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Wednesday
Feb042015

DO YOU REALLY KNOW YOUR CHILD & DOES YOUR CHILD KNOW YOU CARE?

How can we educate children so that even when they are on their own, they will go on the path we laid out for them? What power do we Chabad Chassidim have in chinuch that nobody else has? Where do we really install the filters in todays advanced technological world? * Answers to these questions, along with two moving stories in this practical article on chinuch, part 2 of 2, by RNachman Twersky, a longtime mechanech in Crown Heights.

was once in Chicago and attended a Melaveh Malka for the parents and teachers of the school my son runs, and I spoke about Shabbos. After the event, one of the participants said to me that when he has guests on Shabbos he prepares nicely, but if there arent any guests, he doesnt prepare much.

After what I said about the importance of preparing for Shabbos (see previous article), we understand that the Shabbos Queen is the real guest and the feeling in the house must be different. We prepare for Shabbos like we prepare for a wedding.

Imagine a father who is marrying off his son and he falls asleep in the middle of the wedding! Could that ever happen? Even if he didn’t sleep the night before, no father falls asleep in the middle of his child’s wedding! Shabbos is like a wedding, we are marrying the kalla, the Shabbos Queen. If we are conscious of the fact that the Shabbos table is the foundation of our children’s chinuch, then we cannot possibly sleep.

THE FILTERS
ARE IN OUR SOULS

Some time ago, 60,000 people in the US met to solve the technological problems of our generation. Yes, there is a problem with the Internet and technology. Children have access to it and it’s dangerous. In all the gatherings to discuss this worrisome topic, they discussed how to make certain that children are not negatively influenced by technology. Many raised ideas and solutions including placing filters on computers. I also attended one of the gatherings and I think that what was missing was a speaker from Lubavitch; for then, the whole gathering would have been different.

Someone raised a good question. You’re talking about filters but how do you place a filter on the mind? The mind needs a filter, not the computer! Of course, a computer needs a filter too. Even non-Jews put filters on computers, but the children nowadays can bypass the filter because they are more skilled than us when it comes to technology. And if an adult really wants to see something, nobody can really stop him. There are wise guys who have two computers, one is filtered and one is not. The filtered one is for the kids and the other one is for himself. Filters are not the ultimate solution.

The real solution is in Tanya. The Alter Rebbe writes in his introduction that he is writing a book which has all the solutions to all the problems. When we encounter some difficulty or problem, we can find the solution in Tanya. The question is, where in Tanya is the solution to the problem of technology? How do we deal with the problem?

The truth is that when a person learns Chassidus and Tanya, he reveals his essence, who he is. Who is the real me. The real me of a Jew is that which is one with Hashem. A Jew who learns Torah and does mitzvos unites with Hashem and reveals hidden powers within himself.

When we live with this point, all of life is an altogether different story. The Tanya provides us with a whole different set of powers. Learning it, chapter after chapter, increases one’s simcha, one’s strength, and many other things. We are Chassidim and we have merited that the Rebbe has provided us with fantastic kochos.

THE PAINFUL DROPPING OUT PROBLEM

The dropping out of Chabad, and the dropping out of other places, are two different kinds of dropping out. I spoke with someone who is the principal of a non-Chabad school of former dropouts. He told me that the main problem with their dropouts is their lack of emuna. He said, “if only our chevra sitting in yeshivos had the same emuna as a Lubavitcher dropout.”

By us, boruch Hashem, emuna is strong. Even a bachur who falls still believes in G-d. It’s just that his yetzer ha’ra overcomes him and in an absence of kabbalas ol, he throws off the yoke. In the end, most of them come back, but it’s a pity over the wasted years.

