"Then on the third day Avrohom lifted up his eyes and saw the
place far off. And Avrohom said to his young men, `Stay here
with the donkey while I and the lad go yonder and prostrate
ourselves, and then return to you'" (Bereishis 22:4-
5). Rashi (v. 4) explains that Avrohom's "seeing the place"
means his seeing a cloud hovering over the mountain. Chazal
(Tanchuma, Vayeiro 23) tell us that the two lads who
had gone together with him, Yishmoel and Eliezer, could not
see this sight. Avrohom therefore told them, "Stay here with
the donkey" -- that they are a people similar to donkeys. R'
Sheila in Brochos (58a) called an Akum a
"donkey," as is written, "Whose members are like those of
donkeys and whose issue is like that of horses"
But why, just because they did not reach the lofty level of
seeing Shechina on Mt. Moriah, was their status said
to be equivalent to donkeys? Are there not many Jews, even
many prominent ones, who cannot see the Shechina?
Should we consider all of them to be like donkeys?
At any rate, we can infer that a person's failure to reach
the level he can reach is considered a definite
There is a simpler way to explain this. Actually it is
impossible to expect each person to envision the
Shechina. If according to his lowly level he cannot do
so, why should he be criticized?
Only Eliezer the servant of Avrohom, who disseminated his
Rebbe's teachings through the world, could be criticized,
since he himself was a godol hador. Not only did
Eliezer digest all of Avrohom's teachings, he was actively
engaged in enlightening others with those teachings. Why
could Eliezer, whose stature was undeniably elevated, not see
the Shechina? If he nonetheless did not see the
Shechina, this definitely shows that another factor
was involved in his failure.
That factor was Eliezer's body. To attain such a prophetic
vision one must have the suitable body, but Eliezer had a
body like that of a donkey. The material state of his body
prevented him from seeing such a towering spiritual sight.
The highest prophecy Eliezer could possibly reach was like
that of Bilaam's donkey. Chazal (Yevomos 62a)
therefore conclude from Avrohom's reference to Eliezer as
being like a donkey, owing to his inability to see
Shechina, that he lacked a proper yichus.
Nonetheless, someone who does not reach the level he is
capable of reaching is harshly castigated. A man naturally
attempts to elevate himself, and his lack of success in doing
so shows his yetzer has succeeded in thwarting him. He
is held responsible for his failure.
There is nothing new about the Teshuvah Movement. The point
that each one of us must reach is the same. The only
difference is the distance each one of us is from the
objective. A Jew has an innate longing to elevate himself and
return to Hashem since his neshomo is tohor.
It is absurd how some people equate the Teshuvah Movement to
other movements aimed at becoming more religious or becoming
members of mystic cults. The difference is that people join
all other movements because of the benefit they derive from
them. They hope to find peace of mind for their torn and
wandering soul in what they presume is a warm nest. Joining
such religious bodies and cults is something individual,
something dependent on each person's own understanding
according to the degree others have convinced him of that
The Teshuvah Movement is altogether different. What draws
people to it, is the truth, an attraction to their roots, to
the internal point that is never uprooted from within a Jew.
"I will not cast them away nor will I abhor them"
(Vayikra 26:44) is what motivates ba'alei
teshuvah. This is what provokes them to do
teshuvah. If it so happens that in the beginning of
their teshuvah process they are drawn to the
tranquility of a Torah lifestyle, this is only to help them
overpower their yetzer and shake themselves free of
the physical lusts they were previously immersed in.
Nonetheless, their main desire is striving for truth,
promoted by their attraction to heavenly matters. This
principle is taught to us by the Rambam (Hilchos
Gerushin 2:22), who rules that when the halocho
demands a certain man give a get to his wife, then
even if he refuses to do so, he can be forced. Although a
get must always be given with the husband's consent, a
Jew innately wants to observe the Torah and its mitzvos. Only
the yetzer is preventing him from doing so, and after
being forced, his yetzer has been weakened enough so
that his true desire can assert itself and he actually agrees
to give the get.
