The Community Shul Hosts Rabbi David and Mrs. Shulamis Charlop for Shabbaton
The weekend of Parshas Chukas, June 23rd-24th, The Community Shul of Los Angeles hosted Rabbi David and Mrs. Shulamis Charlop for a shabbaton with the theme “Bridging the Gaps.” Rabbi Charlop spoke three times on Shabbos day, then he and his wife spoke at a special breakfast on Sunday morning. All sessions covered topics touching on Rabbi Charlop’s recent book, Connecting Two Worlds (Mosaica Press 2018), his experience teaching at-risk boys in an Israeli yeshiva, as well as the baalei teshuvah experiences of both husband and wife.
On Shabbos morning, following kiddush, Rabbi Charlop addressed the topic of “Coping with the Death of a Loved One.” Rabbi Charlop lost his sister, Meg – a community activist known as “the Mother Theresa of the Bronx” – at 57 following a bicycle accident, so he spoke from first-hand knowledge. His emotionally intense presentation kept listeners riveted. His essential message is that we don’t get all the answers in this world, so trying to grapple with death rationally will likely fail, and offering intellectual reasons to others who have experienced a loss is disingenuous. Healing begins when we accept that we don’t know everything and will never know everything, but that Hashem does have reasons for what He does. Hashem sees a much bigger picture than we can see, encompassing the entire span of history, as well as past lives, future events, and the World to Come.
Before minchah, Rabbi Charlop presented on the topic of “Between Parents and Children.” Rabbi Moshe Cohen, the moreh d’asra of The Community Shul, introduced Rabbi Charlop, saying that this is an important issue for the entire Jewish community, not just baalei teshuvah or people whose children have left the derech. We are all a single community and even the most Chareidi individual is related to or will interact with those of a different level of observance.
Rabbi Charlop expressed the necessity of seeing things from the “other side’s” perspective. If we are baalei teshuvah, our parents had hopes and dreams for us which may have been left unfulfilled when we chose a different path. If our children chose to move away from Yiddishkeit, they may have grievances, sources of skepticism, or other struggles which make our lifestyle overwhelming. It’s our job to value the goodness, positive actions, and (even the smallest) Jewish practices of our non-observant relatives, and to treat them with respect and love. We must present a joyful and loving Jewish observance. It’s also important to ask shylos and get guidance rather than struggling with these issues on our own. Everyone is on a journey, and we don’t know where any individual will end up at the end of it.
His brief address at seudah shelishis reminded us to create our self-image based on ourselves, not on comparisons with others.
The following morning, both Rabbi Charlop and his wife spoke on the topic “Between Siblings – Frum and Not Frum.” Rabbi Charlop and Shulamis Charlop described their siblings and the tensions and pleasures of having siblings who do not share their lifestyle. They reiterated the importance of getting da’as Torah rather than confronting challenges on our own. Each situation has many facets, and we cannot be objective regarding our own troubles. Both Rabbi and Mrs. Charlop said that sometimes a little space is necessary, but you shouldn’t assume that the space is permanent or means you can’t be respectful and understanding. As Mrs. Charlop said, quoting a teacher of hers, “Many American Jews today have been ‘kidnapped by golus’ – that’s not the same as active rebellion.”
No easy answers were provided, but Rabbi and Mrs. Charlop’s authenticity and wisdom were mechazzek the members of the audience.