The following is a summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha which was recorded last Thursday Night, but played tonight in the NY area. Same rules as usual apply. I have attempted to summarize many of the thoughts to the best of my abilities. Any inconsistencies are the results of my transcription and should not be attributed to R' Frand.
R Frand began by mentioning tht he had been asked during the year, what does it mean that so many gedolim had passed away this year. R' Frand noted many famous names and I don't want to leave some out, so I have not listed them here.
R' Frand said that while it could be said that based on the actuarial tables, it is known that people of advanced age will pass away and the same could be said of the gedolim, but this is only part of the picture. In the times of the nevi'im, when things went wrong, people would go to a prophet and ask what they were doing wrong and how they could improve. Unfortunately, due to the state of our generation, we do not have prophets who we can go to for questions, but we have the words of the prophets. R' Frand quoted Yeshaya who stated that these things occur because people are performing mitzvos out of rote, by habit. This angers Hashem who says that He will smite the nation and the nation of their wise men will perish.
R' Frand quoted the Medrash Eicha which writes that tzadikim die because we perform mitzvos out of rote. He further said that if this was true in the days of Yeshaya, it is more true today. Because while we have people who are learning daf yomi and going to minyan and there are more people learning Torah than in any prior generation, we do our mitzvos in ho hum fashion and much of what we do is "old hat."
R' Frand also quoted R' Moshe Weinberger who said that if in a marriage there is a division of jobs and tasks and everything is performed and accomplished, but they don't love each other, its not much of a marriage. This can be said about Judaism. If everything is done based on a schedule and a need to accomplish tasks automatically, it is a religion without heart.
R' Frand said that this is the reason that some Jewish children leave the fold because they see their parents do mitzvos without feeling, passion and devotion. So they wonder, why should they continue?
R' Frand quoted the Alter M'Kelem who said that teaching Torah to our children can make things second nature and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. The child will get up in the morning and wash hands and put on tzizis and it will be automatic. But it is a negative when it is done without feeling, automatically.
R' Frand further developed the Alter's thought that we may have learned things on an elementary basis when we were little, but we have not made any attempt to develop a deeper understanding. We may have viewed the leaving of Egypt as "Pharaoh in Pajamas in the middle of the night" but as a grown up, a person needs to understand more about what happened and why.
R' Frand repeated a story that he had heard about a man who went to see an Orthodox doctor and when asked to remove his shirt, revealed tzizis which barely dropped below his arm pits. The doctor asked what is this? The man replied, these are the tzizis my mother gave me. R' Frand made the point that what was good for us as five year olds is not the same level as what we need at 55.
R' Frand next quoted an article that he had read by a person who lived on the Upper West Side. Every Friday night he was asked by the Rabbi to bring some new ba'alei teshuva home from shul on Friday Night. But the man was not thrilled with this as he longed to get home from shul quickly, eat dinner quickly and then curl up in the fetal position and sleep until he had to get up for shacharis. The man further explained - the reason that I am uncomfortable with the baalei teshuva who come to my home and want to sing every zemer in the bentscher is that they are energetic and their every davening means something to them.
R' Frand also quoted R' Shimson Pincus who quoted a Rashi on a pasuk in Yishaya that says - listen those who are distant and know those who are close the wonders of Hashem. Rashi says, who are the distant ones? The people who have always been observant. Meanwhile the close ones are the ones who recently became frum.
R' Frand said that this is the reason that there is a proliferation of Carlbach minyanim. It is hard to understand why people want to daven at a Friday night minyan that takes two hours. Aren't they hungry? The reason why they go is because they need to feel motivated by their davening. [R' Frand specifically said that he was not knocking R' Carlbach and that somewhere he had an autographed album which R'Shlomo signed for R' Frand when he was in the sixth grade].
R' Frand also said that this is the reason that people leave their families and fly halfway around the world to Uman to daven at the grave of R' Nachman of Breslov on Rosh Hashana. These people will live in spartan or near primitive conditions so that they can feel alive on Rosh Hashana.
R' Frand next quoted a pasuk from Amos which states "Behold days are coming Hashem says and I will send a famine throughout the land. It will not be a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but to listen to the words of Hashem. The simple meaning of the words is that people will not be hungry for bread and water, but will be deprived and want to hear the words of Hashem. However, R' Frand quoted R' Moshe Volley (sp?) a student of the Ramchal who explains that the use of bread and water are actually meant as Torah that Torah is sustenance and compare to water. He wrote that there will be Torah learned in more places than ever before, but people will want to hear about Hashem. This is the thirst.
R' Frand offered three suggestions for how to address this problem.
