By Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer
During Pesach of 5777 (2017), I met an unaffiliated young Jewish man in Connecticut. Unfortunately, he did not attend a Pesach Seder. It broke my heart. It turns out that though he was working in Connecticut, he actually lived in Flatbush on Avenue N, a mere mile from the BJX Avenue K Center.
It pained me very deeply that a Jew who lived surrounded by myriad shuls, Yeshivos and countless frum Jews had absolutely no affiliation. Who would ensure that this precious Jewish Neshama would reconnect to Hashem and Klal Yisroel? Who would guarantee that this fellow would marry Jewish and not forsake his Jewish identity?
I reached out to him after Pesach inviting him to BJX to join other students and young professionals to experience Shabbos at our Friday night dinner. Unfortunately, he was out of the country and could not make it. Subsequently, I invited him to other Kiruv programs and events at BJX such as an intriguing lecture series from a former minister, a cocktail evening and a musical concert. He graciously declined every invitation due to work conflicts.
I then invited him for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos Simchas Torah – all to no avail.
Then came Chanukah. I finally got a bite. He officially registered for the spectacular BJX Chanukah party! I was thrilled and ecstatic. I was dreaming of this young man lighting the Chanukah Menorah and kindling his Neshama. Vistas of Hashem’s lost child returning home on such an auspicious time such as Chanukah resonated in my being. A dear brother will be reunited with Klal Yisroel. Our family will be more complete.
It was a beautiful party. Fun and uplifting. Full of young Jews connecting to our heritage. However, I felt a void. Someone very important was missing. I waited and waited for him to come. He never showed up.
It seems that his friend had an emergency that he needed to assist with.
I know what you’re thinking, “Give up already! Don’t you get it? He’s not interested! It’s pointless!”
If you knew a grieving parent with an aching heart waiting for their lost child to return, would you dare give up? If you really loved and cared for someone wouldn’t you be relentless and persistent to reunite them with their child?
I tried again for Purim. He said he would come. The entire Purim night I looked behind people’s masks hoping it was him. It wasn’t. He had yet another work commitment that simply couldn’t give up.
I almost grew weary and despondent. It seemed as if he would never come.
I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t reach out to him during the weeks preceding Pesach. After all, all I seemed to receive was rejection. It was Friday, Erev Pesach, just two weeks ago. It dawned upon me just a few hours before the Seder would begin that I did not invite him to BJX for a Seder. Don’t I believe that we’re all one Neshama? How can I go to the Seder in clear conscience without making another attempt?
Racing against the clock, I called him and told him that Passover is about to begin. He said, “I’ve been waiting for your call. Can I attend the Seder? What is BJX’s address?”
He came! He fulfilled all the Mitzvos.
Hashem never gives up on us. Never give up on your fellow Jews.
In the Haggadah, we spoke about the Four Sons. Instead of consolidating all the sons together and simply stating, “The Torah speaks about four different sons: The wise, wicked, simple and the one who doesn’t know how to ask questions,” it enumerates and delineates each son separately, with the term, “Echad.” This signifies that each of the sons, no matter their variegated backgrounds and persuations, are “Echad” to Hashem, special and unique. So should they be special and unique to us.
Never stop loving your fellow Jews.