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Wednesday
Mar022016

BACK TO BASICS

One day, I met someone from Crown Heights who told me that one of his children is a Reform Chassid.”  I asked him what he meant by this and he explained that although his son went off the derech he refuses to forego the experience of being with the Rebbe on Simchas Torah and Rosh HaShana.  He ignores his business affairs on those days just to go to 770.

I told him: You son still retains the “inner point.” Although he does not behave as he should in other respects, you should know that thanks to this inner point – the Rebbe – that is part of his spiritual DNA, he will come back. 

The young man married and his father invited me to the wedding.  Six months later I asked the father how his son was doing and he said: Boruch Hashem, after the wedding his wife told him, “The game is now up; until now we partied a little. But now we need to keep Shabbos, learn Torah, put on t’fillin, keep family purity, all the basics.”

The young man had stumbled but he always had burning within him a connection to the Rebbe and Chassidus so that he could not forego Rosh HaShana and Simchas Torah with the Rebbe.  With the strength of that connection that remained with him, he got back on track.

You should know that the core points that you instill in your children with all your strength remain with them forever.  Even if it looks as though the child is not absorbing it now, it makes no difference what the situation is, it will always penetrate and you can never know when and how he will come back.

There is the well-known exchange that took place in America at a time when it was very hard to keep Shabbos, when someone went to R’ Moshe Feinstein z”l and asked him how it was possible for someone who sacrificed to keep Shabbos and did not work on Shabbos, who was unemployed for a long time, to have all his children abandon Shabbos observance.  R’ Moshe answered: There are those whose children remained Shabbos observant and those who did not.  The question is how they kept Shabbos.  If the father rejoiced on Thursdays and said, boruch Hashem, Shabbos is coming, then the children remained shomrei Shabbos.  But if the father sighed and said, oy, Shabbos again, then his children said, our father is from the previous generation and if it is hard for him we will make life easier for ourselves and won’t keep Shabbos.

When a mitzvah is done with enthusiasm and warmth, it sinks in and remains with the children.  But if learning Torah is hard and every mitzvah becomes a burden, that’s a problem because the children will decide it’s better not to be observant.  When we are role models for our children, that has the greatest effect on them.  Instructions and orders won’t change a child’s life; the relaxed, warm atmosphere in the home is what will have the greatest impact on him.  Then, even if the parent points something out now and then, it will be accepted; but the rule in general is to be a role model.

WHAT DOES HASHEM WANT FROM ME NOW?

As Chabad Chassidim we know and try to see to it that every detail in our lives be infused with a sense of the ultimate purpose of life and of all existence, “Making Hashem a dwelling down below.” Whoever learns Chassidus and knows the truth and sees what the Rebbe demanded of us, concludes that he too must devote all his life toward “making Hashem a dwelling down below.” Consequently, he has no life to himself; life is all about doing what Hashem wants of us all the time.

There are those who say, we have our lives and our children have their lives. Of course we will take care of their needs, but the rest of the time we want to enjoy life. We can’t allow our children’s chinuch to limit us.

At every stage in life we need to remember what Hashem wants.  We need to be dedicated to our children’s chinuch, and when we know and live this idea of making Hashem a dwelling, life is altogether different.

I’ve already mentioned that the Rebbe taught many lessons in chinuch from the prayer of Chana.  In her prayer she asks for children and she says: Master of the universe, everything You created in the world is for us to use “to serve my Maker.” I want to serve You with all parts of my body and cannot since I do not have children.

Hashem blessed her and she had children.  When it came time to go to the Beis HaMikdash, she did not go, as much as she wanted to, because she thought - What does Hashem want of me now? Hashem wants me to care for my baby now! Although she could have hired a nanny, if Hashem wanted her to raise her child, she was happy to do so.

When a Jew realizes that at every stage in life he needs to think, what does Hashem want of me now, he feels calm and at peace with his avodas Hashem.  He does not complain about the burden and stresses of raising children; on the contrary, he is proud and happy about the great privilege of being able to raise the Tzivos Hashem.

It is told about Rabbi Aharon HaGadol of Karlin that he went to the wedding that his brother made for his son.  At the wedding, his brother danced and rejoiced and R’ Aharon asked him why he was rejoicing so much.  His brother said: What’s the question? I am marrying off a child!

R’ Aharon HaGadol said: Ivan the gentile also dances when he marries off his son. How is your rejoicing different?

His brother caught himself and realized that his simcha had a deeper aspect to it. It wasn’t only the privilege of being able to marry off a son, but being able to perpetuate the chain of generations of the Jewish people, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” the continuation of all the generations going back to the holy Avos.  When you think this way, all of life takes on a different significance.

