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Jul 31, 2008

a tzaddik with no kipa

I fell a little behind in my reading this past week, so I just read this inspiring story in the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine of last weeks edition:

The story is about a secular man, who had become frum, but refused to wear a yarmulke.
This fellow became exposed to the work of the Lev L'Achim organization. An avreich knocked on his door and suggested they learn a bit of Torah together. At first he wanted to toss this avreich down the stairwell. But he agreed to the suggestion and experienced a shiur like he had never before experienced.

They continued learning together and over time he became closer to religion, taking upon himself more and more mitzvos; Shabbos, family purity, tefillin, etc. But through all this he refused to wear a kipa.

One of the Rabbonim of Lev L'Achim asked this fellow why he refused, despite his process of becoming frum, to wear a kipa.

His response was "The avreich learning with me is waiting for me to have done a complete teshuva, so that he can move on to his next "project" - to another Jew to suggest a shiur to. I do not want him to move on. I want him to continue learning with me. As long as I do not wear a kipa, as far as he is concerned I have not yet done teshuva, and he therefore continues learning with me.


  1. I always wonder what they say in these "magical shuirim". Im still waiting for that one shuir thats going to get me to drop my job and everything and get me to go back to kollel. :-)

  2. Yes, I too was many years ago, someone's project. As soon as I went off to yeshiva, the guy moved on to the next one, and has all but ignored me since. I don't regret putting the yarmulka on though ;)

  3. its funny because compared to all the mizvot mentioned that he has accepted, kippah is by far much less important

  4. Was there anything else in the article? I wonder if the message was not to treat other people as a cheftza shel mitzva (or am I missing something)

    Joel Rich

  5. Whats in a name,
    Keep you day job and learn as much as you can because the way financesare lately you are going to get a lot more company and you will get the respect you deserve.

    Kol tov,


  6. Rafi - Did you think that the Israelis have a monopoly on Charedi bashing?


    This is outright Jew-on-Jew antisemitsm

  7. jj - thanks. that is interesting...

    LOZ - good point... it is the outward symbol that finalizes the whole thing. And if he would put on the kipa early on but still not keep important mitzvos, would he move on or still work with him?

    Joel - they were continuing a comment from the previous week about the guy who killed some lawyer and showed up in court with a kipa (they wrote something similar to what I had written earlier on the subject) - they compared a rasha with a kipa to a tzaddik with no kipa...

    chaim - is that the bad part of it? knowing you were just someone's project?

  8. It's disconcerting that people feign interest in you when they are just trying to do kiruv. It's something I would never do. I was already shomer Shabbos etc before I met this guy, so there is no מקח טעות but still, it hurts when you come accross these people.

  9. Maybe he wanted to hold on to a bit of his former identity... or maybe he didn't want others to look at him and make assumptions. This is always a danger in Israel, and something I find very challenging.


  10. "I always wonder what they say in these "magical shuirim". Im still waiting for that one shuir"

    You've probably heard variants of that shiur many times, starting at an early age. By now could give an at least mediocre version of it yourself if pushed to. You have completely internalized it, but you have also thought of excuses to avoid a few of its most challenging implications.

    It is the shiur that convinces you of the value of keeping the Torah.

    It's not the shiur that convinces you to spend your entire life in kollel. (Though it does often convince people to spend some time in yeshiva - but generally, not the rest of their life.)

  11. "The story is about a secular man, who had become frum, but refused to wear a yarmulke."

    It should be mentioned that it is common for Israelis without kippot to show a good degree of religiosity - keeping kosher to a significant extent and using "baruch Hashem" etc in conversation.

    And among the sefardim it is even more accepted to go around without a kippah, but putting one on for tefilah and birkat hamazon and so on.

    Obviously Lev Leachim thinks that all these people should be wearing kippot (and I agree). But I assume this man is drawing on the norms of Israeli society as a while and does not see a sometimes bare head as indicating a complete divorce from religion.

    This, in conjunction with the motivations mentioned in the story.

  12. I remember as a madricha in Israel having a young hanich from America in Israel for the summer. He was completely not religious, who was so excited to be amongst 'his people' that he started to wear a kippa to show his 'Jewish identity'.
    And he continued to wear it - while he ate his treif food, while he was mechalal shabbat in public etc.
    I wasn't sure if i should say something to discourage hime - when he was clearly so excited about his new found identity. But in the end I did explain to him what it means to people in Israel when someone wears a kippa and the responsibility it entails. After a day or two he took it off - and i was relieved, but still kinda disappointed...
    We make such assumptions based on what people put on their head. (Women too)

  13. rw, I'm no rav but I would think that we should be encouraging MORE mitzvot--not discouraging the ones that are done. Instead of suggesting that wearin a kippah while eatin treif is makin a statement about frum people--why not appeal to his jewish pride and identity and tell him a bit more about his soul? Yknow, the one that makes him jewish..and the one that craves another mitzvah.

  14. rw:

    Definitely true for women. Oy. Yes, there is a whole identity piece associated with clothing. But is that all? Don't think so.

    Best solution I can think of: Get to know someone for real, so we can get past the outside, and integrate it with who they are on the inside.

    As for being someone's "project:" My REAL mentors, the ones who opened their doors for me, night and day, and for whom I always felt the feelings and support were mutual (they had me over for meals, taught me lots and lots, encouraged me in everyone way, while I watched their kids, helped with household tasks, etc), they are still good friends, we keep in touch (despite each of our busy lives) and I still love them. I was never "just" a "project." What a great, living model.



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