.

  7. If you are not helping the person come closer, or even worse your efforts drove them farther away, then I don’t think you have fulfilled the mitzvah of Kiruv.

    The person, like all Jews does have a mitzvah of coming closer to Hashem and I agree that bringing yourself closer to Hashem does not fulfill the mitzvah of Kiruv.

  8. Mark,

    Sorry if I’m confusing you.

    I’m only agreeing with what R.K. wrote:
    It is OUR own mitzvah (to do kiruv), not theirs (to be the recipients of it).

    The responsibility (achreius) of the mitzvah to bring others closer is on the doer, not the reciever of kiruv. R.K. seems to be reminding us that the focus should be on the process, not the result.

    I hope this clarifies.

  9. Neil, I’m confused. Are you saying that the mitzvah of Kiruv, which I think is helping people come closer to Hashem, is not primarily about helping people come closer to Hashem?

    Even if you say that Kiruv is a way to fulfill the mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew or loving Hashem, you still have to focus on helping people come closer to fulfill that aspect of the mitzvah.

  10. R.K., the Mishnah does say “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them [the previous generation of scholars, of Mishna 10]. Hillel said: Be of the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”

    I haven’t seen any classical commentaries that said that an Aaron-like level of loving people is a prerequisite for kiruv, but certainly we should always be working on improving that love.

    If you mean you need some level of love, then I agree with you. Thankfully most good observant Jews that I’ve met have a level of love for their fellow Jews which in my opinion qualifies them at some level to teach and help other Jews come closer to Torah.

    I think there’s great danger in disregarding outcomes. Your efforts could in the long run actually be distancing people from Torah, and you’re just going merrily on your way with your perception that you’re fulfilling the wonderful mitzvah of kiruv.

    Let’s continue to improve Kiruv by taking a hard and honest look at when and where our efforts are successful or not.

  11. I would have to say that the first step of kiruv (as it says in Pirkei Avos) is to love people. Only after do you bring them closer to Torah. And notice, it doesn’t say, “Make them 100% commit to a Shomer Shabbos/Kashrus/Taharas Mishpacha life according to whatever minchagim you think is best.”

    Offer Torah, involve them in mitzvos, and–above all–do it out of love. And teach them the love is generated from HaShem, who created the Torah and mitzvos for our benefit, not His.

    Sure, whole-hearted adoption of a Torah-centered lifestyle is great. But the goal of kiruv shouldn’t be outcome based. It is OUR own mitzvah (to do kiruv), not theirs (to be the recipients of it).

  12. I just now read PC’s post…very honest and interesting.

    I guess we have to, from an armchair’s view, see we need to reinvent the wheel or just fix it?

    For sure, there’s room for improvement and I agree 100% with what you’ve written above.

    I’ve commented before about notches in the kiruv belt.

    To give an honest real answer to the question of your posting, I suppose the goal of kiruv should be to make people Shomer Shabbos AND ALSO Shomer kashus, keep Taharah Mishpacha, enable them to function within the community and continue wanting to grow in their Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chassadim.

    A tall order, I know.

  13. Neil, I don’t know where to look for a really reliable Chabad source, but I have heard that Chabad does not believe that “becoming observant is the optimum and that should be the primary goal of kiruv”. Pop Chassid, a Chabad BT has a post about this, but I don’t know what his Chabad sources are.

    I wouldn’t brand any person a success or a failure, as I’m sure you wouldn’t, and I don’t like a black/white scale like success/failure, but the best teachers, Rebbeim and professionals are constantly assessing whether they’re achieving clear objectives, in an effort to continually improve (or grow in BT parlance). Assessment of effort must include looking at objectives and results, even though there is not a complete correlation between effort and result.

    I personally think Kiruv in all its forms (Chabad, NCSY, Aish, Torah Learning, Chesed, …) can be greatly improved which would benefit the entire Jewish people, but there is not much focus on continual improvement of the process. The focus is more on back-patting which is necessary for morale and fund raising.

  14. We should want those now at some suboptimal level to be dissatisfied enough to continue trying to progress. Imparting that attitude is a kind of kiruv success.

