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Wednesday
Jan062016

CHOOSE LIFE!

Another installment in the series on Educate a child according to his wayaccording to Chassidic teachings, by Rabbi Nachman Twersky.

There is no parent or teacher who doesnt want to instill a Chassidishe chinuch and chayus in his children.  The critical question is: how much is he really interested, and what is he willing topayfor it. 

The holy Zohar says that all matters of the world depend only on ratzon (will).  What does this mean? People have many desires that are not realized, strong desires that reach the point of envy of others.  For example, when a person becomes rich his friends are happy for him, but some of them, or many others, are jealous of him.  So why don’t they all become rich if “nothing stands in the way of ratzon?” It would seem that if everyone has a strong desire to become rich, they would all become rich.  So why don’t we see that happen?

There is a nice explanation that goes like this.  When it is your only ratzon, when you want it with all your might and this is all you care about, then nothing stands in the way of your ratzon and you will be successful.  The problem is that those who are jealous are usually jealous of the results, but they aren’t willing to pay the price by investing what the other person did, risking all his money and his life.  Only those who know rich people well know how true this is.

The same thing applies to chinuch.  There are people who have excellent children who are a pleasure to interact with and everyone wishes they had that blessing.  As in the blessing from Hashem, “and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you,” there are families that want their children to behave like those families, but to achieve that we must investigate, what is the real way of earning Yiddishe-Chassidishe nachas from our children?

There is nothing that stands in the way of your will! When it is your only desire, and you are fully devoted to the chinuch of your children and you do everything for the sake of their chinuch, then it will happen.  This is because the ratzon itself will have its effect.  Needless to say, good, Chassidishe children are the greatest nachas and investment there can be.

In the HaYom Yom for 22 Teves it says, “Just as wearing t’fillin every day is a Mitzva commanded by the Torah to every individual regardless of his standing in Torah, whether deeply learned or simple, so too is it an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power – and beyond his power – to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.”

There are people who say, “I know my children like the palm of my hand.  I know where each one is holding.  Why do I need to think about their chinuch for half an hour a day?  I can think of the characteristics and aptitudes of all my children in just a few moments, so what is there to think about for half an hour?

The story is told of a guest of R’ Sholom Shachna of Prohobich, the father of the tzaddik, R’ Yisroel of Ruzhin.  R’ Sholom was a gracious host and placed the guest in a bedroom along with his little boy, Yisroel, who was five.  When they both prepared for bed and read the bedtime Shma, the child walked here and there about the room.  The tired guest asked him: Why aren’t you going to sleep? The boy said he was thinking about how the day went, for he had to correct what he did during the course of the day.

The guest said: I also thought about what I did today and within a few minutes I was done.  How much time can you spend on this?

The future Ruzhiner tzaddik answered with a story.  There once was a king who had a crown.  He decided he wanted to mount a brilliant diamond in the center, a jewel that he had obtained with great difficulty and which was rare in its beauty.  He needed a professional diamond setter to attach the diamond to the crown without ruining it.

The king had the greatest gem setter in the world come to the palace.  When the gem setter took the diamond, his hands began to shake and his heart to race in fear for he knew the value of the diamond.  He told the king he could not set the stone because if he made even the smallest mistake it would be an enormously expensive damage.

The setter suggested the following: I will hire the services of a person who is not an expert, who will not know the true value of this diamond, and ask him to do the work.  He will set it without fear and is thus less likely to damage the diamond. 

The king did as he suggested and the ordinary setter set the stone quickly.

Said little Yisroel to the guest, when you know the value of the neshama and what every minute of life is worth and what service of Hashem is, you cannot make a spiritual accounting in two minutes.  You need to think a lot about every aspect where there can be a flaw, because if you don’t you can lose out on something which is invaluable.

The same is true with thinking about chinuch of children half an hour a day.  When we know the value of our children, that Hashem endowed us with the greatest possible gift, and that Hashem said “I am Hashem your G-d” to every Jewish child, it will become self-apparent that we need to devote a lot of time to every child and examine what exactly is going on with him.  You cannot accomplish this with thinking about him for just a few minutes.

The Chassidim of R’ Mordechai of Chernobyl had a wagon driver with whom they traveled to the Rebbe now and then.  The wagon driver was not a chassid and had never visited the Rebbe.  One time the Chassidim said to him, “How about meeting the Rebbe? Every Jew ought to see the tzaddik.” The wagon driver agreed and was granted an audience.

On the way home the Chassidim were sharing their experiences of exalted moments with the Rebbe when the wagon driver interjected and exclaimed that he also had a special experience by the Rebbe.

They asked him to explain and he said: I went to the Rebbe’s room and he asked me about my occupation.  I told him that I am a wagon driver.  The Rebbe asked me about my daily schedule in detail and I began by telling him that early in the morning I go to the market and buy various goods and then I travel and sell them.  In the middle of the day I go home and put on t’fillin and later on I take people places.

The Rebbe asked: Why don’t you daven like a Yid in the morning?

I said: Rebbe, you must understand that I might miss out on buying merchandise, and then I have to run and sell it, and this is to support my household.  I don’t have a choice.

The Rebbe responded with a story: There was once a man who was the son-in-law of a rich man.  For a number of years he sustained his family with his father-in-law’s money.  This enabled him to daven and learn in peace.  Years passed and one day his father-in-law showed up and said, “From now on you have to look out for yourself.  Go into business and make money.” 

The son-in-law began to think about what business to go into and came up with an idea.  He said to his wife: I know how to learn, so I will be a teacher.  I will go to a rich man who has children and I will teach them.  After several years I will amass a large amount of money and I will invest this money in business.

His wife approved of the idea and the man became a teacher.  Every week he earned money and every time money accumulated in his bag, he exchanged it for gold coins.  For three years he saved and scrimped until he had twelve bundles of gold coins.  He also had a small bag with copper coins for his food and other expenses.

Three years passed and he decided the time had come to return home.  On the way, he guarded the gold coins so they wouldn’t be stolen.  Before Shabbos, he stopped in a village and met someone who ran an inn.  The innkeeper invited him to stay with him.  The man told him he was nervous about his money being stolen but the innkeeper said, “don’t worry, give me the money and I will guard it for you.”  Having no choice, with a heavy heart he gave the man all his gold and copper coins. 

Throughout Shabbos, the man worried about his money.  As soon as Shabbos was over, he went to the innkeeper and asked for his money.  The innkeeper immediately gave him all the money.  He checked and counted all twelve bags of gold coins.  But he wasn’t given the copper coins.  The man, seeing he was missing the copper coins, began to shout, “Where is the bag of copper coins?”

The innkeeper said: Why are you shouting? A person who returned all twelve bags of gold coins shows he is honest, so why do you think he will steal one sack of copper coins?

R’ Mordechai of Chernobyl said to the wagon driver, “Dear Yid, Hashem returns your neshama every morning, which is worth infinitely more than gold coins, and you are worried about the copper coins?”

Our children are worth infinitely more than gold coins.  There is nothing greater than children.  Hashem gave them to us and he watches over them for us, and all what remains for us to do is to invest in their chinuch.

In 5743, the Rebbe said a sicha in which he explained about the three partners in the birth of a child, Hashem and the two parents.  Each one has a share, with the parents providing the body and Hashem the neshama, and now each one has to invest.  The job of the parents is to invest in and reveal the neshama of the child, and the job of Hashem is to provide for the child so he is healthy and happy and has everything he needs.

But sometimes, our minds are busy with copper coins.  We obsess about trivial matters.  But in fact there is nothing as valuable as our children! We need to remember that Hashem provides parnasa and we need to educate our children and reveal the pure neshama within them which always longs for Torah and mitzvos.

Our generation is very complicated. On the one hand, there is the unprecedented phenomenon of baalei teshuva.  On the other hand, we are witnessing a big dropout rate.

If we were to single out one of the major factors in the dropout rate, it would be the parent-child relationship.  It used to be, even when parents hit the children for bad behavior, that the children respected their parents.  Nowadays, the smallest thing causes a rift between parents and children, to the point that parents are even afraid of their children.

Therefore, wisdom and consistency are a must:  Yes to providing children with treats in good and permitted ways. For example, when a child behaves and does what he should in Torah and mitzvos, you can and must give him encouragement and acknowledgment.  No to compromising when it comes to Torah and mitzvos.  Even if the child insists, he needs to know that when it comes to Torah and mitzvos there are no compromises!

The Rebbe clarifies this approach in a letter (Igros Kodesh vol. 13, letter #4604): “The teacher needs to constantly remember that youth do not believe in compromises and his mind does not accept half-truths, if there is such a thing as that altogether, and therefore, he is more successful with a complete chinuch and not a chinuch that is compromised a half, third, quarter, especially when it comes to Torah and mitzvos.

“Unlike the mistaken ones, who are afraid that a complete chinuch will frighten off the youth, ‘grabbing too much,’ the opposite is true, that every compromise in matters of principle engenders a lack of faith in the heart of the one being educated, and not only a lack of faith in the educator but also in the entire worldview that he champions and represents.

“Furthermore and also vital, compromise, which means giving in and veering from the path, even a slight veering from the path of truth in the education of youth, is like a scratch in a seed that is planted.  Even a tiny scratch on it will later result in a big flaw in the tree that grows from it, a flaw which is difficult to estimate ahead of time.  The analogue is understood.”

The Rebbe is telling us that a child wants to be good and the child himself knows how to distinguish between good and bad.  Even when he wants something not good, he realizes it’s not okay because like every Jew, he is comprised of a G-dly soul and an animal soul.  But when he is guided as to what is good and what is bad in a clear way, it influences him to choose appropriately.

What happens is, people who were overcome by their evil inclination want to explain away their corrupt behavior, and they turn their weakness into an ideology.  We can call it a “philosophy of compromise.”  The Rebbe responds and says: compromise does not work.  Parents need to educate their children in the way of Torah without compromises.  Although the ways of Torah are “ways of pleasantness,” and you need to demonstrate warmth and love, you cannot veer from the truth because the child will be able to tell that you’re lying, and that, in itself, creates irreparable damage in the soul of the child.

But if the child is taught truth without compromise, with infinite love, then even if it requires self-control on the child’s part, he will still connect to the message, because the child’s natural inclination is to be drawn to and love the truth.

Nowadays, the situation is very sensitive.  There is the phrase, “Emor v’omarta” – warn the adults about the children.  One of the commentaries says that “l’hazhir” (to warn) is from the root meaning to shine.  Parents need to reveal the light of Judaism within their children but in our generation it is much more complicated and difficult.

Unlike the past, where mommy was home most of the time and imbued the home with the warmth of Judaism that she absorbed from her parents, today’s generation requires much more time.  Sometimes, both parents are out of the home all day and the time they have at home is very limited, and even if sometimes there is free time, they are nervous and anxious due to the stresses of daily life, such as parnasa problems.  The parents come home exhausted and give the children a list of orders and the child feels that his father is like the mashgiach in yeshiva.

Even within the nonstop rush of life, parents must create a calm atmosphere at home, because a positive atmosphere affects the entire household.  When the children see the father sit down to learn at home, even if he merely opens the seifer and dozes off, they understand that the Gemara, Likkutei Sichos, and Shulchan Aruch are important to him.

Without giving orders and without threat of punishment, the children see the parents’ behavior as a personal example of how to behave.  You don’t need to say anything beyond that.  They see the father learn and the mother davening with closed eyes, and this makes a lifelong impact.

The Kotzker Rebbe provided a wonderful insight to the verse about the Ben Sorer U’Moreh (the rebellious child), “who did not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother.”  The “voice of his father” refers to the father’s Torah learning at home, and the “voice of the mother” is seeing the mother daven and telling stories of tzaddikim.

The child “who did not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother,” did not hear his parents’ sound of Torah and sound of prayer, and that is how he came to rebel, because a child who hears his father and mother, who sees their personal example, does not veer from the path.  This is the bottom line of chinuch for Chassidic enthusiasm, that in the home you feel the caring, the enthusiasm and the geshmak in Torah and mitzvos.

The Tchebiner Rav asks on the verse in Nitzavim, “and choose life so that you live, you and your children,” why does the Torah have to tell us to choose life? Every normal person wants to live! And what is meant by “so you live, you and your children” – the Torah speaks to every Jew throughout the generations, so why say “and your children?”

He answers that choosing life is not about physical life versus death, but a pleasurable, warm, Chassidic life.  When you perform all the mitzvos with chayus and warmth, it influences and causes “that you live, you and your children.” Your son sees how you “live” Shabbos and observe Torah and mitzvos, and how all aspects of Judaism and Chassidus  mean so much to you, and on every Chassidic special date he sees how you farbreng and celebrate, and this is engraved in him for a lifetime.  This will naturally affect him “so that you live, you and your children” – he becomes alive!

THE CHILD WHO RETURNED THANKS TO A HAKHEL GATHERING

Since we are in a Hakhel year and it is customary to connect everything to Hakhel, especially when we’re talking about children’s chinuch which itself is related to strengthening fear of heaven:

There was a man who lived in Eretz Yisroel, not a Chassid, who was devastated that his son had gone off the derech, left home, and wanted no relationship – not with Judaism and not with his parents.  In 5748, the man visited the United States and he took the opportunity to ask the Rebbe for advice and a bracha.  He began telling the Rebbe the sad story and the Rebbe handed him an extra dollar and said, “Success in Hakhel.”

The man had no idea what this meant.  He eventually met a Chassid who explained what Hakhel is about, gathering the family and urging them to fear G-d.  The Chassid said, “If you do it, surely it will bring blessing to you.”

When the man returned to Eretz Yisroel, he immediately did as the Rebbe said.  He invited the entire extended family for a “Hakhel Evening” and decided to contact his son too.  The father invited his son saying that he had no intentions of preaching; he just wanted him to come and attend the family Hakhel gathering as a member of the family.  The son liked the idea and made an appearance.

The family gathering took place in such a good atmosphere that it greatly impacted the son to the point that he decided to return home.  He slowly came back to religious observance.  That is the special power of Hakhel.

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