Answers

  1. First, let me praise you on your effort to learn and maintain your connection with God and the Torah despite your responsibilities in college, and despite being in what sounds like a spiritually sparse environment.

    Ideally, a person should learn Torah, pray and perform the mitzvot with great understanding, purity and insight. This applies all the more so to someone who is in a position to ignite the flame of spirituality in others. His or her comprehension and spiritual state should be as perfect and pristine as possible. In this vein our Sages taught, “If a rabbi is like an angel of God, learn Torah from him; if he is not like an angel, don’t learn Torah from him”.

    However our Sages also taught, “In a place where there is no man, try to be a man” (Avot 2). If you are the only one who can have an influence in your surroundings, try your best. God directed you to that place for a reason and a purpose. God has obviously given you success, as people you talk to are interested. They can’t be blamed for not making the time to read or listen to the material you have – they’re under a big load.

    What can you do? Keep taking advantage of the spontaneous conversations at meals and around campus to spark their interest. Think about ways to make events around learning: You can arrange a discussion over pizza or schedule a video and the like. Be creative! Even if things start small or slow, don’t be discouraged. That gives you an opportunity to plan and gain confidence. It’ll grow — good people appreciate a wholesome alternative to keg parties.

    I’ll conclude with a beautiful analogy by the Chafetz Chaim:

    There was once a town whose benevolent governor required that all water be filtered from impurities before use. The town enjoyed better health and a higher standard of living than all other towns in the region. Then a fire broke out. Despite the efforts of the inhabitants, the town burned down. Afterwards, the governor found water in the wells. Perturbed, he asked the inhabitants why they weren’t able to put out the fire. The townspeople answered that as hard as they tried, they couldn’t manage to filter the water fast enough to extinguish the flames. The governor cried, “You fools! I required you to filter the water to maintain purity in normal times. But when fire breaks out, there’s no time to filter. Throw water with its impurities on the fire, the main thing is to put out the conflagration!”

    There is a spiritual conflagration out there threatening to destroy the Jewish people. Now is not the time to demand the ideal of purity and expect and accept only the highest standards. Every available person must give whatever Torah they’ve got to put out the fire.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team