The same is true with chinuch. When I go home and see my children, I need to rejoice that I have children who are a part of the holy nation whom Hashem chose.  What possible difficulty can there be in such a lofty mission? Why would I ever need a break? This is the greatest joy! It’s not that I have my life and my children have their lives and now and then I need to take a break from my business and see what’s going on with them; on the contrary, we are one and have one goal, to make a dwelling for Hashem here below.

A CHILD MUST KNOW HE IS PART OF THE PURPOSE OF CREATION

When I was recently in Boro Park, someone came over to me and said, “I think the dropping out problem is because we are lacking the fundamentals of Judaism.”  He told me that he even approached some g’dolim and said this.  And it’s true! Because a child who is connected to the Rebbe, who is instilled with what the Rebbe taught, i.e., that he is part of the goal of creation, that he is a holy neshama, that he is supremely precious, that there is no estimating his greatness, then even when he is faced with a test and the evil inclination rules him temporarily, he knows that for now he is not okay, but he also knows how to fix it.  The dropping out today is a result of not knowing these fundamental ideas.

STORIES OF TZADDIKIM – THE SOUL OF CHINUCH

One of the things that our Rebbeim tell teachers to do is to tell stories of tzaddikim.  It’s a must when it comes to children’s education.  The Rebbe Rayatz writes in a letter: A melamed has two parts that he teaches, the curriculum which includes reading, Chumash, Mishnayos, and Gemara; and then there is “the service of Torah,” how it is put into practice.  For example, someone who learns halacha without doing shimush as an apprentice to a rav, can’t be a rav.  He must develop hands-on experience in dealing with practical, real-life questions.

The Rebbe says that the “service” in Judaism is transmitted through stories of tzaddikim. That is the neshama of chinuch.  The Rebbe Rayatz says that stories draw out the essence of the soul.  If you see something in a child that you want to correct, there are two approaches.  One way is to give orders.  The other way is not to speak about it at all but to tell stories about the subject.  Today, there are numerous storybooks about tzaddikim. We need to sit down and tell stories of tzaddikim to our children.  Children love to listen to stories and a story has the power to open the heart and soul of a child.

Thirty years ago, I attended a family simcha in Vizhnitz in Monsey but I davened at the Chabad shul, which at that time had a very small minyan.  After the davening there was a farbrengen and they asked me to tell stories.  I sat there and told some stories about the Rebbe.  I did not know the people there. 

Some years went by and a distinguished family from Monsey moved to Crown Heights.  I spoke to the father and he told me – you know why I came to Chabad? One Shabbos I happened to daven at the Chabad shul in Monsey.  You were at the farbrengen and among the stories you told there was one story that really grabbed me, and it was this story that brought me to the Rebbe.

Today, this man has children and grandchildren who are Chassidim of the Rebbe.

There was a boy who wanted to attend the yeshiva where I teach.  He was not regarded as G-d fearing and he did not show any interest in holy things.  The teacher who was going to have him in his class was nervous about him and called me and said that the parents begged that their son be accepted.  I told the teacher: Don’t be nervous.  I’ll help you. 

Some time later I was sitting in the yard during recess and I saw the boy enter the yard and treat a Gemara very disrespectfully.  I called him over and told him a story with a message about the truth of Torah. He listened and asked me to review the details of the story five or six times. As a result of this story, the boy changed from one extreme to another. This happened many years ago.  Now, whenever the father sees me he says: R’ Twersky, you saved my son.  This boy later learned entire tractates of Gemara by heart. A story can completely change a person.

A STORY THAT
IGNITED A SOUL

There is a well-known story about R’ Dovid Schochet whom the Rebbe told to speak about tz’daka in a lecture he would be giving to Jews and gentiles in Buffalo, New York.  He told the story about the miser, who after he died was discovered to have supported much of the town and had wished to do so anonymously.  The Tosafos Yom Tov asked that he be buried next to this man, even though this meant he would not be buried in the section reserved for distinguished people.

When R’ Schochet finished telling the story, a priest who had been in the audience asked him to repeat the story time and again.  He then revealed to R’ Schochet that the charitable-miser was his ancestor.  R’ Schochet was understandably skeptical and said that wasn’t possible since the man was Jewish and the priest was not.  At that, the priest confided that on her deathbed, his mother told him she was Jewish.

Years later, R’ Schochet was approached at the Kosel by a religious looking Jew who said, “Don’t you recognize me? I was the priest at that talk you gave in Buffalo.”

The Rebbe, with his G-dly vision, knew just which topic R’ Schochet should focus on in order to ignite the neshama of this Jew.  How great is the power of a story.

AUSPICIOUS TIMES
FOR STORIES

Children love to hear a story but are not always interested in learning, so if the father tells a story during the meal, this will interest them.  Melaveh Malka is also a good time to tell stories of tzaddikim.  Sitting together in a pleasant atmosphere is the best time to bring up any topic you want to make a point about, and it’s the best time to have a successful impact on a child.  It’s not going through the back door; it’s the front door through which everything can be brought in.

I had a student who wasn’t interested in learning anything.  When it was time to review the material, he had nobody to learn with because he wasn’t interested in learning.  I called him over and told him stories on many topics, and since he was from a longtime Chabad family I told him about his grandparents and his family.  But he said he wasn’t interested.  I went on to tell him more interesting stories from the Rebbeim and Chassidim who were his relatives.  He slowly took an interest until I had won him over with stories and he looked forward to the next time I would tell him stories.  For two months after that he still had no interest in learning but he had gotten into hearing stories.  Then I arranged a chavrusa for him and in the end he finished the year successfully.

At the end of the year, his mother met my wife and said to her, you don’t know what your husband did for my son; he saved him spiritually. He was in a really low spiritual place.  He was not interested in learning and not even in stories.  He was just waiting for when he could be free to go out to the street. 

These stories saved him.  Today he is a Chassidishe young man and is a mashpia in one of the yeshivos.  That came from the power of a story.  But it’s important to stress that in order to see how a story has the power to change a person, you need to invest your soul into it, to prepare, and to tell them animatedly and with many details.

THE MIKVA THAT DID WONDERS

I once had a student who came from a good home, whose father said about him that he was born without any feeling or soul. “He has no feeling for anything!” I remember we had just started Shmoneh Esrei and he was sitting already.  He barely put on t’fillin; if he wasn’t in yeshiva I don’t know what would have happened with him.  His mother constantly pleaded with me to do something with her son.  She said that at home he sometimes went around without a yarmulke in order to annoy his family.  I had no idea how to forge a connection with him.

One day, I went over to him and asked him whether he had gone to the mikva.  He said he had gone as a child but it disgusted him.  I immediately discerned an important trait in him, that he was truthful.  I told him that the next day there was going to be a test on iyun and if he went to the mikva, I’d give him a 100 on the test.  He said he was willing to go but without getting up early. I told him I would speak with the mashpia so that if he actually went to the mikva, his lateness would be excused.

The next day, he went to the mikva.  He did not study for the test at all and should have received a low mark but I gave him 100.

A few days later I went over to him and said: Tomorrow there will be a test in girsa and if you go to the mikva, you will get a 100.  For every test I made this deal until he began going to the mikva every day.

Two months went by and one time he came to yeshiva at 11:00. He had gotten up late after a wedding and he said to me: I am not going to daven without going to the mikva!

I had to get him a key to one of the mikvaos.

This bachur hadn’t davened in years, but when he started going to the mikva, he would daven every day for an hour and a quarter.  His classmates were so pleased that he was davening that they brought him breakfast to class.  Today he is a married man with set times to learn Torah.

THANKS TO YOU, MY HUSBAND ALSO GOES

A couple told me about a problem they had with their son. When he would come home, everyone was afraid of him. He acted wildly so that even the two year old trembled in fright of him. They did not know what to do with him.  I told them, I have spiritual advice.  He should start going to the mikva. They asked what connection there was between going to the mikva and his wild behavior and I said, don’t ask questions, it’s a spiritual thing.

They discussed it with their son who said it was too far and too hard, so the father said, I will drive you in the morning.  A month later, I met the mother on the street and she said there was no change in her son’s behavior despite the fact that a whole month had gone by that he was going to the mikva every day.

After three months the parents met me on the street and said: It’s a miracle! He has become a new child. He opens a seifer when he comes home; he is completely different.  A year later he went to learn in a different school and the mother came to thank me.  She said, thanks to you, my husband also goes to the mikva.

HOUSE FULL OF SIMCHA

Another important thing is to make sure the home is happy.  A home that is happy is one that children love to be in.  All of Chassidus is built on the midda of simcha.

There was someone by the name of Yossele Scheinberger who was the secretary of the Eida HaChareidis.  In the early years he would often go to Crown Heights and have yechidus with the Rebbe.  He had very interesting private audiences with the Rebbe.  He once said that the Rebbe told him: You cannot be a religious Jew without Chassidus.  So he said to the Rebbe: I know religious, G-d fearing Jews who don’t learn Chassidus.  The Rebbe thought briefly and said: There are those, but they lack simcha shel mitzva.

Chassidus provides the light.  We don’t appreciate what a treasure we have!

There was once a lively debate between R’ Peretz Chein, the rav of the Chassidic town of Nevel and his son, R’ Dovid Tzvi Hirsch (Radatz), rav in Chernigov, about when to start learning Chassidus.  One of them asserted that a child must start learning Chassidus at a very young age.  As soon as a child begins to understand a little, you need to instill in him that there is a neshama and that a Jew is a veritable part of G-d above. The other maintained that you teach him Chassidus after he is bar mitzva, because when he won’t know anything about it he will be very receptive and amazed by the novelty and richness of it.

