July 30, 2015
Beis Moshiach in #983, Life on Shlichus

Thousands of Lubavitcher children live in the world of shlichus and are themselves, young shluchim. Nosson Avrohom, who is involved in chinuch, wanted to know about the challenges and difficulties, as well as the successes, associated with chinuch on shlichus. Together with Rabbi Erez Bendetovitz, shliach in southern Eilat, he analyzes the phenomenon. * Their conclusion: A child who is a shliach is on a higher level than other children his age.

It is accepted among the shluchim that the chinuch of the children of shluchim rests upon the Rebbe’s shoulders, i.e. is the Rebbe’s responsibility. Indeed, in countless stories, letters and responses, we clearly see the love and great responsibility that the Rebbe has for the young shluchim.

When you encounter the children of shluchim in our yeshivos and schools, you see how, despite the fact that many of them did not learn in traditional Chabad schools before, they are not lacking when it comes to understanding what is taught and in their Chassidishe behavior, as compared to their peers.

However, this does not come easily. Chinuch requires work and effort. For the shluchim who live in environments that are not Chabad, especially those who live abroad in non-Jewish environments, there are additional chinuch challenges.

We spoke with a shliach who is also involved in chinuch, R’ Erez Bendetovitz, rosh yeshiva of Tomchei T’mimim in Eilat, and one of the shluchim in that city.

What is the best way of educating children to a life of shlichus?

By the Nesiei Chabad, and especially by the Rebbe, we see that chinuch is a central issue in which they invested, perhaps more than anything else. We have Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch, the Tzivos Hashem organization, mivtzaim directed at children, and the founding of schools all over the world.

Shaar HaYichud V’HaEmuna in Tanya is called Chinuch Katan. In the first edition of Tanya, we see the word “missing” at the end of Shaar Ha’Yichud V’HaEmuna, indicating that the manuscript was incomplete. In later editions, the word was eliminated. The Rebbe refers to this and says that this word was removed by the Rebbeim because the numerous maamarim and sichos which they said filled the gap.

I thought of three educational approaches that we can learn from that one word the Alter Rebbe uses, “missing.” One approach: A father can come and say he is lacking, i.e. he did not learn in Tomchei T’mimim, he is busy working, he is an irritable, nervous type of person, and does not have the tools to educate his children. To a person like this the Rebbe comes and explains that through the numerous maamarim and sichos, this void will vanish. Go and learn and Chassidus will help you find your way.

A second approach is for people who want to provide their children with what they missed out on, or with what they lack, in their own chinuch. There are many parents who want to see their children succeed where they themselves failed, but this is a mistake. A child needs to receive a chinuch which will match his abilities and talents without being measured against someone else. So the word “missing” was removed. As the Rebbe writes, we have the teachings of Chassidus which will provide the correct balance and the right path to take.

Since the first two approaches tell us what not to do, I thought in a more homiletic vein of a third approach which also explains the word “missing.” We need to approach every issue in chinuch with the feeling that we are lacking, and just as someone who lacks something works to fill his needs, so too with chinuch. If a person feels he is lacking, he works constantly to improve, as the Rebbe said countless times, to go from strength to strength. Do not be satisfied with what was done until now. The work of chinuch is endless and when you are mechanech in this way, then you raise children that reflect the investment that was put into them.

This might explain how to be mechanech a child in general to Torah and mitzvos and the ways of Chassidus, but how do you train a child to shlichus?

In Igeres Ha’kodesh, the Alter Rebbe explains that the main influence a father has on his son is through the s’fira of yesod, hiskashrus through love and pleasure. The more a child grows up with love and delight, the more successful he will be.

Being on shlichus provides daily pleasure and delight. When I come home at night after a day of giving shiurim, conversations with mekuravim and after mivtzaim, I feel that I came back from a Chassidishe farbrengen with the best mashpiim and ziknei ha’chassidim. The advantage of a Chassidishe farbrengen is that it penetrates the hearts of the listeners and motivates them to change. The same thing happens when you are involved in spreading the wellsprings and answering people’s questions; with each question you think what is the Rebbe’s approach to this. The avoda of shlichus deals with the core issues of our lives in a practical way, and when the shliach returns home with this focus he returns with delight and pleasure. This is felt in the home and affects the children. A child growing up in a house like this, where the father comes home every day with delight and pleasure, cannot help but be influenced.

But still, being on shlichus could pose difficulties in raising children.

Shlichus cannot raise real problems; on the contrary, shlichus helps. The Rebbe says in one of the sichos that a shliach feels he wants to be in 770 and in a Chassidishe environment, and that is perfectly okay, but the situation requires us to go out on shlichus. So of course there are hardships. But they turn into challenges if we stick to the Rebbe’s derech.

Here is an example. Previously, Jewish women were at home more while the men went out to work, so that the chinuch in many families fell to the mother. But in Chabad, the Rebbe Rayatz and even more so the Rebbe, took women out of the home to spread the wellsprings. My wife is just as busy as I am in giving shiurim and having personal talks with mekuravos, so the time we have for the children isn’t much. It’s not just the father but the mother who is busy too.

