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Tuesday
Sep202016

CHILDREN ASK G-D TO RULE OVER THE WHOLE WORLD

On the eve of the High Holidays, a time of continual prayer and a deeper connection to the concept of “Cause Me to reign upon you,” we turned to Rabbi Meir Wilschansky, mashpia and rosh mesivta at Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad in Tzfas, with several practical questions: What is the best way to connect our children to t’filla? How do we connect them to the idea of accepting the sovereignty of Heaven and T’kias Shofar? Is fear a proper way to educate the younger generation? A heartfelt discussion about practical tools for educating our children.

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

In the days before Rosh Hashanah, “This is the day of the beginning of Your works,” we try to straighten our path, to change and to be changed. Above all, we pray that the coming year will be much better, especially as it pertains to our children’s education. Who among us has no questions? Have I conducted myself properly with my children? How can I get them to strengthen their connection to Torah and mitzvos? How can I impress upon them the true meaning behind the High Holiday season?

We cry out to G-d and ask for His help, including with our children’s education. For this article, we spoke with Rabbi Meir Wilschansky, mashpia and rosh mesivta at Yeshivas Chassidei Chabad in Tzfas.

HOW DO WE EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN TO DAVEN PROPERLY?

The Days of Judgment and Slichos are primarily characterized by prayer. What is the best way to educate our children to connect to t’filla?

While there are several ways, it is quite clear that the most effective way is to be a “lebedike baishpil” (set a personal example). Children need to see their father davening in a minyan, out of a siddur, and not getting into any side distractions. There’s a well-known saying, “one act of foolishness offsets a thousand proofs,” and similarly, one action goes beyond a thousand explanations. It makes no difference how much we explain the importance of t’filla - if the child sees his father davening properly, that will influence him more than anything else.

There’s a famous story about R’ Chonye Marozov, who hired a melamed to teach Torah to his sons, including the importance of t’filla. At the end of that year, he fired the melamed. The man wanted to know why. “Didn’t I teach your children well?” he asked. “Yes, you have an excellent ability to explain complex ideas,” R’ Chonye replied. “However, I also see that you don’t daven at length.” The melamed didn’t understand. “But I taught and explained to them the importance of t’filla at length.” “I don’t want them merely to ‘explain’ the importance of t’filla to the next generation,” R’ Chonye told the melamed. “I want them to daven b’arichus themselves.”

Another way is the importance of being consistent. If it’s been decided that a child davens certain portions in the t’filla or stays in shul during the Torah reading, we have to keep him to that. Furthermore, we must set a schedule of davening appropriate for a child his age and the level of his ability. In situations where it becomes too difficult due to exhaustion or some other reason, we must inform the child that we’ll be changing the usual custom due to that reason.

It’s also important that we tell them stories about the great quality of davening, how much G-d loves when we say ‘Amen,’ and how much he desires the prayers of tzaddikim. There’s no lack of stories on this subject, and when the child hears them, it penetrates his heart.

Another way is through prizes. This can be done through a ‘points system,’ where the points can be cashed in for the children to buy books and games.

In any case, it is most important to internalize the fact that not all children have equal abilities. We want our child to love davening, not because he was forced to feel that way. On the one hand, we have to place limits before the child and help him to overcome his yetzer ha’ra that prevents him from davening. On the other hand, we must keep our demands in line with the child’s abilities. For example, I will not obligate a child at the age of ten, or even eleven, with an attention disorder to follow the entire Torah reading or the liturgy of the High Holiday prayers, waiting instead until he reaches a more compulsory age.

The shofar comes to remind us to repent, “Awaken those asleep from their slumber”. What is the best way to educate our children to do t’shuva, overcome their failures, and return to the proper path? Would this be the path of love, fear, or both?

