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I was speaking with a nurse in a doctor’s office last Friday when mid-conversation, responding to something I said, she used the word “bashert.” The word made no sense in context and it was clear as she said it that her excitement to use the word in conversation with me far surpassed her understanding of what it meant.

My appointment concluded and I took the elevator down to exit the building. As it reached the ground floor, I turned to the other man in the elevator and wished him a good day. He responded, “you too,” and quickly added, “You are probably running to be home before sundown.” I checked the time, and it was 11:00 in the morning. I smiled and said, “Yup, need to head out,” wished him a great weekend, and went to my car.


As I drove back to Shul, I was reflecting on what happened and became riddled with guilt and shame. Two Jews had just “bageled” me, they used lingo or references to signal to me they are members of the tribe and what did I do? Nothing. I wasn’t rude, but I also didn’t jump on the opportunity, I didn’t follow through, create a connection, or plug them in.

The Gemara (Nidda 30b) teaches that throughout our gestation in the womb, we are studying Torah with a designated angel. When we are born, we are tapped on the lip and caused to forget what we learned. The Beis HaLevi explains that Torah can’t be spoon-fed to us, it can’t be casually downloaded into our brain or come easy. We have to work hard, toil, and earn our Torah knowledge. And so we are caused to forget and start from scratch when we are born.

But why be taught Torah in the womb to begin with if we are only going to be caused to forget? Rav Soloveitchik explains that while we forget the specifics of what we learned, the Torah that every Jew studied leaves an imprint and impression on the Jewish soul. It plants a pintele yid, a Torah spark, a Jewish identity inside us. When we are later exposed to Torah, it feels familiar, it seems like something we have studied before.

Without being overly dramatic, as I reflected on the interactions, I realized that two yiddishe neshamos, their holy Jewish souls, were screaming out, seeking a connection, and because of my reaction (or lack thereof), they came up empty.

These interactions were not isolated, they have been happening more and I don’t believe it is a coincidence. The events of October 7, and Israel’s ongoing war since, has awakened many Jews. The hearts of even the most secular Jews were broken. The pain all Jews share and the concern for the hostages and soldiers we have in common have made us feel connected not only with our Jewish and brothers in Israel and around us, but with the Jewish soul inside us. As antisemitism has exploded and Jew hatred has proliferated, some are asking themselves, what does it mean to be a Jew.

In concerning ways, the Jewish people are in crisis, but every crisis also creates an opportunity. We have a window now, but we don’t know how long it will stay open. We can and we should engage our fellow Jews, our brothers and sisters who are equally targeted with hate, to lean into their Judaism, learn more, explore more, practice more, live with more Jewish pride. Our enemies have created a Jewish awakening, and we must leverage it and take advantage of it.

The time is ripe for a campaign and coordinated effort to challenge our fellow Jews: If they hate us for being Jewish, find out more about what it means to be Jewish, why it matters, and what Jewish values and a Jewish life looks like.

The pintele yid, the beautiful, holy Jewish souls around us are waking up, feeling physically threatened but also spiritually dehydrated and malnourished. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are thirsty and hungry. They are increasingly “bageling” us. Their neshamas are screaming out to us. The question is are we ready, what will we respond, will we take advantage of the opportunity, and rise to the moment?

What could I have done when the nurse and man in the elevator were so interested in conveying to me that they are Jewish? I could have spoken to them about their Jewish identity and background and learned more about their upbringing and education. I could have engaged them on Israel and antisemitism. I should have connected them with our BRS Outreach Rabbi. I regret not inviting them to our Friday Night Live, to our Partners in Jewish Life, or to my home for a Shabbos meal.

If we don’t have a plan, if we don’t know what we would do or who we would connect someone with, when we are pitched by a fellow Jew we are going to strike out. Be thoughtful and plan. If you don’t have the vocabulary to engage a fellow Jew who is not affiliated or practicing, learn it. The number one reason our fellow Jews haven’t experienced a Shabbos meal is because they were never asked. Don’t wait to be bageled. Think of a co-worker, neighbor, family member and invite them. Gain greater understanding of what we do at our Shabbos tables so you can confidently host and answer the natural questions that will arise about why we say kiddush, wash before bread, and why we aren’t on our phones.

How can we say Avinu Malkeinu, address Hashem as our Father, and not feel his pain that the overwhelming majority of His children are estranged from Him. We must feel the pain of the Shechina, we must feel our pain that our people are not whole, and we should feel the pain of our fellow Jews who don’t even know they are in pain.

As threatening and dangerous as antisemitism has become, it pales in comparison to the negative and destructive impact of assimilation and intermarriage. Israel, antisemitism, and the Jewish people are in the headlines daily. We have an opportunity to do something about it. Next time you are “bageled,” what will you do?

{Reposted from the Rabbi’s blog}

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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 950 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States. Rabbi Goldberg’s warm and welcoming personality has helped attract people of diverse backgrounds and ages to feel part of the BRS community, reinforcing the BRS credo of “Valuing Diversity and Celebrating Unity.” For more information, please visit