Shabbos at Rinat
We visited Plainview for Shabbos. We came because Rabbi Mann, who knows us for many years, thought that the program Rinat was having that Shabbos would be meaningful to us. That’s the kind of Rabbi that Rabbi Mann is. His special brand of chessed is very Abrahimic in that he loves Torah so much he has devoted his life to helping people appreciate its wisdom. There is a void in the community that Rabbi and Rebbetzin Mann left for Plainview, and I thought that I would feel ambivalent seeing them in their new community and feeling our loss. But after experiencing the atmosphere of a Shabbos at Rinat, I can see that he and the congregation have created something special.
Plainview itself is lovely. There are trees and beautifully manicured lawns and it seems like there is a playground on every other corner. As we strolled around in the afternoon, we enjoyed the relaxed pace of a long Shabbos in suburbian sunshine.
There is a welcoming warmth and intellectual energy bustling in the shul. The davening is quiet; people daven, not talk. During the kiddush afterwards (there is a kiddush every week), my children delighted in the fruit, salad, bagels, and cake. Every body was friendly. There is a real sense of community that beckons a person to join and be part of it. Rebbetzin Mann is her caring and gracious self, and people respond to her warmth.
We attended the class between mincha and ma’ariv. Rabbi Mann has a unique lecture style. Actually, he doesn’t lecture. Part stand-up comic and part Socrates, the congregation alternately laughs and debates with him, ultimately coming away enlightened. We discussed the relevant topic of Lifnei Iver, giving advice to someone that is not in his or her best interest. Never before have I seen a congregation that was so involved in a shiur. The congregants are true participants, taking responsibility for acquiring Torah for themselves, under the expert guidance of their Rav.
Instead of giving a drasha in the middle of davening on Shabbos morning, Rabbi Mann speaks after davening. The congregation has an aura of anticipation after davening, as though something exciting is about to happen. Which it does. Rabbi Mann speaks about topics that are both fundamental and fascinating. This is also the time when Rinat has speakers for their special programs.
When we were there, Tzvi Binn spoke about the program EFRAT, an organization devoted to preventing abortions in Israel. My husband and I were startled to learn that there are 50,000 abortions a year. And the organization estimates that half of them are due to economic and social pressures that can be avoided with their support program. I was astonished to hear of something that claims more Israelis than terrorism. In fact, R’ Binn read us a heartrending letter of a couple whose 11-month-old baby was a victim of terror, and how this couple is determined to bring 1000 babies into the world in his stead. He also read us another letter from a mother who wrote to EFRAT on her daughter’s fifth birthday, thanking them. She talks about how much joy this daughter brings the family, and how she shudders every time she thinks that she could have actually aborted her. I was struck by the idea that, in preventing these abortions, EFRAT is really giving women “choice.” They specifically deal with women and families who are in conflict about abortion, who don’t want to abort their babies but are under financial pressure or emotional pressure. They help them make the decision that they really want to make. R’ Binn also made the point this is also many families’ first close contact with observant Jews, and it has a powerful kiruv effect that those who care so much are observant.
I thank Congregation Rinat Yisroel for bringing such a crucial issue to our attention. It was a pleasure to see a community so devoted to both learning and chessed.