People often assume that ethical conduct is inherently unstrategic- that the two form disparate, often contradicting spheres of endeavor. For sure, they are often at odds with one another, and proper conduct requires a leap of faith in Hashem- that He would never give us laws that are impossible to follow. In contrast, when we work to  fulfill the mitzva of Ahavat Israel- helping another Jew physically and/or spiritually-there are many examples of how the right thing to do is also the most strategic. While everything comes from Hashem, there are rules by which He usually chooses to abode by- laws of nature and of human organizational behavior. As we work to strengthen our communities by welcoming other Jews to take a more visible role, it's all about relationships- this is the most powerful strategy that we have.

That’s why raw numbers at an event often don’t matter - its quality over quantity. The only way to help a Jew is by taking a genuine interest in their lives, and forming friendships without an ‘agenda’ of any sort. Instead, we fight our natural egocentrism by shifting the focus from ourselves to them, which means being attentive to their particular needs.  People sometimes forget about this, and focus on themselves- like the Lubavitcher Rebbe's example of a Jew who learns from his fellow that he/she is hungry, and they respond "I am a great Torah scholar! Let me teach you Torah."
It’s all about the kavanna, the motivating intention- for us to be effective, it can never be limited to the desire for people to be more like us, etc. etc. We all fall prey to this- our egos try to hijack our minds and make it all about us, particularly once we enjoy some sort of success. It’s really hard, but taking an agenda-less interest in another is the mitzva of loving your fellow Jew, and the key to true success. Although we are not able to measure our degree of accomplishment, it is a fact that people pick up on our degree of sincerity on conscious and subconscious levels. .
"As water reflects a face back to a face, so one's heart is reflected back to him by another." Mishlei (27:19)
Note that this quote from Kind Solomon talks of matters of the heart, as opposed to the ways in which we express our feelings. It’s really hard, but taking an agenda-less interest in another is the mitzva of loving your fellow Jew, and is the key to true, revealed success in outreach and community building.

May we soon merit to go to Jerusalem with Moshiach and the ENTIRE Jewish people!
PS for additional information on  the sorts of tactics needed in this spiritual war, check out chapter Lamed Beis of Tanya (Lamed Beis signifies the number thirty two, but spells the word for heart in Hebrew)


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    Yaakov Grossman is a Jewish educator, author, private tutor/child care professional, and student in the Metro New York area. Professional inquiries should be addressed to

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    September 2011
    August 2011


    Modern Orthodoxy