The conversation that began at the 91st National Convention of Agudath Israel is an ongoing one, as people attempt to seek the guidance of Daas Torah and Gedolei Torah to help them deal with today’s complex world. The conversation continued at the Agudath Israel Shabbos that included Far Rockaway, Bayswater Lawrence, Cedarhurst, and Woodmere, as members of these communities had the opportunity to listen to divrei Torah and divrei chizuk from Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel and Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah; Rabbi Nosson Scherman, General Editor of ArtScroll Mesorah; and Rabbis Pinchas Jung, Senior lecturer of the Ani Maamin Foundation; as well as Agudath Israel representatives, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president; Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of Public Affairs; and Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, Vice President for Development and State Relations.
As Rabbi Feldman shared some of the many issues discussed by the Moetzes, he developed a theme that was central to the Shabbos, as well as to the ongoing conversation – the centrality of our Torah values, and the need to be aware of the vast differences between our torah values and the values of modern society. Whether the issues involve ethics or morals, or more pragmatic matters such as funding, we must continue to analyze every action we take and every response to the outside world through the lens of Torah values.
We depend on our gedolim to help us keep that focus, and Rabbi Scherman described the mesiras nefesh of the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah, as well their mesiras haguf. In addition to physical sacrifices such as traveling, there is the spiritual sacrifice of setting aside personal goals and responsibilities on behalf of the needs of the community.
Rabbi Jung spoke about emunah and the permanent impact of Har Sinai, explaining that emunah is the most basic prelude to chinuch. Rabbi Kalish also addressed the issue of chinuch, telling his listeners that Hashem gave us the Torah out of love, and that we need to understand that love clearly enough to be able to convey it to our children.
In a world whose values stand in such sharp contrast to our own, our position is a tenuous one, and the public perception of the Torah Jew is all too often a negative one, as recent headlines tragically reminded us. Rabbi Zwiebel discussed Agudath Israel’s role as the voice of our community, and its ability to represent Torah Jewry. Rabbi Shafran spoke about the need to address the hatred of frum Jews and fight it publicly, and the need to combat it by displaying behavior that is consistent with torah values at all times.
Several hundred boys and fathers joined the special Motzei Shabbos Avos U’Banim Melave Malka in Bais Medrash of Cedarhust, enjoying the words of Rabbi Feldman, who was joined by Rabbi Binyomin Kamenetsky, Founding Dean of Yeshiva of South Shore, as well as local rabbonim. The lively atmosphere (not to mention the delicious refreshments) served as a tangible reminder that joy and beauty are an integral part of the rich mesorah we attempt to impart to our children.
“The success of the Shabbos reinforces the message that our speakers conveyed,” says Rabbi Yonah Feinstein, Director of Special Projects for Agudath Israel. “While we may live in challenging times, we have Torah values to draw on, and leaders to help us internalize those values to respond to those challenges.”