I spoke with an educator who works with dropouts of all backgrounds. He defined for me the difference between a Lubavitcher bachur who falls and a non-Lubavitcher bachur. One of his methods in bringing back dropouts is by locating their breaking point. Everyone has a certain weakness which can cause him to fall and when you locate it, you can more easily work to rectify the problem. Usually, the bachur’s current friends, who all dropped out, know better than anyone else what is really troubling him. When it’s Lubavitchers, although they themselves have dropped out, they happily cooperate and want to get their friend back into yeshiva, because when it comes down to it, they believe in everything. In other groups, however, the friends don’t cooperate because they lost their basic emuna and in their corrupted state they think everyone should drop out!

The holy Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht even took on three customs from him) said that it is forbidden to send a child to a melamed who does not learn p’nimius ha’Torah. Why? Why would this be important when a melamed needs to teach reading, siddur, Chumash, Mishnayos and Gemara?

The explanation is that the whole point in teaching talmidim is in order to “educate a youth according to his way and even when he grows old he won’t veer from it,” so that it gets into his neshama. How can we be sure that a boy who learns alef-beis, siddur, Chumash, Mishna, Gemara, and Tanya will have it enter his neshama and remain with him for life? He has the knowledge; many people are knowledgeable, but they do as they please. How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen to our child?

Says R’ Pinchas of Koretz, when a melamed learns p’nimius ha’Torah, the Torah penetrates his p’nimius. When he learns alef-beis with the child or Chumash or Mishnayos, he puts his essence, his p’nimius into the child. Although he is learning Nigleh of Torah, the external part of Torah with the child, he puts his essence, his p’nimius, into the child’s soul.

The same is true for us. When a father who learns Tanya and Chassidus talks to his child, he has the p’nimius. In Chassidus there is an endless inner wealth and although in previous generations, this wealth was not accessible to the general class of Chassidim (since few sifrei Chassidus were printed), in our generation, when the Rebbe had the maamarim of all the Rebbeim printed, this great wealth is available and we must use it!

The Rebbe once asked, why do we say “educate a youth according to his way and even when he grows old he won’t veer from it” – do we want a child who grows older to remain with his childish ideas?

The Rebbe explains that this is not talking about details in chinuch but the roots, the foundation of chinuch. We need to teach a child that when Hashem says, “I am Hashem your G-d” in the singular, He means him, as in the Chassidic explanation of “your G-d” that He is “your strength and life-force.”

So too, when teaching the verse, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” we need to make it clear that Hashem is speaking to him and Hashem wants him, the Jewish child, to be “a kingdom of priests” in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos and a “holy nation” also in those material things which need to be sanctified.

These fundamental principles, says the Rebbe, need to remain with a Jew all his life, even when he grows old, just as when he was taught in his youth.

I once had a very challenging student in whom I had to put tremendous kochos in order to make it through the year with him. At the end of the year, his father told me something profound. The Gemara says that when Dovid entered the bathhouse and was standing there naked he said, oy that I should stand here bare of mitzvos. When he recalled the mila in his flesh, he calmed down. What can we learn from this? That all of us have clothing and the clothing change as time goes on. Little children have the garment of t’mimus (simple sincerity) and in their adulthood they take off the garment of t’mimus and put on the garment of adulthood. The problem is in the transition stage, when the garment of childhood is removed and the garment of adulthood has not yet been donned. That’s a dangerous time. What helps? Bris mila, which alludes to the foundations of chinuch, the essential connection that a Jew has with Hashem. These foundations help us get through this time.

THE POWER WE DERIVE FROM THE REBBE

Nowadays, people get excited over the novelty of a “pirsum rishon” (i.e. something never before published). In Likkutei Sichos there are many “pirsum rishons.” For someone who did not learn a given sicha, it’s definitely a “pirsum rishon.” To learn the series of the Rebbe’s farbrengens is simply the spiritual experience of participating in the Rebbe’s farbrengen and it has a special impact.

Take a sicha of any year and feel that you are sitting at a farbrengen with the Rebbe and you live it! When you sit at home and review it with your neshama, it enters the neshamos of the children.

We have the “power of that elder,” the power of the Rebbe! We don’t need anything; we have the greatest possible kochos.

