There is an easy method to spot a newcomer in a synagogue. After Hagbaha and Gelila, does the person head straight back to the Aron, or does he walk over to congregants for a chance to kiss the Torah?
While kissing the Torah is a known act of respect for the Torah in all Jewish communities, Halacha states it is prohibited to walk over and extend the scroll to the people’s reach.
The reason, as written in Pirkei Avot (1, 12), is “[One should] be of the disciples of Aaron – one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.
Meaning: One should draw others towards the Torah, and its Mitzvos, rather than bringing the Torah closer to them.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very clear in his directives on this topic as well, encouraging shluchim, Rabbis and organizations to be strong in keeping not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit at all times.
So what happens when regulars act like newcomers, over-reaching to others and leaving the spirit and laws of the Torah behind, all in the name of outreach?
It has been a while that frum institutions – not in far-flung cities and countries, but here in Crown Heights – are crossing basic boundaries in pursuit of fundraising and public relations.
Whether it be at social events which no longer have a frum, tzinusdik feel, at golf tournaments that hide the ’embarrassing’ fact the we are Lubavitchers, or promotional videos featuring only non-Jewish children, is this what we come to see from institutions founded by the Rebbe and aiming to “educate our children?”
What do I tell my children? Where does the buck stop?