Chassidus explains that everything comes from love. Even fear is essentially an aspect of love. In our generation, the best approach is through closeness and affection. We see this through the Rebbe’s approach in everything. The Rebbe constantly speaks with great praise about the tremendous quality of the Jewish People. In these times, there’s a very low threshold on sensitivity. Children don’t seem to take the attribute of ‘fear’ to the right place, basing things instead upon blaming themselves and their failures.

In our generation, even adults can come to sadness through the path of fear. Once they reach that point, they fall and it becomes difficult to lift them up. The correct path is as exemplified by the Rebbe, particularly in these times as we come closer to the Time of the Redemption. The Rebbe states in the maamer ‘Margila B’Fumei D’Rava’ 5746 that we are already on Erev Shabbos afternoon, and the avoda of Shabbos is with joy. We see that when we show love and affection to our child, getting him to love the path of Torah and mitzvah fulfillment, this connects him far more successfully than fear and punishment.

While we obviously can’t neglect clear boundaries, they can’t be set through anger, threats, or fear tactics. We can explain to the child that these limitations are there to make things better for him. While the child doesn’t understand this now and this puts him in a very foul mood, he will understand with the passage of time. A child wants limitations and he eventually realizes that they are being placed for his own good.

One of the reasons for T’kias Shofar is to instill fear and dread, as is written, “Will a shofar be sounded in the city and the people not quiver?” The way of the shofar is to make the heart tremble and cause us to return to G-d with a full heart and a contrite spirit. In light of what was explained above, does the concept of fear and dread actually exist within education in Lubavitch?

Fear and dread - no, responsibility and earnestness - most definitely. When a person accepts responsibility upon himself, he is not afraid and feels no sense of dread. He is more concerned that the matter for which he has accepted responsibility is done in the best possible way. We need to educate children in this feeling and that they should act accordingly.

In contrast, when the approach is one of fear and anxiety, this doesn’t lead to greater responsibility. Quite to the contrary: it creates a low self-image and a desire to evade fulfilling one’s obligations, as the child waits for it all to end. To our great regret, there are people who look back after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a kind of satisfaction, as they say, “Thank G-d that we’ve finished the High Holidays.” We must be careful and not get confused about the need for seriousness and responsibility. We must speak with our children about the obligation we have to try and be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and Redemption – not just us, but the whole world, in order that we all will be present at the revelation of Melech HaMoshiach. When this is our approach, we can see actual spiritual avoda within the child. However, when we use tactics of punishment and trepidation, the child tries to shirk his responsibility as he waits for the Days of Awe to pass.

In using an approach of fear, the child is not working on his Avodas Hashem. The child does what he is obligated to do only to avoid the punishment he might otherwise receive, not to fulfill G-d’s Divine command. Anyone who was by the Rebbe before Gimmel Tammuz 5754 can give testimony on the Rebbe’s stern expression during the High Holidays and his joyous countenance on Motzaei Yom Kippur. Yes, we do bear a heavy responsibility and we must act accordingly, but not due to our fear of punishment, rather because we want to serve G-d and fulfill His will.

It is appropriate to speak to the child about Yiras Shamayim – after all, this is one of the founding principles of our spiritual avoda, as explained in Tanya, Chapter 41. However, we must do this the proper way, as brought in the teachings of Chassidus. There are two kinds of fear: fear of sin and fear of embarrassment. First, a Jew should be afraid to do a sin, not because he is afraid of punishment but due to his separation from G-d when he commits a transgression against Him. It is appropriate to explain to a child that while G-d constantly provides an abundance of His blessings, we prevent this spiritual flow from reaching us when we commit a sin. Therefore, we must convey the message that he should not act contrary to G-d’s will: it simply isn’t worth it.

Similarly, we find regarding fear of embarrassment. When we perceive the greatness and supremacy of Alm-ghty G-d, contemplating how exalted He is as His presence fills the whole world, this permeates us with a constant sense of awe and shame. How do we express this point to our children? Chassidus explains that there are those who work under someone else, and they are concerned about disobeying their master’s will. Why? Because this will result in their not getting what they want. If they fail to act according to his instructions, they will quickly apologize and ask his forgiveness. As a result, the servant is essentially thinking about himself.

