Over the past few years I have seen a friend of mine slipping further and further away from Judaism. This is manifested through both his confessed doubts in the existence of Hashem and his practical leaving of any halachic practices. He has stated many times that he simply does not care anymore about anything from shabbat to kashrut. While I personally have made many mistakes and am far from a pure tzadik I have been trying to help him return to observance, but nothing I have said has appeared to change his outlook, opinion, or actions. Is it my place to attempt to influence him? Do I have an obligation as both his friend and a Jew to continue to try to help him see Hashem’s presence? Or, should I let him make his own choices and leave him be on this subject? Should I keep silent? If it is my place and obligation, how should I go about doing it in a gentle manner that will not alienate him even more?
I’m sorry it took so long to answer, but there was a problem at the website, and I just received your important question today, and am answering immediately.
Yes, you have an obligation, as a friend and as a Jew to help your acquaintance realize the beauty of Torah which he’s missing (Vayikra 19, 17). All Jews are in the same “boat” and if one drills a hole, we all lose out. Similarly, as brothers, we should always help each other, whether monetarily, morally, socially or spiritually.
But it’s very important to do it in a way which may be effective, not just to let off steam or “check-off” an obligation. Just like there’s no use, and consequently, no mitzvah to rebuke an English speaker in French, so too, you must “speak his language” and present Judaism in a way which speaks to him. It’s even a better idea to try and put him in touch with a local rabbi who has experience in explaining the importance, idealism and truth which the Jewish people have been bringing to the world over 3,300 years, through Torah. In any event, keep your lines of communication with him open, because loving every Jew is also an obligation, and also, incidentally, he may eventually want to listen to you about the value of Torah, as well. Especially when he settles down, chooses a soul-mate, has children and must decide what style of family life, atmosphere and education he wants to have in his home, it often helps people become aware of the treasure called Torah. Experience shows that there’s no better alternative to having a happy, moral, and idealistic family-life, as observing family purity, having Shabbat together, and supplying a values-oriented Jewish education while associating with good children from good families.
With Love of Israel,
Rav Ari Shvat