What is the biggest problem facing the Jews of Brooklyn today?
And the Jews in Manhattan?! And Jews everywhere?! In Lakewood too! The biggest problem facing us is how to be patur, how to free ourselves, from the influence of the environment. The number one issue is to be patur from the influence of our environment. וקבצנו והצילנו מן הגוים להודות לשם קדשך להשתבח בתהלתך – We ask You Hashem: “Gather us together and save us from the gentiles so that we can give thanks to Your holy name, to glory in your praise” (Divrei Ha’yamim I 16:35). Ribono Shel Olam, please save us from the goyim and the wicked Jews because that’s the worst problem of all. Even though we don’t read their newspapers and we don’t go to their schools. But the atmosphere is saturated with their shtus and their lies. And you can’t help yourself because, naturally, the majority surrounding you will have an unfavorable influence on your mind.
Therefore you have to work very hard by listening all you can to the emes, by hearing constantly all the good things and by filling your mind with the real Torah ideals. That’s how you can fight back. Otherwise, nothing will help. As long as you have a vacancy in your head – any vacuum in your mind – something is going to come in from the outside world. The outside world is what causes all kinds of losses, and the biggest loss of all is the loss of the true Torah hashkafa – proper Torah attitudes.
By the way, even when you go to a simcha today, its almost atheistic. Yes, atheistic! Where is Hakodosh Boruch Hu?!
תהלתו בקהל חסידים – Hashem’s praises are where the pious gather (Tehillim 149:1). In the place where chassidim gather, the praises of Hashem should be heard. When frum Jews come together the very first thing on the agenda should be tehillos Hashem, praising Hashem. Yes, you have to speak about Hashem. That’s the number one thing – tehillos Hashem. We’re here together today, so we have to talk about Hashem. You can dance before Hashem. You can drink wine before Hashem. You can eat karbonos before Hashem. ושמחת לפני השם – you can eat karbonos and rejoice when you eat the meat but it must be done lifnei Hashem.
Even if you go to sleep on Shabbos, it’s an oneg Shabbos. You must think, you must say “I’m going to sleep now on Shabbos for oneg Shabbos because there’s a mitzvah to celebrate the בריאת העולם יש מאין, that Hashem made this world out of nothing.” Yes, say that! “I’m going to sleep now for my oneg Shabbos to celebrate that Hashem created the world out of nothing.” That’s what Shabbos is for. When you eat the cholent on Shabbos. When you eat the challah on Shabbos. When you eat the chicken on Shabbos. Each time you eat you should say, “I’m eating for the purpose of celebrating briyas ha’olam yesh mai’ayin.”
Everything should be done for Hashem. It’s so important. And it’s a tragedy to live without Hashem in your mind.
TAPE # E-268 (March 2001) [One month before the Rav’s petirah]