However, there is another type of boss – one who provides an endless supply of goodness and kindness to his worker. Even when the worker makes a mistake and doesn’t do what his employer requested, he still receives a double portion. How does the worker feel? Embarrassment. He doesn’t want to go against his boss’ orders - not because he’s worried about himself, rather he feels uncomfortable when his boss gives him such an abundance of material good when he is clearly undeserving.

This is the path that a Chabad chassid should strive for and by which he should educate his children. We must consider how it is the nature of G-d to do good, and since we receive this good in spite of everything, we should therefore be more embarrassed than afraid. In such a case, we long for the month of Elul and the High Holidays and don’t pray for these days to get behind us.

“CAUSE ME TO REIGN OVER YOU” WITH LOVE

Chassidus explains that a correct preparation for the Day of Judgment is “Cause Me to reign over you,” to have bittul toward Him and accept His sovereignty. How can we educate our children to attain such bittul?

The best possible example of bittul in our generation is education toward hiskashrus to the Rebbe. We teach our children and speak constantly about accepting G-d’s sovereignty. When a child proclaims ‘Yechi Adoneinu,’ he is battul to the Rebbe and his teachings. A child often hears from his father, ‘This is what the Rebbe says to do’, ‘These are the Rebbe’s instructions,’ ‘We received this in a letter’ - statements such as these have become quite routine. The idea is to get out of the generalities and into the more specific aspects. We need to focus on questions like ‘What good resolution did you make to give nachas to the Rebbe?’

It’s quite easy to go from the Rebbe’s sovereignty to the sovereignty of Alm-ghty G-d. We do what the Rebbe says because he is the nasi (and not out of fear of punishment). We want to get closer to the Rebbe and fulfill his will. By the same token, we also fulfill G-d’s mitzvos out of a sense of bittul and an inner connection to Him.

R’ Saadia Gaon writes that T’kias Shofar is connected to the coming of Moshiach. It is written regarding the ingathering of the exiles, “And it shall come to pass on that day, that a great shofar shall be sounded, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt shall come.” How can we educate our children to live Moshiach, anticipating his arrival in the best possible way in a generation of hiding and concealment?

This question represents a continuation of the previous question. When a child sees that his father speaks about the Rebbe in the present tense, checking what the Rebbe said on any given date; when a child sees that there’s a way to find an answer to every question, writing to the Rebbe receiving his reply, and acting according to his instructions - this causes the Rebbe to live in the home and in the children’s souls. During the High Holiday season, it is important that we try and bring the children to the Rebbe, thereby uplifting them beyond the existing spiritual concealment.

While this pertains to the Rebbe, the subject of Moshiach has two central themes. First, we must encourage the child to want G-dliness. The Rebbe spoke about this in a sicha from Shabbos VaEira 5752 in connection with the story of the Rebbe Rashab crying to his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, because G-d didn’t reveal Himself to him the way he did to Avraham Avinu. The Rebbe said that the purpose of the story is to educate our children to long for the revelation of G-dliness that Avraham Avinu experienced.

When I was a student in Talmud Torah, there was a contest with the first prize being the opportunity to recite a few Psalms from a Seifer T’hillim used by the Rebbe himself. This aroused a great deal of excitement at the school. While children like bicycles and other games, the children’s enthusiasm over this contest was overwhelming. This shows us how even children want and long for G-dliness. We also see that in every contest, in every city, and in every yeshiva - what is the biggest prize? An airline ticket to the Rebbe. Bachurim sit and learn day and night just to win a ticket, and this serves as yet another illustration of how much the younger generation wants G-dliness.

Many children’s stories have come out in recent years describing life in the days of Moshiach, bringing quotes from the Gemara and Midrash that explain how all suffering will end and everything will only be good. These things can create miracles for a child’s soul. Children today live Moshiach and know more than they have in the past, and this already signifies a taste of what we will experience in the days of Moshiach.

