(In this same class, Rabbi Wallerstein also taught a profound lesson on commitment from Ruth and Boaz and brought down a fascinating story from the Kav Hayashar regarding the Ramban.)
But first, Rabbi Wallerstein spoke about the tradition of a chatan/groom and kallah/bride to exchange gifts.
Showing How Much You Both Care
And He "remarries" us, so to speak, every year again on Shavuot.
But what do we, the kallah, bring?
“The biggest present you can bring to God is to break your nature for Him.”
(He heard this recommendation straight from Rav Kanievsky’s daughter at 41:45 in the class. She insisted that any female who lit Shabbat candles 10 minutes early would see miracles. You’re anyway supposed to light no later than 18 minutes before sunset, so it’s not clear to me whether she meant 10 minutes before the 18-minute mark, making candle-lighting 28 minutes before sunset.)
Anyone who works should leave work earlier than usual on Fridays (and make it up during the week).
Really, Rabbi Wallerstein said in the name of Chazal, it’s preferable to stop work by the earliest Mincha/Afternoon Prayer.
Of course, these are just suggestions. You can pick something that for you individually would be a very powerful gift to present to Hashem on Shavuot.
The Advice of a Real Gadol
Listen, I work in kiruv with kids. If the gadol hador could tell me one ingredient to use to really be successful in kiruv, Rav Chaim, what would you say?
And he didn’t answer me right away. He sat there for a moment. And he says…"Tefillah."
“Yeah. Get the person’s name—the mother’s name and the person’s name—and daven for them." That will do more than any speech or anything else.
Look, I thought he was going to say, "LOVE! Keep the door open!" You know, everything that’s very hot in kiruv…so I’m asking him…should we go to seminars? Should we go to projects and zachen and meises? Should we become kiruv professionals? You know…should we read books? Should we go to therapy?...What? What is it?
And he blew me away! Because it wasn’t the answer I expected. He’s like, "Get their name…and daven for them."
It wasn’t the answer I wanted either. Right? I wanted some, like, "boutique" answer.
How to Stop Juggling Bowling Balls
It seems that way…until you actually do it.
Okay, sure, if you think (like how I used to think) that davening is mouthing words (with or without kavanah) or just saying, “Please bring my daughter back to Torah and mitzvos” 100 times, then yes, that feels like nothing.
(Although even such tepid prayer still adds up at the end of the day.)
But when you really just sit down with God and start talking to Him, thanking Him for this opportunity, gushing to Him about how grateful you are that He’s so Available because for human officials, you need an appointment and the right appearance and certain courtesies…but with God, you can just sit down in your pajamas and start talking - well, that comes out in your own words from your heart.
And He really listens! He doesn’t just pretend like human officials often do.
And then you can talk about about how pained you are about the spiritual state of your child or yourself or your family member or your friend or that of the Nation as a whole.
And once you’ve gotten yourself worked up into that state, you can really beg from your heart for positive change and mercy.
And going back to what Rabbi Wallerstein mentioned before about the importance of breaking your nature, which is a way to do teshuvah and improve yourself, you can ask Hashem about what message He wants to give you or what you think you need to work on.
It’s not boring or repetitive or by rote.
Is it difficult? Kind of, yes—but kind of not.
It’s often very fulfilling. It's often cathartic in the healthiest way.
But most of all, it’s effective.
I have the same yetzer hara as anyone else in that I’ll feel like physically doing something or going somewhere is more effective and more “real” than sitting on a bed and emoting.
I call this kind of physical hishtadlut “juggling bowling balls.”
You exhaust yourself to keep all those big heavy balls in the air and feel like you’re doing something. People may even praise you for your strength and coordination, and you may secretly pride yourself on your accomplished juggling—such mesirut nefesh!
But the second you glance away or your arm weakens a tad, the balls come crashing down, causing injury to yourself and others.
Because those hard, giant balls came crashing down on me so hard so many times, it’s generally easy for me to shove the "boutique" answers aside and focus on prayer.
I mean, Hashem really slammed me with those bowling balls until I finally—finally!—got the message loud and clear.
And thank God. Because I see people who don’t get the message and who not only keep juggling, but also keep adding more and more bowling balls to the act (which is what I did too).
And their lives are a mess and just keep getting messier. (Just like mine did.)
Okay, my life isn’t so neat now either. But it used to be MUCH worse.
And even more wondrous, I'm often even happy.
And this is what Rav Kanievsky said. Not learning 2 halachot a day or a daf (although these are very important and necessary), not making sure you give 3 positives for every negative, not any specific "shitah"...
...just good old-fashioned bare-bones tefillah.
Because words taken out of context, especially in transcript, can come off very differently than when you actually hear them directly from the speaker within the context of the entire class, I strongly recommend you go to Torah Anytime and listen to the shiur yourself: