During the pandemic a year ago, Mr. Robby Neuman, Founder of Chickens for Shabbos, approached Mr. Robbie Aboff, Events Coordinator for Chazaq, and suggested that klal Yisrael needed to turn Saturday night into Motza’ei Shabbos. We needed a special program to elevate our Motza’ei Shabbos. This suggestion catapulted Robbie Aboff to reach out to Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, well-known speaker and author, and Dr. David Lieberman, well-known speaker and author, and the amazing Chazaq program. “Turn Saturday Night into Motza’ei Shabbos” was born. Baruch Hashem, this program has reached its one-year anniversary with wonderful feedback and results.

This past Motza’ei Shabbos, Robbie Aboff interviewed Rabbi Goldwasser and Dr. David Lieberman about their thoughts and reflections about the past year’s Motza’ei Shabbos programs.

Rabbi Goldwasser shared that an overarching theme was t’shuvah. He praised Robbie Aboff and Chazaq for facilitating this platform, and then he shared one story that stood out for him. A 13-year-old boy called and informed Rabbi Goldwasser that he is not allowed to attend yeshivah. He then asked him if this program every week can be considered a shiur and if it could be considered that he is listening to a rebbe. Rabbi Goldwasser responded yes. He then asked Rabbi Goldwasser if he would be his rebbe. Rabbi Goldwasser shared that he doesn’t think there can be a greater accomplishment than that.

Dr. Lieberman shared that the theme that kept coming up was that the choices we make determine the quality of our life.” If you want to change your life, you have to change your choices.” A goal is to empower people with small steps so that they can move forward. Feeling you are a victim of circumstances is so demoralizing and paralyzing. It’s valuable to feel we can move forward. Hashem wants us to move forward, and t’shuvah is a means of taking responsibility. The more a person does t’shuvah, the more he comes to life.

Rabbi Goldwasser then shared something that happened over the year that made a strong impression on him. A woman who listened weekly to this program called him with a sh’eilah. Her husband was hospitalized with COVID-19 and she was told she could only visit her husband if she was completely covered in a protective suit with only her eyes showing. She was worried about appearing like this to her husband. Rabbi Goldwasser responded that the Gemara teaches that the kallah’s eyes are beautiful, so she is beautiful. He said you are a kallah for your husband. She told him that this comforted her.

Dr. Lieberman shared that being able to help people’s anxiety during the first wave of the pandemic was gratifying, as he received many calls from people who were anxious about the unknown.

Robbie Aboff noted how one of the biggest lessons in Judaism is consistency. He asked how this program, which is running week in and week out, has impacted each of the speakers.

Rabbi Goldwasser responded that it’s a victory. When Robbie first called and asked him to do this program, he assumed it would be for three or four weeks. Then it went on and on. “The beauty of this is that it just continues like Daf Yomi. It’s such a brachah. Thanks to Hashem, we’re able to do this. It’s a staple in people’s lives.” He added that, “it is beautiful, all the Torah that people are getting, as well as the treasure of psychological help from Dr. Lieberman. It should just continue. When Mashiach comes, the program will focus on that. It’s a weekly part of people’s schedules. It’s transforming.”

Dr. Lieberman shared that the fact the program comes every week demonstrates the power of consistency is extraordinary. Following through separates the good from the great – whether it’s a diet, working on a midah, etc. Consistency is the key. “You’ve got that water dripping on a rock that eventually makes a difference.”

Next, Robbie asked about feedback or calls that were memorable over the past year. Rabbi Goldwasser noted how in Pirkei Avos we learned to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. There was a call from a rebbe who had just heard that shiur and he had a question. He said there was a student who refused to bentch. Rabbi Goldwasser said that doesn’t mean he’s trying to be rebellious. Maybe he has a reason. After all, we have to judge everyone favorably, which includes our spouse, children, parents, etc. He suggested that the rebbe have a talk with the student and ask him about it. It turned out that this student could not eat bread due to an allergy and he was embarrassed, so he went through the motions of washing, even though he couldn’t eat bread. He knew it was forbidden to say Hashem’s name in vain, so that was why he didn’t bentch. This rebbe called Rabbi Goldwasser and asked him what he owed him for this. Rabbi Goldwasser told him to donate to Chickens for Shabbos and Chazaq or TorahAnytime. He added, “It was so important, that call, knowing we could make a difference in one boy’s life!”

