Coach Menachem’s 33 virtual shiur of Let’s Get Real featured Rabbi Benzion Twerski, rav of Congregation Beth Yehuda and founding member of the Milwaukee Kollel, on Sunday evening, December 27. First, Coach Menachem shared that “we need to change our mindset and do things mindfully. That can be a challenge.” Next, he introduced Rabbi Twerski who responded to the question of what are we aiming for in life? He imparted that according to Sefer Toldos Yaakov Yosef, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the goal of Torah and mitzvos is d’veikus in Hashem – connecting to our Creator. Underlying everything we do there has to be a connection to Hashem.” The S’fas Emes taught that “knowing that we have the privilege to connect to an Infinite Creator should lead a person to incredible joy.” It is worth it for a person to come to this world and suffer all the tzaros in order to perform just one mitzvah.
Rabbi Twerski then shared a story about a maskil that illustrated the idea that it is possible to go through all the motions of doing mitzvos and have Hashem never enter the picture. “That tragic reality has reared itself in our times. We see signs of it all over.”
He pointed out that when outside clothing becomes the ikar, then we are neglecting to cling to Hashem. This can happen with Torah and mitzvos. We go through the motions and lack connection to Hashem. “We need to refocus on the amazing opportunity we have as a tiny speck in the universe to connect to the Divine. The fact that a human being can give pleasure to Hashem, thereby connecting to Him, has to be the focal point of our Yiddishkeit.”
Following this introduction, the interactive shiur began with a Q-and-A session with live participants and also emailed questions. Someone asked about how to instill excitement into his davening when he davens three times a day. Rabbi Twerski responded that you need to prepare for it. “No area of life is fulfilling if we don’t prepare for it.” He shared the analogy of a GPS. You need to know your destination before you program it. He suggested learning from one of the many excellent sources out there, such as Rav Schwab’s sefer on t’filah [Rav Schwab on Prayer] or the Tiferes L’Moshe volume on t’filah. “Our generation has trouble focusing. “Limud Torah will help us with focusing.”
The next question was from a mother of many small children asking what to do about davening, as she doesn’t have time because of the needs of her children. He responded that “women with young children need to pay attention to their children.” Women are not obligated to say the whole davening. Even reciting brachos with kavanah is good. “Keep your eye on the focus of clinging to Hashem.” He added that raising children requires d’veikus to Hashem.
The next question was about the ability to have faith when you look around and see negativity. How can you have faith that your davening is efficacious? Rabbi Twerski responded that everyone has felt that during this time period. He shared that he once met with a former Navy SEAL who was depressed. He’d come on hard times and asked, “Why is G-d rejecting me?” Rabbi Twerski responded, “When you were training to be a Navy SEAL and doing challenging things, did you ever turn to the Admiral and ask, ‘Why do I have to do this?’ You didn’t. You understood that they were trying to test your ability, and the Admiral knew you could do it.” We need a different perspective about our challenges. Hashem is showing us that He believes we can rise to the occasion. He believes that we are equal to the challenges. We need to see this as a compliment. Hashem feels that we can do it.
The next question was that the questioner’s children had little interest in the fun things in Yiddishkeit. How can we give them more of a connection? Rabbi Twerski answered: “We need to take a hard look at what is the essence of our Judaism. Is there a sense of amazing privilege before we do a mitzvah, and do we point this out to our children? There needs to be something so compelling about our keeping mitzvos that the people around us will want to be part of it.” He also taught that “Yiddishkeit can only be transmitted with m’siras nefesh. We have to put something into it to get something out of it.”
Coach Menachem asked, “Where do we start?”
Rabbi Twerski suggested the following: The first area is to invest in learning Torah. Learn halachos for the mitzvos. There are abundant s’farim. It changes the mitzvah when we learn the halachos ahead of time. It will lead us to want to do more physical preparations. “Most people prepare for the Seder. They get a lot out of it.”
Rabbi Twerski emphasized the importance of focusing on our connection with Hashem in everything we do. Hashem should bless us with continued success in this area and bring an end to this plague and bring the g’ulah.
This enlightening shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber