‘With Necks of Marble’

I’d like to thank you for you consistent wonderful reading material which enhances the Shabbosos of so many! This past Shabbos as I was reading an article in Hamodia Prime I came across the opinion article entitled “With Necks of Marble,” written by Rabbi Avrohom Weinrib (Jan. 1, 2020).

I wanted to commend Rabbi Weinrib for his positive recommendations at the end of his article. The first recommendation was in regard to “the invaluable importance of a chevrah.” I cannot reiterate enough the importance of a good chevrah, however I would like to bring to attention another aspect.

I live “out of town,” far from the New York area. I counsel many individuals who marry and relocate to the Greater New York area. It seems that there is a very common problem across the board, that of being an “outsider” (whether male or female) and not being able to fit in or become part of a New York chevrah, Brooklyn in particular.

Many out-of-town young married men and women are trying to put in effort into joining a chevrah, a shul, a group, and are not being given a warm welcome. Yes, they are “accepted,” they go to night seder, learn in shul or Tehillim groups, PTA – but no one seems to have the time to actually extend himself or herself and create a warm atmosphere of belonging.

Isn’t that what Klal Yisrael is supposed to be about? Ahavas chinam? Are we not supposed to look around and see whom we can greet, to see who needs an extra smile, a warm greeting? So many of Klal Yisrael are feeling lonely and judged for not being exactly like the locals or not wearing exactly what others wear, and I am not talking about any rebellious individuals. These are men and women who are ehrlich, frum, fine young people, albeit not raised in the same yeshivos, schools, circles or cities.

How can we build an awareness and extend ourselves to those in our own immediate circles — our shuls, our schools? As Rabbi Weinrib wrote: “Don’t underestimate the value of your shul’s melaveh malkah, kumzitz, or Chanukah party.” What about all those places where no one creates any of those opportunities? How then can one feel the bonding of “brother-to-brother” Yaakov to Yaakov, as it were? If there are so many batei medrash, schools, and so on, how is it possible that so many young men and women still feel they cannot find themselves a place to fit in?

I think we all have to take a second look at our behavior and, instead of criticizing others, begin to extend ourselves.

It doesn’t take too much to walk over to someone and make them feel consistently welcome. A warm smile, a greeting, a sincere “how are you” (and wait and listen for a response!), a Shabbos invitation, and yes — even taking responsibility for your kehillah or shul or Tehillim group and creating a kumzitz, a melaveh malkah, a winter party for whatever reason, just to bring Yidden together.

Clearly displaying our ahavas chinam can bring the yeshuos everyone truly needs. Churban Beis Hamikdash came because of sinas chinam. Let’s repair our faults and truly look around for the opportunities for ahavas chinam that present themselves daily all around us! May that bring the Geulah ASAP!

A guidance counselor from “out of town”