Many times I’ve seen zealous communists turn into religious Jews. Jews are inherently messianic, and long to reform societies for good. Once they saw redemption in communism, but after they were disappointed in that shining path, some turned to religion. Moshe Sneh, the late leader of Israeli communists, left a surprising testament declaring atheism to be nonsense.

I’m more concerned with another type of leftist—the cold cynics, equally unconcerned with social justice and religion. Even they long to fill their empty spiritual lives, and I know of many cases when rational minds, cold atheists, suddenly turned to religion upon encountering a very peculiar human being, the rarest of Jews: a truly believing rabbi. I’m blessed with knowing a handful of such wonderful people, and have witnessed instant conversions when rational people with excellent secular education were infected with Judaism after a thirty minute talk.

faith is contagious

Mass education doesn’t convince anyone. People are turned to particular ideas in two ways. One, massive propaganda by demagogues. Their rhetoric is always cheap, aimed at the mob’s lowest common denominator. They turn the masses into zealots, but their zeal doesn’t last long. In Russia and Iran, disillusionment came in just decades.

The second way is by intimate communication in which an honestly, totally, unquestionably believing rabbi inspires a few other Jews. Such efforts cannot be duplicated on mass scale, and cannot be carried out on DVD or TV broadcasts. They require a spark of the personal touch.

But where do we find such rabbis? They mostly belong to the bygone generation whose faces, not of this world, shine at us from old photographs. Our generation is much colder, though a few such wondrous rabbis are there. This type of rabbi doesn’t appear in large cities or in the global village permeated by mass media. They are a unique product of small homogeneous Jewish communities, ultra-comfortable in the moral sense, where people share values and loyalties, and big-city neuroses are unknown.

The next generation of real rabbis can only come from the settlements.