    If the man in Neil’s first illustration is content to stay in his years-long comfortable groove and not come to grips with basic Torah principles, that looks like failure to me.

  15. Bob: Sorry that I read into what you wrote.

    Mark (and everyone else), of course becoming observant is the optimum and that should be the primary goal of kiruv.

    Let me attempt to clarify what I was trying to say above. The reality is that due to lack of funding, training and the proportionally low number of people working in kiruv it’s obvious that not everyone can be reached and those that are properly reached don’t always (as Bob wrote above) become frum.

    Let’s look at two diferent kiruv staples, Chabad and NCSY.

    In any given Chabad location there are those that come and eventually become observant and those that might show up for Shabbos morning for years and simply don’t grow in observance to the point of becoming shomer Torah u’Mitzvos. Joseph Myers (named changed, but someone I know) has been affiliated with Chabad for years and still drives to shul every Shabbos morning. He puts on tefillin daily and doesn’t keep kosher in his home. It’s possible (since we don’t know how people are judged in Shamayim) that getting to daven with a minyan, put on tefillin and answer Amen to Kiddush on Shabbos might be the ticket to Olam Haba for Mr. Myers.

    Let’s say your average teen, Sara Schwartz (name changed, but a former NCSYer of mine), starts NCSY while in 10th grade in public school, while dating a non-Jew. She faithfully goes to 4 Shabbatons a year, at which she follows the guilelines as is shomer Torah u’Mitzvos only on those Shabbatons and also breaks up the the boyfriend. She stops going out to parties and movies on Friday nights in 11th grade and lights candles. By 12th grade, she has stopped eating out with her family and only eats kosher food at home (while using paper plates and separate keilim). When she goes to college she is involved with Hillel (run by an Orthodox Rabbi) and eventually marries a Jewish guy, they get married, she is still keeping kosher, but never made the jump to keeping Shabbos. They have kids and send their kids to a Solomon Schechter day school.

    Both of these people are not what we would view as frum, so does that mean that they are kiruv failures? I don’t think so.

    If we are boiling this down to quality vs quantity then I was either one of the those “chosen” to become frum or else I was a random glitch in the matrix.

  16. Neil, I think the Torah itself does say that a life of Torah U’ Mitzvos is the path for the optimum Jew.

  17. Neil Harris wrote,
    “I believe what Bob and Mr. Cohen are saying, without saying it, is that for some people, being the optimum Jew doesn’t always equal a life of Torah u’Mitzvos.”

    That’s not what I meant to convey. It’s that, in a given kiruv situation, you try to make as much progress as possible, recognizing that every at bat won’t be a home run. A few singles here or there also have positive value.

  18. Shomer Shabbos is the halachic standard for measure of a significant level of observance.

  19. I saw this post this morning and all three of these answers are good.

    I believe what Bob and Mr. Cohen are saying, without saying it, is that for some people, being the optimum Jew doesn’t always equal a life of Torah u’Mitzvos. I happen to agree.

  20. What is rather appalling about your suggested responses to the question you pose is that ALL of them are stated SOLELY in terms of “Shomer Shabbos.” Obviously keeping Shabbos is a lynchpin of being frum, but why did you do that? I know individuals who are shomer shabbos because they grew up that way, and are afraid to do anything different, but they aren’t really frum. The goals of kiruv is not orthopraxy. It is to make Jews not only shomer shabbos, but shomer mitzvos and yirei shomayim as well. It may take time to effectuate those goals, but those should be the goals and nothing less.

  21. The only way for a Jew to truly connect with God is through mitzvos. The ultimate goal of kiruv, and all Jewish education – and all of Judaism – is to bring ourselves, as individuals and as the Jewish people as whole (and ultimately the entire world), ever closer to God. While the practical details of kiruv may differ from conventional Jewish education in a variety of ways, fundamentally the goal is the same. There are no other goals.

  22. Is it not obvious that the answer should be all of the above? Surely the goal of any kiruv is to bring people closer to Torah and mitzvot. However far one gets in a particular case is it not still positive movement? And even those of us who are shomer shabbos can surely continue to do tshuvah for those areas where we fall short, and appreciate any chizuk or kiruv toward that end, assuming it is truly supportive.

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