The Gemara in tractate Megilla says that the wicked Haman threw a lottery and it landed on the month of Adar. Haman rejoiced because this is the month that Moshe Rabbeinu passed. The Meor Einayim, the holy R’ Nachum of Chernobyl, asks: The Gemara tells us that Haman did not know that on this same day Moshe was born. True, a person’s mazal begins to shine when he is born, but it ends when he dies, so how does it help that Moshe was born in this month when, at the moment he passed away, the mazal expired?

Another question: If Haman knew the history of the Jewish people and he knew that Moshe died, how did he not know when Moshe was born?

The Meor Einayim’s answer is fundamental and relates to us. He says that before 7 Adar, there was one man who was named Moshe, Moshe the man of G-d. After 7 Adar, that Moshe Rabbeinu became the “extension of Moshe in every generation” – a spark of Moshe within every one of us.

Says the Alter Rebbe in Tanya that it says in the verse, “What does Hashem your G-d ask of you except to fear…” The Gemara asks, is fear a minor thing? Answers the Gemara, yes, for Moshe it’s simple. What is meant by “for Moshe?” The verse is talking to us! The Alter Rebbe explains that every Jew contains a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu. Every Jew has the power of Moshe Rabbeinu which needs to be revealed, and then it becomes a minor thing.

This is what the Gemara means when it says that Haman did not know that Moshe was born in that month. It’s not referring to Moshe’s birth 120 years before his passing, but his not knowing that Moshe was born on 7 Adar, on the day of his passing, within every Jew.

We contain the Rebbe within us. The Rebbe is with every one of us. We see this openly. A Jew who does the Rebbe’s inyanim, a Jew who does the Rebbe’s mivtzaim, learns the Rebbe’s teachings, and fulfills the Rebbe’s horaos, has the Rebbe within him.

Such a person sees divine assistance with his children and divine assistance within everything he does. Shluchim have doubled and tripled their work. There were periods when donors sustained losses, their businesses closed, and the shluchim feared for their future. There was fear that half of the mosdos in Russia would close, but not one shliach had to close a mosad. There are kochos! The Rebbe is with every Chassid, with each of us. The Rebbe is with every mother and father who need to be mechanech their children and are mekusharim to the Rebbe.

In order for children to experience that sense of the Rebbe, we parents need to live with the Rebbe’s inyanim in every aspect of running our homes. At the Shabbos table, when reviewing a sicha of the Rebbe, the length is not that important. Sometimes a short vort of the Rebbe is enough, especially considering the chayus with which it is said. When the father comes home from shul on Motzaei Shabbos after seeing the video of the Rebbe, and he enthusiastically tells his wife and children a point that he heard from the sicha or dollars, it connects the entire family to the Rebbe.

AVOIDING A CHINUCH OVERDRAFT

Although the Rebbe is within each and every one of us, that does not absolve us from taking action. When we act with sincerity, we reach the goal which the Rebbe Rayatz writes about in one of his letters. What conditions are necessary to build a Jewish home? First, farshtandt (understanding), energy, ibergegebenkait (devotion), geduld (patience), gut hartzikait (good heartedness) reinkait (cleanliness), gelassenkait (calmness), orderung (order), freilichin shtimung mit a gutte panim un a chevrayishe batzi’ung (a joyful attitude with a good face and a gregarious manner).

Chinuch is the foundation of all Torah and mitzvos. The Rebbe Rashab said that just as it’s an obligation to put on t’fillin each day, it’s an obligation to think about the Torah education of children for half an hour a day. What is there to think about for half an hour?

Throughout 24 hours, I need to know that I am a role model for chinuch. My actions, my behavior, and how the children see me, that’s all chinuch. But thinking about a specific child, that takes at least half an hour of contemplation a day and that is an obligation, just like putting on t’fillin.

