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Wednesday
Aug092017

CHILDREN WRITING TO THE REBBE TODAY

Rabbi Arye Kirshnzaft

Elul 5775. My five-and-a-half-year-old decided that he must go to the Rebbe for Hakhel. Our financial situation at the time did not enable us to get up and go, and yet how could we not go in a Shnas Hakhel? We could not decide what to do.

One evening in Elul, I was sitting in the living room and was deeply engrossed in learning, when my son came over to me with a volume of Igros Kodesh.

“Abba, what did the Rebbe answer me?”

Something about how the page looked seemed off to me and I realized that he had handed me a volume of the letters of the Mitteler Rebbe. I took another look and saw his letter to the Rebbe written in big letters with brown crayon on a white paper. Somehow, he managed to form the words, “Rebbe, I want to go to you!”

He so badly wanted to travel that he took matters into his own hands to move things along. After writing his letter, he climbed on the couch and pulled out the first volume of letters he reached. “Today’s kids are something else …” I marveled.

“Abba, nu, what did the Rebbe answer?”

I began reading the letter. The Mitteler Rebbe wrote about certain limitations in connection with traveling to him. Still, when they arrived, they should come in large groups, not as individuals.

Needless to say, when my son heard this answer, he went to my wife and gaily announced that the whole family was flying to the Rebbe.

That’s the way it is with the generation of Geula. The five and a half year old takes a crayon and scrawls one letter at a time, climbs on the couch, and you start packing suitcases.

***

I was recently witness to a fascinating shidduch discussion.

Mother: He is an amazing bachur.

Shadchanis: To what extent is the Rebbe in his life?

Mother: What do you mean?

Shadchanis: When he is uncertain, does he think what of what the Rebbe wants?

Mother: Of course! He is a Chassidishe bachur!

Shadchanis: I mean, tell me, when was the last time he wrote to the Rebbe?

***

“To what extent is the Rebbe in his life?” is a question that we as parents need to ask ourselves from the moment a baby is born. As parents, we have the responsibility of inculcating within the child the basic premise that the Rebbe, and only the Rebbe, is the one who sets the course for our lives. It is hard to explain to children all the deep matters that we learn in Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna, but it is very easy to show them how to implement it for real in the everyday details of life.

A woman once went to a rav with a slaughtered chicken and the question, “Is this chicken fit to be eaten?”

The rav took the chicken and examined it closely. After a few minutes he asked the woman to wait, since he had to look into some s’farim in order to be able to pasken. The rav went to an inner room and a few minutes later he returned with his answer. “I am sorry. According to Shulchan Aruch, the chicken is treif and you need to throw it out.” The woman accepted the p’sak and turned to leave.

Suddenly, the rav said, “One minute. I didn’t look at what the Rema says yet. Maybe the ruling is different according to him.”

He went back to the inner room and a few minutes later emerged with the good news. “According to the Rema, there is no problem. You can cook and eat it. It’s fine.”

The woman happily thanked the rav. Then the rav said, “One minute, we’re not done. I need to see what the B’eir Heiteiv says about this.”

The woman said, “I don’t understand. Please tell me just one thing. Does this chicken go into my pot or into the garbage?”

The Rebbe explained this story thus. To the woman, the kitchen is the “simplicity,” the core reality. It’s her life; it’s what interests her. She wants to know the Halacha, but to her, the answer is the “newness,” the outside factor intruding itself on reality. The discussion among the poskim plays less of a role in her world and daily life. To the rav, it’s the other way round. He is very interested in these details. To him that is the “simplicity.” Of course, he would be happy if the chicken could be used, and he would be sorry to see it thrown out, but it is far from his reality. To the rav, a halachic discussion is the “simplicity” of reality and the cooking in the kitchen is the “newness” factor.

***

Proper chinuch is when it is obvious to the child that we conduct ourselves solely according to what the Torah says, and not according to worldly assumptions. A child hears as his father come into the house and tells his mother about the latest controversy on the internet or he tells her what he learned in the Chassidishe parsha. The child can discern the difference in tone and enthusiasm in how it is said, as well as in his mother’s response.

A girl knows whether her mother is dressing her neatly and cleanly because that’s the way it needs to be, or she is urging her to wear a flower headband to look like everyone else. If the home broadcasts that the world is important, the world will be seen by the child as the “simplicity,” G-d forbid. When there is the proper chinuch in the home and the parents care what the Rebbe says, what the Torah says, and what the rav says, then the children are raised from the outset to care about ruchnius; these are children of the generation of Geula!

When the father is at a crossroads in life and he checks Google to know what to do, his child absorbs worldly assumptions as the “simplicity.” But when the father faces a dilemma and he asks his mashpia and sits down to write to the Rebbe, the child understands that G-dliness is the “simplicity” and consequently, the world represents “newness.”

People today are looking for a way to raise healthy, stable children in a new, confusing world, but no educational advice or tip can be as effective as laying a G-dly foundation in the child’s life which will build up his resistance to negative influences. And the most powerful way to instill in our children the abstract concept of “G-dliness as simplicity” is when we parents write to the Rebbe often, and guide our children to do this too. It can be from very young ages with a picture that the child draws for the Rebbe.

***

Just as writing to the Rebbe was always a fundamental aspect of hiskashrus between Chassid and Rebbe, a pure Chassidishe chinuch is also based on the children writing to the Rebbe. The way children write to the Rebbe can be divided between the practical side and the essence of the process.

The practical side is very much like that of the adults: washing hands, giving tz’daka, looking at a picture of the Rebbe, picturing his face, saying the Rebbe’s perek, making a good hachlata, etc. Of course, it is important to make the proper preparations, and children want to do this and understand its importance. At the same time, there is no need to pressure children to do things that they aren’t ready for. The preparations depend on the age of the child and his abilities, and every parent has to make that assessment.

But when it comes to the essence of the writing, it is very important to remember that a child is innocent and accepts the truth as it is, and so we need to say things in the most natural, simple way and beware of mixing in our adult intellect into their pure world. Even if it seems to us that the child wants to write about something that may not be of immediate relevance like, “We should have a new car,” “That we should move,” and the like, we don’t need to explain to him why this isn’t the time for that, etc. If he wants to write, he wants to connect to the Rebbe, so let him connect!

For the same reason, a child can write to the Rebbe whatever he wants, draw a picture, tell the Rebbe a secret, or show the Rebbe a test with a good mark that he got. Let him connect the way he wants.

The question that adults have, “How does it work that you put it in a book and the Rebbe receives it and answers?” should not be brought up with children. It is important to downplay the emotions and intellect, and present the writing in a genuine and straightforward way. G-dliness illumines openly in a child and he matter-of-factly accepts that the Rebbe receives his letter and answers it.

With older children who have started asking how it works, it’s an indication that the intellect is starting to work and then we need to provide explanations. Even then, the explanation should be simple and clear; the Rebbe himself spoke about writing in this way and by Divine Providence, the page you open to is where the Rebbe’s response is.

Older children can be told that there are things you ask your parents, a rav, a mashpia, and things you don’t ask the Rebbe at all because the Rebbe gave clear instructions about them.

Obviously, when a child misuses writing to the Rebbe, you need to intervene and gently redirect them. For example, this would apply when a parent gave an instruction, and the child is asking the Rebbe for the purpose of seeing the Rebbe say something else so that the parents will have to change their mind.

Writing to the Rebbe in our generation is a very powerful, personal, and essential component of hiskashrus. Our children instinctively relate to the Rebbe in a personal way and mostly manage without us. We need to show them that we write, and include them and give them the opportunity to write too. This is the right way to connect them to the source until the complete hisgalus.

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