Before the current Teshuvah Movement started, we saw many of
the second generation of National-Religious Jewry return to
their roots. After their leaders realized that their
educational system of tichonim datiyim was a total
failure and their students went altogether off the track,
they started the yeshivot tichoniyot, which are a
mixture of the sacred with the profane. To the dismay of
these leaders, although some parents were satisfied with this
arrangement, many young boys, after tasting what Torah is,
became dissatisfied with the compromise. They were unable to
understand the nature of this compromise with Hashem. These
boys began to interest themselves more in Judaism and
streamed to the genuine yeshivos, the ones al tohoras
After these boys understood that a person cannot have it both
ways, they abandoned the false pleasures of their previous
lifestyle and chose what is really the virtuous way. This
particular movement has been incorporated within us and we
have already seen a blessed second generation from them which
has been educated from childhood al tohoras
It is difficult to know whether the name ba'alei
teshuvah fits this particular phenomenon, since these
boys are nearer to bnei Torah and are not considered
tinokos shenishbu. However, since they were educated
in such a way from childhood on they are unintentionally off
course. Not only were they misled about mitzvos aseih
and lo sa'aseih but they were also nourished with
beliefs not far from apikorsus and cannot be blamed
for how they are.
Actually it would be more proper to define the current
Teshuvah Movement as aimed at true tinokos shenishbu.
What difference does it make whether non-Jewish bandits or
Jewish ones took them into captivity? The way of the Torah is
totally alien to them. On the other hand, they were fed from
birth with hatred for religion and were told lies about the
Torah-true. A chasm of estrangement divides them from the
Torah-true. They were never part of our camp so we cannot say
they are "returning" to us, returning to Judaism. They never
had anything to do with Judaism to begin with. Any
aveiros they did until now are considered as being
The greatness of these ba'alei teshuvah is in their
adopting full observance of the Torah. Chazal
(Sanhedrin 99a) write "even tzaddikim gemurim
cannot compare to ba'alei teshuvah." Surely for those
who initially did aveiros because they were
deliberately educated to act in such a way, their present
Torah observance was much more difficult to bring about than
for regular ba'alei teshuvah. When we see these people
doing teshuvah we must learn a lesson from it. Such
occurrences obligate us to think. It is surely insufficient
to just casually say, "Boruch Hashem, there are ba'alei
teshuvah" and satisfy our curiosity and excitement only
by gazing at this tremendous sight.
First of all, we must think about why we are so delighted
with this occurrence. Is it perhaps because we are enjoying
our victory over the secular camp? We can discern whether we
are truly pleased when someone does teshuvah because
of his coming closer to Hashem, if we have the same pleasure
with each and every baal teshuvah, without regard to
his or her background. If we do not pay any attention when a
common person makes teshuvah but when a central pillar
of secular Jews does teshuvah we are enthralled, that
shows that our feelings of victory are the real reason we are
so happy. Such thoughts are not only improper for bnei
Torah, they are in bad taste.
Do we feel we are fighting the secularists? We should instead
pity them, since they are, Rachmono litzlan, tinokos
shenishbu. Each one of them would have been zoche
to the Torah's brilliance had he received the same
chinuch as we did. He unfortunately was placed in a
thieves' den and almost altogether lost Hashem's image that
he was created with. His neshomo was taken prisoner by
the sitra achra. This is what should really bother
Dovid Hamelech wrote, "I hate them with the utmost hatred; I
count them as my enemies" (Tehillim 139:22). A person
who has complete love for Hashem hates someone who harasses
his Creator. Parents, too, begin despising immeasurably
anyone who annoys their children. On the other hand, they
have immense gratitude to someone who lends a helping hand to
their offspring, and their love for him increases.
The same applies to the sinners who are not tinokos
shenishbu, that is, for those who knowingly sin although
they know what Torah is. The way we regard a mechaleil
Shabbos should not be different from the way we regard a
lowly and contemptuous murderer or adulterer. Even if a
mechaleil Shabbos acts properly in public, how can we
forgive him for spitefully angering our Creator?
Just as we would not forgive someone who killed our son or
caused us a large financial loss even though in other matters
he acts properly, so we should not forgive a mechaleil
Shabbos even if he is otherwise all right. If we have not
yet completely adopted this viewpoint and feeling, this shows
we are lacking love for Hashem.
The teshuvah of those who, instead of doing acts
against Hashem's will are now fulfilling the Torah, should
fill our hearts with overflowing pleasure. If there are
people who in the past had molested me but have now
completely changed and are concerned with my welfare and
search for ways to please me, my heart should spill over with
joy. How can it be that we do not rejoice in the same way
with regard to Hashem's honor?
Moreover, each mitzvah that is not being done and the
aveiros that are being done should indeed grieve us.