I was once in a Boro Park shul on Shabbos Slichos when the person who was supposed to speak did not show up so I was asked to speak.  The topic of the shiur was Pirkei Avos and I began the shiur with, “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai” and then went on to talk about some foundational concepts in Chabad Chassidus pertaining to Rosh HaShana.  I explained what the Rebbe learns from T’fillas Chana (Likkutei Sichos vol. 19, p. 291) that specifically at this lofty time, when a Jew stands before G-d on Rosh HaShana, he should ask Hashem for his material needs so he can serve the King properly.

After Rosh HaShana, some of the people who had attended the shiur came over to me and said: Thanks to your shiur, we had a completely different Rosh HaShana this year!

When you learn Chassidus, you get a richness and amazing light!

 

LEARNING CHASSIDUS BECAUSE OF A DREAM

A Litvishe, learned person, whom I had never met or spoken to before, once called me.  His wife was my wife’s boss in one of the schools, and one day she called my wife and said her husband had to speak to someone in Chabad.  My wife suggested he speak with me.

He said: I learned in the Mirrer yeshiva for fifteen years.  Over the years, I’ve given a daf yomi shiur.  I admire Chabad very much and have nothing against it.  I once even attended a farbrengen of the Rebbe in 770.

Last week I had a dream that I was walking into 770 on Shabbos during the third Shabbos meal.  The Rebbe washed his hands and began saying a sicha, explaining a topic in Tanya. During the sicha (in my dream) I thought: What will I do if the Rebbe calls on me and asks me questions on Tanya? I’ll be embarrassed! In my dream I decided that I will start learning Tanya so that if I encountered the Rebbe again, and the Rebbe would ask me something in Tanya, I would have what to answer.

Then the Rebbe ended the farbrengen, bentched, and left.  The next day I got up and asked my wife whether we had a Tanya in the house.  She said we have a small edition that was printed in the area.  I wanted a large volume and she bought one but I don’t know whether to actually start learning Tanya, which is why I am calling you.

I said: You have a big z’chus that you saw the Rebbe at a farbrengen speaking and explaining Tanya and that you decided in your dream to start learning Tanya.  I promise you that when you start learning Tanya, you will discover the light within Torah and your life will change radically. 

He started learning on his own and when he did not understand something, he called me.

When you learn Chassidus you have the simcha shel mitzva, there is enthusiasm in everything Jewish.  A father who is happy doing mitzvos and who learns animatedly will have children who can answer the question: “In what [mitzva] was your father most zahir [lit. careful, can also be understood to mean to shine]?” When the learning illuminates and becomes the driving force in life, this, more than anything else, puts the Rebbe and Chassidus into the lives of the children.

NING CHASSIDUS BECAUSE OF A DREAM

A Litvishe, learned person, whom I had never met or spoken to before, once called me.  His wife was my wife’s boss in one of the schools, and one day she called my wife and said her husband had to speak to someone in Chabad.  My wife suggested he speak with me.

He said: I learned in the Mirrer yeshiva for fifteen years.  Over the years, I’ve given a daf yomi shiur.  I admire Chabad very much and have nothing against it.  I once even attended a farbrengen of the Rebbe in 770.

Last week I had a dream that I was walking into 770 on Shabbos during the third Shabbos meal.  The Rebbe washed his hands and began saying a sicha, explaining a topic in Tanya. During the sicha (in my dream) I thought: What will I do if the Rebbe calls on me and asks me questions on Tanya? I’ll be embarrassed! In my dream I decided that I will start learning Tanya so that if I encountered the Rebbe again, and the Rebbe would ask me something in Tanya, I would have what to answer.

Then the Rebbe ended the farbrengen, bentched, and left.  The next day I got up and asked my wife whether we had a Tanya in the house.  She said we have a small edition that was printed in the area.  I wanted a large volume and she bought one but I don’t know whether to actually start learning Tanya, which is why I am calling you.

I said: You have a big z’chus that you saw the Rebbe at a farbrengen speaking and explaining Tanya and that you decided in your dream to start learning Tanya.  I promise you that when you start learning Tanya, you will discover the light within Torah and your life will change radically. 

He started learning on his own and when he did not understand something, he called me.

When you learn Chassidus you have the simcha shel mitzva, there is enthusiasm in everything Jewish.  A father who is happy doing mitzvos and who learns animatedly will have children who can answer the question: “In what [mitzva] was your father most zahir [lit. careful, can also be understood to mean to shine]?” When the learning illuminates and becomes the driving force in life, this, more than anything else, puts the Rebbe and Chassidus into the lives of the children.

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