On Sunday evening, March 12, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, well-known speaker, spoke at Torah Center of Hillcrest on staying religious in a secular world, in commemoration of the yahrzeit of Eliyahu ben Istam Nisanov a”h. The shiur was sponsored by his sons, Yaakov and Baruch Nisanov, and hosted by Chazaq. The shiur can be viewed on TorahAnytime.

Robbie Aboff, Events Coordinator of Chazaq, greeted everyone. He noted that the Nisanov family sponsors a shiur every year in memory of their father.

Yaakov Nisanov, son of Eliyahu Nisanov, shared a d’var Torah.

Then Rabbi Rietti spoke. He said that “secular” means removal of religion and removal of G-d. A secular society has values minus G-d. The good news is that this is not a new challenge. Our society today is quickly moving in the direction of removing mention of G-d in what is ostensibly a Christian society. Millions of Christians are in an uproar over what is going on.

He shared how frum public school teachers are finding their jobs threatened because they don’t want to teach these deplorable values. They aren’t allowed to say, “boys and girls.” In every education course, teacher trainers are pushing an agenda to promote these immoral values. Children have access to these ideas through any device in the home. Thousands of good boys and girls are on devices at night. They can detour filters and they get their minds poisoned. Our healthy children are confused.

Every movie today includes same-gender marriage. They are trying to make this the new normal. The world is not just secular, but it’s in a direct battle with G-d as the target. It’s the final war. Purim reminds us that the last 2,400 years Hashem wants us to know that we are in an upside-down world. Hashem’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah, yet “megillah” means revealed and He is orchestrating all the events.

There are no coincidences. In Adar we should increase joy. Happiness can’t be based on something external, because that external thing can disappear. Rather, happiness needs to be based on love of Hashem, which is eternal. Hashem gave us clarity. We see that through all the various exiles and persecutions, the Jewish people have survived. “Galus is a mental dislocation when we don’t include G-d.”

He pointed out that there are no Romans or Greeks around, yet we, the Jewish people, are still here. Hashem promised us upfront that we would survive. The soil in Israel won’t produce for any alien because it is related to us. Studying history, we can see that we have been in this type of situation before. Hashem’s promise should give us courage. We know that he never abandoned us. As He kept all the promises until now, so, too, He will keep the promise of g’ulah. We will be so great that all the nations will be blessed through us. This was the promise given to Avraham. We will be a light unto the nations, and we will be few in number. In history we have produced great tzadikim who taught the world about caring for the downtrodden and the widow and the orphan. They also taught about honoring parents.

Rabbi Rietti emphasized that we are still here holding onto the 613 mitzvos. The good news is that we are getting close to g’ulah. “I know where I came from, and I know whom I am part of.”

We have extraordinary resilience. Is there any other people persecuted and hated like us? Our response is to rebuild. In every area where we live, we enrich that civilization.

He then spoke about the ultimate filter. Today, we are surrounded by immorality and its hard to hide it from our children.

What is the thing we should guard the most? Shlomo HaMelech taught that its my heart, which according to Rabbi Rietti means “my mind.” He taught that “our children need our clarity more than ever, and our children need our smile and simchas ha’chayim more than ever.” We have to show them that we are happy because G-d is in our world. Our biggest gratitude is that He has always been in our world and He is our power forever. Our children need us to be role models of simchas ha’chayim despite the secular world. May Eliyahu ben Istam’s neshamah have an aliyah and may his family be comforted. The community thanks the family for this inspiring shiur!

By Susie Garber