6 Questions for Rabbi Manis Friedman, dean of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies, popular Torah teacher of international repute and author of the successful series “It’s Good to Know.” Rabbi Friedman was in town for several speaking engagements during which we were able to get in a few questions.
Interviewed by Rebecca Klempner
1) Now that we are in Adar Alef, what do you think are the best ways to create extra simcha?
Simcha increases ahava. When you’re really happy, you want even your enemies to be happy. And the reverse is true – love increases happiness. That’s the idea of Purim: we’re sharing food, giving to the poor. When we show love to other people, we become happy.
I’ll tell you a secret: when the people around you look good, they seem good in your eyes, you must be happy.
2) We’re entering the part of the Jewish year when we speak of geulah, yet current events make many of us nervous. Redemption seems far away. What is the number one thing in your opinion that a Jew can do in order to hasten the geula?
The same thing we always do. There are no gimmicks or shortcuts. Increase mitzvos, one at a time, ahavas yisroel, and Jewish pride. Unfortunately, Jewish pride is really lacking right now. We’re afraid to be different from those around us. There’s no reason to be afraid.
And we should always remember that it’s all happening for our benefit. I know that sounds mysterious, but it’s true.
2) You’ve spent a lot of your career teaching Jewish women. How do you feel a Jewish woman can maximize her potential?
Woman have a great influence on the world as a whole. The standards women set will determine where men rise to. If they keep their standards low, men will not lift themselves up. A little more dignity, a little more eidelkeit – these raise the level for everyone.
We should all also keep our eye on the goal: to make the world a holier place. Our goal should not be fame, not making money…Increase good and turn away from the bad.
Women’s goals and ambitions should be cosmic, not personal. They should consider how they can make the world a holier place.
4) You spoke a little earlier about ahavas yisroel. Many years ago, you spoke at Aish here in L.A. on that topic. What concrete steps do you feel Orthodox Jews can take towards that goal?
We should know that we are totally interdependent. What happens to Jews elsewhere in the world affects us here. There are no private citizens.
When we see a Jew, we should always say an encouraging word, something meaningful. Move people up a step a little higher from where they were a moment ago. After 2000 years of galus, it’s natural to be discouraged. Lots of Jews are discouraged. We need to support each other. We’ve got to get to the tipping point were kedusha outweighs tumah.
5) Years ago, when I was a new baalos teshuvah, I read your book Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore? Given the state of popular culture today, do you feel your message made a difference?
It made a difference for those who read it – but not enough people read it.
We must rediscover intimacy. We have no choice but to rediscover the kedusha of marital intimacy. We have to get rid of pornography…it’s a scourge, and it’s entered even the nicest of homes. What’s going on in Jewish homes never used to even enter the minds of most people. That’s why I decided to make my film that just came out. [Referring to his recent movie, “The Lost Key,” in which Rabbi Friedman teaches kabbalistic insights into marital intimacy.]
6) I was just going to ask about that. What led you to publicly tackle a topic that is normally private?
All the years of not talking have backfired…It’s an emergency condition we’re in, and we have to do something unusual to remedy it.
What has the response to the movie been like?
Pretty much as I expected. Many people were shaken by it. It is different. Generally speaking, the people who have seen it were inspired and felt changed by it. It is a little revolutionary [but people are ready for it.] Some people are shocked by where we are today. They want their lives back.