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Yisrael Kenig

With a loving heart and an embracing kehillah, Dayan Rav Moshe Shtesel is rekindling chassidish souls that have gone cold

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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Rav Moshe Shtesel’s secret: Don’t look for happiness at the end of the road; instead, find joy in every moment of the journey, even in the hardships (Photos: Flash 90, PR Production)

S hea M., a chassidic young man who lives in Boro Park, remembers the first time he met Rav Moshe Shtesel, the man who would change his life. At the time, he was part of a quiet yet growing group who still looked chassidish on the outside, but whose sense of detachment from Yiddishkeit was growing daily.

One local askan, a man with a noble heart and a passion to help these estranged bochurim and young marrieds, tried to form a type of chaburah where they would learn with idealistic avreichim while enjoying good food and occasional inspirational speeches. But the young men didn’t really connect to their learning, and many of the avreichim, inspired as they were, didn’t really want to get into deep discussions about a world that was foreign to them. The askan eventually decided to dissolve the group, but wanted to make sure their final meeting together would give some type of spiritual food for thought.

“I wasn’t really into the group by then, but they said it would be the last meeting, like a farewell get-together, so I figured I could manage that and show my face in a goodwill gesture,” Shea remembers. But then Rav Moshe Shtesel arrived.

“Every Jew has a holy neshamah, and we can’t judge another person’s challenges or feel superior to the spiritual level where he’s holding. Our job is to be there for them”

“The truth is that we weren’t even interested in listening to speeches,” Shea recalls. “We had come from work, and we were tired. We didn’t know anything about him, and we didn’t really care. But when Reb Moshe began to speak, it took exactly two minutes for me to find myself drawn in. He didn’t talk about spiritual avodah. He didn’t make us feel that our lives were rotten, or that we were nebachs and drowning and needed spiritual chizuk. He gave us the tools to make quality choices, the kind of direction you’d pay a fortune for from a top coach.”

Shea’s friend Yoeli, a young married man with a few kids who he sent to the “right” mosdos, was also there for the farewell party — actually, he showed up at the very end, conveniently missing the program. “I got there just before Reb Moshe finished speaking,” he recalls. “Just before his usual concluding sentence, ‘May Hashem help… that we will see the arrival of the righteous redeemer.’ I said ‘Amen.’ I was pleased with my timing — I’d shown my face at the event, and I had also escaped listening to a speech. I went inside to talk to the chevreh, have something to eat, and ask my friend for a ride home, since I’d come straight from the city, without my car. But then, just as I was leaving, Reb Moshe came over to me and asked if I had a car. I told him I was getting a ride with a friend, and Reb Moshe asked if he could come along.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea — the last thing I wanted was for some ‘mashpia’ to ruin my night, but I didn’t have the nerve to say anything, especially since it wasn’t my car,” Yoeli continues. “I knew it was a bad idea, because before we even got underway, Reb Moshe said from the passenger seat, ‘What do you think about having a daily chavrusa?’ He was addressing the driver and me together. I was about to ask him to get out of the car, but my good manners told me to give him a chance.

“Look,” I said, “the two of us come from good homes, but today Yiddishkeit doesn’t really speak to us. What makes you think you’ll succeed where others have failed?”

Rav Shtesel, however, wasn’t fazed by the question. Instead, he asked them equally directly, “Why don’t you have a connection to Judaism? You know what, give me 15 minutes a day for one week, and we’ll work out the things that are disturbing you.”

The two bochurim answered, “Okay, you have one week.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 702)

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