Sometimes members decide that they would be better served by davening in a Yeshiva. I spoke to my Rabbi about this and he pointed out that these members are missing an important ingredient of serving Hashem, and that is the influence they have on others. In many ways the Shul Members Are More Inspiring Than the Rabbi.
When the Rabbi exhibits dedication to chesed, learning, or davening, the thought which goes through many minds is “Of course that’s what the Rabbi does, after all he is the Rabbi, but I’m just an average working person”. But when a fellow member exhibits dedication to spiritual pursuits, the thought turns to “If he is working on his learning, chesed or davening, perhaps so should I”.
Over the years I have been inspired by many fellow members. One member was a master of chesed. I remember that he would always lend his car, especially to older Rabbis who were in America collecting for various needs. It really inspired me and over the years and I asked myself, “Shouldn’t I at least try to follow his lead?”.
Another member spends hours and hours learning Torah, even though he commutes to work daily, like the rest of his. He does read secular information, but he limits his time on the Internet and uses it more constructively in learning. If the Shul is open, there is a good chance you’ll find him inside learning. I was once sitting in the lobby before the Chuppah at a wedding. He walked in and I asked him why he was checking out various rooms. He said he wanted to see if the hall had a Beis Medrash. After greeting the Father of the Kallah, he left the hall to look for a Williamsburg Beis Medrash to learn for the hour and a half until the beginning of the first dance. I had to ask myself “What efforts am I making to increase my learning time?”.
Then there’s the weekday minyan member who is always working on his davening. He’s constantly reading and sharing Torah ideas about davening. He works on a daily basis to increase his concentration and his love and fear of Hashem, which is expressed in the davening. He freely admits davening is difficult and that is why he works at it. The question that leaves me is “Am I working hard enough to improve in this area?”.
There are many more inspiring examples of Communal Chesed, Shalom Bayis, being a good friend, giving Tzedakah,… Look around, pay attention, get inspired and remember that you’re positive behaviors can be an inspiration for others.
2 thoughts on “How Shul Members Are More Inspiring Than the Rabbi”
This is not so simple an issue — it seems to me to be a question of wanting to grow personally versus trying to raise up others at the risk of your own spiritual downfall. If a person wants to daven at a yeshiva because the ruach is more serious during tefilah, because they are more makpid on learning sedarim, etc, who can tell him not to? It is true that if he would be focusing on tefilah and learning at the shul, it could be that he might inspire somebody else. But it is equally possible that his davening and learning would take a hit because he is surrounded by others who aren’t so serious — it is very likely he will suffer problems of maris ayin and he will become frustrated.
This seems to me on a general level to have been the debate between Avraham and Sarah over the fate of Yishmael. Avraham felt it was to Yishmael’s benefit to have him around Yitzchak who would raise him up — but Sarah realized that his presence would pull Yitzchak down — and Hashem sided with Sarah. These are not cut-and-dry issues but I don’t see how you can fault someone for wanting to connect more and grow in personal avodah rather than risk a yeridah by sticking with an olam that is rushing to finish tefila, etc.
My two cents.
Asher, I agree it is not a simple issue. The point being made here is that the consideration of helping others grow is significant.
I also want to point out that in this case, the Shul is filled with growth oriented individuals, many of whom work on their middos, davening and learn regularly, so I’ll assume your comment “surrounded by others who aren’t so serious” was a hypothetical situation. I would agree that you can construct a hypothetical situation where moving to the Yeshiva would be the right move.
In any case, spiritually oriented people who are making decisions like this, should talk to a Rav for guidance and take the inspiring others aspect into consideration.
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