It’s specifically from this point that I connect to another idea related to T’kias Shofar written by R’ Saadia Gaon - “The shofar represents prayer for the building of the Beis HaMikdash. When we hear the sound of the shofar, we recall the shout of the enemy as they attacked and destroyed the Beis HaMikdash. In our prayers, we ask that it should be rebuilt.” Since by their very nature, children live for the “here and now,” how can we educate a child to live with an idea that doesn’t exist in the “here and now,” rather something that is seemingly utopian, a vision of the end of days?

It is specifically with a child that we perceive the aspect of faith in the simplest terms. The children of this generation are found more and more in the virtual world than in the true reality. To our great regret, there are those who even remain there… Thus, it is by no means unfounded to speak with a child about the Beis HaMikdash, especially when we see signs showing that we are standing on the verge of the building of the Beis HaMikdash.

It is specifically the child’s virtual world that brings him closer to these ideas more than anything else. If it was difficult to instill these subjects within children in the past, all the films and video presentations produced today make this much more attainable. There are countless educational computer programs with presentations about the Beis HaMikdash and how to build it.

The Rebbe emphasizes that it is much easier today to explain G-dly matters and people can really grasp them. In these times, as we get closer to the Redemption, we can educate our children to ask for spirituality and to realize how really close it is to them. When we teach a child with simple faith, he lives with it. Then, when he matures, what entered his mind as a small child remains there and receives additional fortitude.

Don’t you think that it would be better not to speak with children about subjects that seem distant and imaginary?

This is exactly what Shimon the Heretic claimed. The Alter Rebbe exposed him when he asked Shimon how he explains the pasuk “And [Yitzchak] trembled violently,” and he replied that he skips it. The Rebbe Rayatz elucidates at great length about the importance of telling stories from the Tanach and stories about tzaddikim because they contain the foundations of Yiddishkait, even stories that seem like ‘miracles’ and ‘wonders.’

In your question, you touched upon the concept of science fiction. I remember when I was a boy, I read stories from the Zarkur chareidi children’s magazine. The magazine once featured a fictional story about a city where everything there was produced by robots. Today, this has become reality.

We live in a world where the technological development is incredible. Yesterday’s imaginary stories are taking place today right before our eyes. We can harness this power to strengthen the child’s perception of stories in the Torah that seem so amazing. How did we used to explain the statement “an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book”? Only with faith. Today, there are networks of hidden cameras in every location watching everyone wherever they are, thereby illustrating this statement in a realistic way.

We see how many things that were previously thought to be detached from reality have actually taken place. We have to connect the children, already filled with their own creative imaginations, to imagine about truly holy things. As we have heard in the Rebbe’s own prophetic words, we’re not talking about something that will happen many years from now: Moshiach is here and he has already come.

ASPIRING FOR THE CHILD TO SEEK A CONNECTION TO G-D

In conclusion, what educational message would you like to convey?

In connection with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, we know that there is the concept of a regime and sovereignty. The difference between them is that a regime rules with coercive power, whereas “they have willingly accepted His sovereignty.” And since there is no king without a people, “cause Me to reign over you.” T’kias Shofar comes to reveal the inner essence that we want the king, unlike a regime that doesn’t seek our advice or consent.

There are two separate concepts: training and education. We can train a child to do things - daven or perform mitzvos. However, this is not the education that we want to achieve. Our objective is for the child to be educated not from fear or by training, but through a proper connection to Torah, t’filla, and the Alm-ghty G-d.

The Rebbe spoke on numerous occasions about being “mekabel p’nei Moshiach” (accepting Moshiach). What is the simple meaning of “mekabel”? Our ‘acceptance’ should be from the innermost spot, not that they compel me to want Moshiach, rather that I want it myself. This is our avoda in ‘Moshiach’ and this is our avoda in ‘education’ - to reveal within the child the strengths of human knowledge coming from him, enabling him to connect to Torah and mitzvos.

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