When it comes to quantity, it is possible that those shluchim who are public figures, whose time is devoted to the public, are involved with their children far less than in other families. But there is no question that the quality compensates for the quantity. It is very important to make sure that the limited time the child has with his parents is quality time. Ultimately, a child who grows up in an atmosphere of shlichus, experiences the world of inner Chassidic meaning and content at a much younger age and in greater amounts. At the Shabbos table with mekuravim, questions arise and answers are given so that the chinuch he receives and is exposed to is more p’nimius’dik.

We know that there are shluchim whose financial situation isn’t good. Can this affect a child so that he thinks, when I grow up I don’t want to live like this?

I disagree with your premise that financial difficulties can adversely affect chinuch. In one of the early years of my coming to Lubavitch, a few of us bachurim were hosted by a family in Kfar Chabad. Apparently, they were not expecting us and there was not enough food. I will not forget how the father took his own plate and served it to one of the bachurim. His son, who sat near him, got the best chinuch for giving.

Obviously, and this is the view of the Rebbe, all Jews, especially shluchim, ought to live expansively. But even when there are constraints, it greatly depends on the shliach’s attitude. It’s a great opportunity to show the children how we deal with giving even when it’s hard, even when the animal soul gets no enjoyment out of giving. It’s an opportunity to teach how we manage with little and are full of emuna and simcha despite the situation. When a child is exposed to this approach, the financial situation does not ruin the atmosphere.

You live in Eilat and are surrounded by neighbors who are not religious and it’s a city where the religious presence is not that prominent. How do you protect your children in this kind of decadent environment?

I must honestly say that we have no guarantees against the influence of the street. Whoever thinks we do is mistaken. Our job as parents on shlichus is to raise our children to be careful of the effects of the street. We teach them that our role is to transform the darkness of the street into light. My young son, from a very young age, lives with the feeling that he is mashpia and not mushpa (influenced). At the same time, what helps a lot is when the children are exposed every day to Jews who came from the street and take an interest in Judaism. The children are exposed to the entire process of becoming baalei t’shuva. A guy who comes with earrings and a ponytail and within a few months is wearing a yarmulke, and after several more months he is growing a beard and he buys a suit and hat, or a woman who starts covering her hair, these, along with the obvious conclusions, are engraved in the souls of the children.

I recently read the research of a sociologist from Bar Ilan University. An entire chapter of her work is devoted to the children of shluchim. She avers that the children of shluchim are more diligent and pious in Torah and mitzvos than their peers.

What about loneliness? The nearest Chabad community to you is in Beer Sheva, three hours away.

On shlichus there is a price you pay. We work in Eilat and it is not easy. For children who are in distant locations, loneliness is definitely the hardest part. But the online shluchim school that we have is very helpful.

We send the children to Chassidishe summer camps and a few times a year they go to their grandparents in Kfar Chabad where they experience Chassidishe community life. Sometimes, relatives visit us and the children greatly look forward to these visits.

There are a few baal t’shuva families with young children who live here. My wife and I spend quality time with our children every Motzaei Shabbos and it is very important and helpful. The boys play games and spend a lot of time together. The isolation, relative to life in a community, is felt very much and we try to overcome it.

To what extent are your children involved in shlichus? Is it proper to expose them to the work of shlichus at a young age?

Our children are our secret weapon on shlichus. Our main occupation on shlichus is to be mekarev people and when an irreligious couple is sitting at our Shabbos or Yom Tov table and I hear them say that they too want to have an experience like we have of a Shabbos table with children who help set up and clear off, who say divrei Torah and speak politely, then I know we are halfway there and soon another Chassidishe family will join Lubavitch.

The children join us on Mivtza Lulav, Chanuka, mishloach manos, etc. and it’s powerful. People see that even the next generation is involved in shlichus, and it is very effective.

We adults often find it hard to have an impact, and then come the children and with their innocence they are more successful than we are. My daughters give out Shabbos candles every week near the supermarket and I have heard from women who were impressed by them saying they will light Shabbos candles. Think about what effect this has on the girls.

When I walk with a child, holding his hand as I go to shul, dressed in my Chassidishe garb, it makes an enormous impact. I constantly hear about it from people who say it reminds them of other times in their lives and inspires them. The sight of a father and son walking hand in hand to shul makes them jealous and want to copy us, for this parent-child connection is greatly eroded in the irreligious world.

In the sicha at the Kinus HaShluchim 5752 the Rebbe said that Moshiach needs to be part of everything. To what extent does being involved in Moshiach help raise a child on shlichus?

The chinuch to live with Moshiach is absolutely essential on shlichus. If we do not work to hasten the hisgalus of the Rebbe, from where will we get the strength to do what we do? When a child grows up in an atmosphere in which the Geula is an imminent reality and everything we do is directed at hastening it, then his entire experience of shlichus looks completely different.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.