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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Can you convince someone to believe?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 20

We live in spiritually tragic times for our people.  With every demographic report, we find fewer and fewer Jews affiliating with their heritage.  Our mission, as committed, dedicated Jews, is to convince our brothers and sisters of the importance of Judaism to their lives.

But how can you convince somebody of something they don’t believe in?  Either they believe or they don’t.  And if they don’t, what’s the use in trying?

Rabbah taught: If two people know testimony, but one forgot, the other may remind his friend.

Rabbi Ashi had knowledge of testimony relating to Rabbi Cahana.
He said to him, “Do you remember the matter?”
He replied, “No.”
Rabbi Cahana continued, “Don’t you recall that such and such took place?”
Rabbi Ashi responded, “I don’t know.”

Eventually, Rabbi Ashi remembered and testified.  He noticed that Rabbi Cahana was confused.
He said to him, “Do you think I’m relying upon what you said?  Of course not.  I gave the matter much thought and finally remembered.” 

We all stood at the foot of Sinai when the Almighty declared, “I am the L-rd, your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt.”  We all sat under the Holy Throne in Heaven as souls before we came into this world, hearing our Divine mission in this world.  We were all there.

But some of us forgot what happened.  Some souls forgot the testimony.  And so Rabbah teaches us that we should remind our friends of the testimony.  We have an obligation to tell our brothers and sisters what happened at Sinai, what happened under the Holy Throne.

But the key is that the aim is not to convince them of something they don’t believe in.  They were there, you just need to remind them.  And if they focus hard enough, just like Rabbi Ashi, they will remember.

Let me share with you an incredible idea that Rabbanit taught us all recently at PI@BI (Prophetic Inspiration at Beth Israel).  Emunah doesn’t mean blind faith.  Maimonides tells us that the obligation is “to know that there is a G-d.”  Not to believe, but to know.  Knowledge comes from experience.   Knowledge comes from thought and focus.  You can’t convince someone to believe but you can convince them to stop and think why they’re here.  Most people go through life without ever bothering to think.  Your job is simply to remind them to be focused.  And they will remember.

You don’t need to convince anyone to believe.  They were there.  May you merit the opportunity to remind our brothers and sisters to simply stop and think.  They will remember and become a source of blessing to themselves, to you, and to the people of Israel!  

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