Matzav, reports the following story:
Rav Shlomo Levenstein, a gabbai of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, recently spoke at a bar mitzvah of twin boys whose father was niftar over Pesach. Rav Levenstein related the following incident. A young man who lacked interest in limud haTorah went to Rav Shteinman and asked him, “Would the rov like a steak or ice cream?” Rav Shteinman, apparently not knowing what either of these items are, asked the young man what he meant. The young man replied that these items are delicious foods. Rav Shteinman responded that he doesn’t want them. The young man, with a streak of wit, said to the senior gadol that he is offering him foods that all people consider to be delicious and appetizing and yet Rav Shteinman does not have any interest in them. “If so,” said the man, “I, who have no interest in learning Torah, can feel that way even though everyone says that Torah is sweet and enjoyable. So why must I be forced to learn Torah?” Rav Shteinman smiled at the young man and told him, “If you give someone honey and they tell you that it is bitter, then he has sores in his mouth.”It is not the honey that is lacking sweetness, explained Rav Shteinman. It is the person’s mouth that is the cause of the bitterness. “The same is with learning Torah,” said Rav Shteinman. Those who do not want to learn Torah have sores – i.e., lashon hara – in their mouth, and they therefore have no desire to learn Torah.”
Of course, the follow up comments were along the lines of “Gevaldik!” — the sort of line you’d hear down at a Lakewood Kollel and the like. After reading it I had four thoughts:
- Take the story with a grain of salt (I think that might burn the mouth too) as it might well be untrue
- Are there not upstanding individuals who do not speak Lashon Hara or use bad language and for whom Torah is not a subject of interest?
- Did this clever retort have a positive outcome. Would the person have thought “Yes, he’s right, now I’ll learn Torah”. I think not
- A different form of Kiruv (Chabad Style) would have invited the guy to indeed share some Steak and (parve) Ice Cream and farbrenged with him trying to make him feel better about himself.
It’s times like these when I’m convinced that I’m either on another planet or (perhaps more likely) I am so far removed from such levels of spirituality that I can’t digest them.