This writer had the honor to interview Rabbi Goldwasser and Dr. Lieberman, reflecting on the impact of this program over the past year. Rabbi Goldwasser shared some main lessons learned from Pirkei Avos over the year. One was that midos are not just something nice but they are rules like mitzvos. The idea of not displaying anger, removing arrogance and jealously, and refining our personality are requirements. Midos are about character development. During the course of the year, people called with questions about these laws of character development and interpersonal relationships. He received questions like: Can I hate someone? Do I have to ask m’chilah if I’ve been wronged by someone?

In the area of shalom bayis, people called and said the ideas taught them that they needed to adjust their behavior. Rabbi Goldwasser explained that Pirkei Avos teaches us about shalom in families, shalom with the outside world, and shalom within oneself.

Another big theme was t’shuvah. No matter what someone has done in the past, he or she can do t’shuvah. This is an important concept in Judaism. ”It’s never too late and its always possible to come back to Hashem.” Another impactful lesson was the importance of Torah learning. We need to make sure everyone has a place to learn Torah no matter what their age. One girl from the South called Rabbi Goldwasser and shared that listening to this weekly shiur is her Torah class so it’s like she’s in a Jewish school.

Next, Rabbi Goldwasser shared that his favorite mishnah in Pirkei Avos is the following: “Turn it over and turn it over because everything is in the Torah.” A person searches for answers and all answers are in the Torah. It has the answers for all our challenges in life. He provided an interesting example. A businessman once called and told him he was having a problem with losing money in his business. He explained that he only visited the site a couple of times a year. Rabbi Goldwasser told him that the Talmud teaches that if you want to lose money, appoint people to oversee your business and you stay home. This man took this advice to heart and started going into the business. Slowly the money he earned climbed up.

Rabbi Goldwasser emphasized, “Torah is our direction. It keeps us plugged in and gives us chinuch. Torah trains us in all areas of our life.”

Dr. Lieberman shared main messages learned about relationships over the year. In our relationships, we have to remember that people don’t move forward from criticism or guilt but from knowing that we appreciate them and value what they do. The more we acknowledge what they do, the more they will be willing to do.

The next important idea is helping others to be heard. If someone comes with a complaint and we jump in with a solution or minimize the situation or we blame them, this is totally the wrong approach. We need to empathize and validate their feelings. We need to show that we understand they are in pain. This is powerful and healing to know someone is hearing us. We need to think how we can be more effective in our relationships by making small changes. He said, “This program is fantastic if people are being helped. I do it to reach people.” He thanked Rabbi Goldwasser and Robbie from Chazaq.

Rabbi Goldwasser said it’s been a great pleasure and merit to be with Dr. Lieberman and work with Robbie and Chazaq. “As we go into the second year, no one should give up on getting past a nisayon. Don’t give up. There is hope. We are a community together. We join with thousands. When we are part of a group, there is always hope. We are all a work in progress. Together we have merits. Let’s keep in mind with rockets thrown at Israel and the incidents in Meron and Givat Zev, I would like to say that this program should be a z’chus for klal Yisrael. Rav Shteinman zt”l taught that two things can stop terrible things from happening. These two things can protect klal Yisrael and bring brachah. They are g’milus chasadim and Torah. Our Motza’ei Shabbos program combines these two with guidance and direction to klal Yisrael and learning Torah.”

Klal Yisrael thanks Chazaq, Rabbi Goldwasser, and Dr. Lieberman for providing this beautiful healing platform. Hashem should bless you and all of us with continued success and clinging to Hashem and its merit should bring protection to klal Yisrael and Mashiach now!

Thank you, TorahAnytime, for streaming this program. To watch previous episodes from this series, go to www.TorahAnytime.com/Saturdaynight. Join us every Saturday night during the summer at 10 p.m. to be inspired by this series, by watching live at www.TorahAnytime.com/Chazaqlive  or by calling 718-298-2077 (extension 46).

By Susie Garber