We should realize how grave it is to commit a lo
sa'aseih and the tremendous gain in fulfilling even one
mitzvas aseih, even one time. Now through
teshuvah thousands and thousands of aveiros are
being prevented and instead thousands and thousands, and it
is not exaggerating to say tens of thousands, of mitzvos are
being done, each one of which is a world in itself. This
alone is enough to cause us to take part in the great
simcha of the Torah. If we think about these points we
will understand that we should be full of simcha after
seeing this great spectacle of so many people doing
I will point out some additional particulars in this matter.
A person instinctively acts kindly to others. When a person
hears of an opportunity for material prosperity somewhere he
will not hide this good news from others. He wants others to
benefit too, and conceives of ways to help them. This is as
Geichazi said: "Then they said to one another, `We are not
behaving correctly. This day is a day of good tidings, and we
are holding our peace. If we tarry until the morning light,
punishment will come upon us! Now therefore come, that we may
go and tell the king's household'" (II Melochim 7:9).
Even if the Torah was not given to us we would have learned
this virtuous way of behavior from the way animals act. If
concerning material matters that bring only a fleeting
benefit we try to help others, how much more is this so
concerning ruchniyus, that has real value.
When we hear of someone who has done teshuvah, who is
now proceeding on the right way and is also profiting from
the brilliance of the Torah and mitzvos, we should be truly
When one of our dear acquaintances, chas vesholom,
declines in his Torah observance and sinks deep into the
forty-nine gates of tumah, Rachmono litzlan, how much
does the feeling of alienation that has developed between us
pain us. How happy we would be if this lost son returns home
We should have this same feeling with every person in Klal
Yisroel who until now has been lost to us and has finally
returned to us. Each Jew is actually an integral part of our
family. What immense simcha we should have when we see
their children going to cheder, when we remember that
they were so close to attending a school that would teach
them heresy. A new generation that is nourished on pure
Judaism from birth is growing up! From the moment these
children learn to speak they say, "Moshe commanded us the
The above is only part of what we should think about, and it
is surely insufficient to only think about this. We must do
something about it too! Even if occupying ourselves with this
were included in the category of mitzvos that can be done by
others and halachically we were not obligated to do them, it
would be fitting to take part in this momentous matter.
How can we not be jealous of those engaged in outreach work?
Each nefesh they save is as if they have sustained a
whole world. There are some people who have even abandoned
their private endeavors and their spiritual endeavors for
this objective. Each one of us is obligated to contribute as
much as he can to this elevated mission since the small
number of those occupied in it does not fill the need.
Our assistance can be divided into two parts: 1) Gemilus
chesed through handing out spiritual help to them; 2)
Gemilus chesed through answering their material needs.
This is not the time and place to write in detail all the
kinds of aid each one of us can offer. Someone who realizes
he must join in helping them will easily find the way to find
out what to do from reliable sources.
Financially helping them is the easiest way, and its benefit
is extremely significant. With each added monetary gift we
actually increase the number of ba'alei teshuvah.
Besides the large expenses of the outreach work itself, the
costs involved do not end there. Many people, after doing
teshuvah, do not continue to work in the same
profession as before. In addition, most need several years of
study to broaden their emunah. They want to at least
learn some of what is taught in cheder and yeshiva.
They unfortunately were not zoche to study there. This
was stolen from their childhood and they have not yet
saturated themselves with a treasury of Torah study. Usually
each penny contributed to this aim is considered a part of
other mitzvos too, either hachnosas kallah, helping a
poor person to have a livelihood, sustaining Torah study, and
I do not mean to rule here that we should prefer this mitzvah
over other mitzvos of tzedokoh, and each person must
consult a moreh horo'oh about this, but, "The wise in
heart will take mitzvos" (Mishlei 10:8), and will grab
heaps of them.
Let us hope that by helping these ba'alei teshuvah and
assisting them monetarily we ourselves will also be helped.
We too need a movement for doing teshuvah for
ourselves. Just as they have abandoned the vanities of the
world that were wrapped around their neck, so will we be
zoche to free ourselves from the vanities that have
become implanted among us, vanities that we have become
accustomed to. We must separate ourselves from these vanities
to purify ourselves. Our coming nearer to this movement will
surely have a good influence on us.
May the reward for this mitzvah be paid to us `measure for
measure,' and may Hashem radiate a spirit of tohoroh
upon us, and purify us from all tumos, and send His
sacred aid to us.
HaRav Shimon Moshe Diskin zt'l was a rosh yeshiva in
Yeshivas Kol Torah of Yerushalayim. He was niftar on
15 Tammuz of last year.