The first solution was to pick a mitzva, just one mitzva and make it your passion. R' Frand quoted from a letter that he got from a man in California who moved there because he wanted to improve his ping pong game. The man got himself a coach and videotapes his performances and takes special care of his racket. The man asked himself one day, why can't I bring the same passion to my davening and learning. The man decided to keep a binder of divrei Torah and to write down after Shabbos any divrei Torah heard over Shabbos. He picked up daf yomi and installed it on his Ipod and home computers. He comes to shul on time. The man concluded, I enjoy the game on Tuesday nights and I brought this to my Torah life as well.
R' Frand suggested - find your passion, whatever you most like and apply that to one mitzva. If you are passionate about watching football and can watch nine hours of it on Sunday, apply that passion to one miztva.
R' Frand quoted from a student of his who went to Costa Rica to do kiruv work and met a man who said to him - you are an eight. What do you mean, the student asked? The man replied, you are a size eight tzizis. This was the man's goal and passion in life, to pay for tzizis for every Jew that he sees.
R' Frand second suggestion came from a gemara in Avodah Zarah which talks about people who were terrible people, but were able to acquire olam haba in one moment. One such person was R' Chanina Ben Tradyon who was killed by burning for teaching Torah. But in killing him, the executioner added wet woollen balls to make the death slower. But as he was dying, the executioner saw R' Chanina and said to him, if I remove the wool will I get olam haba? R' Chanin said yes. So the executioner removed the wool and jumped in the flames as well. A bas kol came from heaven and said - the executioner has earned olam haba in one instant. But in relation to this story, the gemara says that R' Yehuda HaNasi cried.
R' Frand asked - why did he cry? Was he jealous? R' Frand quoted R' Chaim Shmulevitz who stated that R' Yehuda saw what could be accomplished in one moment and he regretted how many moments he had wasted.
R' Frand said that the message is that when the moments happen, don't waste them and do your action promptly. R' Frand made reference to fast in the Megillas Esther when Esther became aware that there was going to be a decree against the Jews in Adar. Although it was only Nisan and eleven months earlier, Mordechai said fast now. And as a result, the Jews did not eat matza on Pesach. R' Frand remarked, if they had asked him when to fast, he would have said - do it after Pesach so that you could keep both mitzvos. But Mordechai knew - they had to act now, as soon as they knew of the trouble.
R' Frand said that he was approached by an infomercial director who said to him, do you know why they say you must call in the next 20 minutes? Because they know that if they don't get you to call when you are watching the infomercial, you will never do it.
R' Frand also quoted a pasuk from Ki Tseitzei which says a person should listen to Hashem's chukim,mitzvos and mishpatim and Hashem's voice. The Ramban asks, why does the voice need to mentioned? Isn't this category covered by everything else? The answer is that even if we are doing the mitzvos, we need to know that Hashem is speaking to us. R Frand suggested that people keep a notebook of how they see G-d in their lives. That people should ask their children to prepare something to say at the Shabbos table about how they saw Hashem through something extraordinary that happened this week. This will bring Hashem back into our lives and will make Him real to us, because we see that He is part of our lives.
R' Frand's third suggestion was that a person should befriend and become close with ba'alei teshuva. By so doing, a person is forced to reexamine Judaism on an adult level so that it can be explained to an adult. And if you don't understand it, look it up as it will help you with a deeper level of understanding and action.
R' Frand also said that in so doing a person can see how the other half lives. People that don't have a Shabbos who see Shabbos for the first time can show how much you can appreciate it. R' Frand quoted a letter from a Rutgers student who first had a Shabbos and wrote how much he appreciated it because he could unplug from his email and phone for one day.
R' Frand closed with a story from a woman who was involved with a kiruv organization in Russia called Operation Open Curtain. The children attend a camp and at the end they can continue on in school or even go to Touro College free of charge. The woman said that during the summer program, the campers were allowed to meet with R' Shmuel Kaminetsky who gave each child a beracha. One child asked R' Kaminetsky - what should I do when camp is over? I have been enjoying eating kosher food and keeping shabbos and make brachos and I try to emulate my counselor, but when camp is over, I will return to my parents home and I will not be able to do any of these things. How do I keep the mitzvos. The response she received was, just daven once a day. It does not matter when or what you say, just make sure you connect to Hashem every day.
At the end of the summer, a few campers asked if they could take siddurim home like the tzaddik told them. She gave them the siddurim they asked for. The counselor said, they had such smiles and warmth and I wish I could be as excited as they were when thet got their siddurim.
Weeks later, the woman went to the Kotel and saw people davening. The woman thought to herself, they don't know about my campers and they dont know what they have. They dont appreciate and neither do we.
In U'va L'Tziyon we say Baruch Hu Eleokeinu - a Tefillah where we thank Hashem or creating us for his glory and have us mitzvos and Torah and separated us from those who don't understand.
This was R' Frand's mesage. We should try to hold our Torah and mitzvos tighter and closer to ourselves. To make our Teshuva about recognizing the value of our observance and how lucky we are to have Torah and mitzvos.
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