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Shvat 5768

Locked Out


Written by the rabbi


לשיעור זה בעברית: נעולים בחוץ בלי מפתח

On my current trip to the United States I was staying at an apartment to which I had a key. However, due to circumstances beyond my control (forgetfulness), when I arrived at the apartment after a long and eventful day I discovered to my horror that the key was not in my pockets.
I was ignominiously locked out of my abode and bed. What an embarrassment for a man of my stature and position! I was forced to find someone, a cooperative if somewhat amazed relative, who had a spare key to the apartment, hire a car service for $65.00 to bring the key to me and wait impatiently for over an hour for it to be delivered into my hands.
But since I am convinced that everything is for the best and somehow has a magisterial purpose to it, I got to thinking about the phenomenon of being locked out of one’s own dwelling. I then realized that this is not as rare an occurrence as I had originally thought.
There are millions of people who are locked out of their inheritance and true home by ignorance, circumstance and forgetfulness. And to our great misfortune, many of those millions are our fellow Jews. The door to Judaism and Jewish values is absolutely sealed to them.
They do not even know where the key can be found. They don’t realize that there are spare keys that can be obtained from their neighbors and relatives. And, oftentimes, they are unwilling to pay for the car service that will deliver that key to them. And that is really a tragic situation.
Standing in line at the security checkpoint at JFK airport on the way to catch a flight to the wedding of my grandson in Detroit, I was behind a young Israeli man and his girl companion (also Israeli) who were having an animated conversation in Hebrew. The young man had the requisite number of earrings in his ear to qualify as a member of the progressive youth group that exists in some parts of our beloved country.

I was dressed in my full Diaspora rabbinic garb, black jacket and black hat, et al. and they naturally paid me no notice. However, the security guards in the airport targeted them for a full body search and they were obviously panicked. I spoke to them in my fluent Hebrew and attempted to calm them and reassure them that there would be no untoward problems. My prediction, as usual, proved to be correct and they accompanied me part of the way to my departure gate.

They confessed to me that this was the first time in their lives that they had ever spoken to a Haredi Jew. I wanted to disabuse them of that idea (since I am, at most, only Haredi light) and we had a pleasant conversation and I wished them well on their tour of the United Sates.

As I left them they thanked me for my help and asked for my e-mail address after I informed them about some of the projects of my Destiny Foundation. I don’t know if I will ever hear from either of them again but I definitely feel that they are locked out of their heritage and home and though I may not have the key, someone here in Israel does have the key. We just have to find the right car service to deliver it to them. I think that there are many Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora who would like to have that door to home unlocked for them.

There are many obstacles to unlocking our door. Generations of failed secularism and false ideologies have locked the door rather securely for so many of our brothers and sisters. Many of our fellow Jews do not even realize that the door is locked at all. More than that they don’t realize that their real home is behind the locked door.

Of course, the attitude of those who do have the key is not always helpful. Though there are many kiruv organizations in our society, the spirit of kiruv is still not strong in the religious world. There is a feeling that those who are locked out are to be pitied but not really helped. After all, they lost or forgot the key so if they are locked out that is basically their problem.

But whether that attitude is really consistent with Torah values and our Godly responsibilities is certainly an existential question that should at least be debated. So, if God forbid, you are ever locked out of your home, at least think about this question.


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