It suddenly hit me last week as I was reading Rabbi Moshe Grylak’s latest piece on emunah how terribly unappreciated he is. Because he has been turning out penetrating columns on a regular basis for over forty years we have come to take him for granted. In our minds, that’s his job: to force us to think a little more deeply and clearly. And after a while one just comes to expect him to keep doing his job.
And because he does not write with titles like HaRav HaGaon in front of his name it is easy for us to ignore the depth of his thought and the magnitude of his impact. Perhaps only the hundreds of groups of ba’alei teshuvah whom he has addressed over the years fully appreciate him because they are totally unprepared for a chareidi who speaks at once from a stance of one thoroughly grounded in the mesorah and as a thoroughly modern man – and with passion, humor and common sense all added.
Last year, prior to Pesach, Rabbi Grylak provided a full blueprint on the acquisition and maintenance of good middos with his Introspection. And this year before Pesach, he appears to have single-handedly decided to wage war with the torpor of our avodas Hashem and restore an intensity of faith to those for whom “chareidi” has become the description of a lifestyle, not of a fully examined and contemplated life.
His call last week to cast aside the answers to the fundamental questions of Jewish life that we were given when we were five years old because we lacked the capacity at that age to understand anything deeper echoed laments I have heard from Rav Moshe Shapiro, shlita, about the fact that so many still learn Chumash with their five-year-old conceptions intact. But Rabbi Grylak does not just come to criticize; he also shows us the way. His reflections on the niflaos habrios reminded me of a brilliant series of articles (later published in book form, I believe) by Rabbi Avrohom Katz, dean of the New Seminary in Gateshead on that subject. How valuable it would be if our children were the beneficiaries of science courses that exposed them to the uncanny precision of every detail of the Creation.
While we are on the subject of emunah, I will share here the two answers that I offered to the young man who asked me how I know that G-d exists. As I wrote in last week’s Outlook, I do not for a moment claim that these are the best reasons; they just happen to work for me and I thought they would be comprehensible to a non-frum young Jew as well. My first reason was historical: History’s greatest story is the survival of the Jewish people – a lone lamb among seventy wolves – and the realization that the element that has survived in the highest percentages has always been those who remained faithful in the observance of Torah and its study.
The second thing I told him was that as one lives a life of mitzvos and the discipline entailed one feels ever more strongly the Tzelem Elokim within oneself. The more we experience our own capacity for kedushah and purpose in our lives the more we become aware of the Tzelem Elokim within us, and thus of the existence of Hashem, Who breathed of Himself into Adam HaRishon and implanted eternal life within him.