The Rebbe asks, why is the obligation to think about chinuch compared to t’fillin and not to other mitzvos like Torah study, for example? The Rebbe answers, there are mitzvos that can be apportioned. When a Jew wants to do acts of kindness, he can do less today and more tomorrow. When it comes to t’fillin though, there is no “making up for it.” You cannot say today I won’t put on t’fillin but tomorrow I will leave the t’fillin on for two hours instead of an hour. T’fillin must be donned every day.

I once heard that Chassidim said: The enactment is for half an hour a day. In the event that someone did not do this, the half an hour that he missed enters his bank account as an overdraft of half an hour. If it happens again that he missed the half hour, that’s another half hour added to his overdraft, and it accumulates. Afterward, there are problems and sleep is lost or one cannot sleep altogether. The hours of sleep that are lost are the missed half hours; this is how he pays the overdraft.

Someone who thinks about the chinuch of his children every day has no overdraft at the bank. He doesn’t have problems and he can sleep soundly.

Someone who invests in chinuch will be successful. At the same time, there are things one needs to consult about because we are subjective and we love our children.

STOP A MOMENT
AND PAY ATTENTION!

Here’s a story that happened with a student of mine, years ago, from which we can learn what to watch out for.

I had a student and I did not know what would be with him. Five times a day he would lie on the floor and scream and curse his classmates. I felt very bad for him. There was once a test and the boy was very nervous. I told him that his father is a talmid chacham and he should ask to learn with him.

The boy said, “My father? He hates me the most!”

I was taken aback and I said that I knew his father as a nice man, how could he hate him? But the boy insisted and repeated: He hates me. I asked him how he knew this and he said because his father did not talk to him.

I realized something was amiss. I called the father and said that without getting into the details there was a situation that needed correcting and his son claimed that the father hated him. The father was shocked and he said: I hate him? G-d forbid! I continued the conversation and asked whether he, the father, ever spoke to his son. He replied that of course he spoke to his son.

I asked whether he spoke to his son at the Shabbos table. The father thought and thought and said, “R’ Twersky, that’s a good point. I don’t really talk to him at the Shabbos table. Why? Because he has older brothers and younger brothers. We have ten children and this boy is in the middle. The older ones come from 770 with news and things to say. The little ones come with their parsha sheets and I need to test them. This son is 14. He doesn’t have news from 770 and he doesn’t have parsha sheets so I don’t end up talking to him.”

As a result, the child had constructed an entire edifice in his mind and arrived at the mistaken conclusion that his father hates him. This led to his poor behavior, lying on the classroom floor five times a day. He became crazy from it, to a certain extent, and even cursed his classmates.

The father committed to fostering a relationship with his son and although he worked hard and only arrived home at eight o’clock at night, he set aside time at night in which he learned with his son four times a week, in order to pay back the year or two that the child felt his father hated him.

Today, this talmid is a fine young man who is married. If the father would not have taken matters into his hands, who knows what would have happened. And this was without the father realizing that anything was wrong.

This is what is meant by thinking about the chinuch of children. Thinking about what is going on with every single child and giving individual attention to each one.

TIMELY INTERVENTION

Here is another story about a father and son. There was a boy that was suspended from the mesivta. The boy was actually a good learner but was a troublemaker. I was in Yagdil Torah that night and the boy was there learning. I was making myself a cup of tea when I saw the father walk in looking furious. He came for his son, feeling his son was embarrassing him.

I stopped the father and said I wanted to talk to him before he went over to his son. I said: Don’t forget he is your son. It makes no difference right now what he did or didn’t do. Don’t forget he’s your son! Listen to what he has to say. Even if he did what they said he did he remains your son. There is a saying that there is no making up for one unnecessary slap and one unnecessary kiss never hurts!

I calmed down the father and said that if the boy was guilty, the most the yeshiva would do would be to give him a fine. But as far as he was concerned, he could not forget that he was his father. He had to stand by him and not let his anger take control.

The man went over to his son calmly and asked him to come home and talk to him about what happened. The boy claimed he was not guilty and he did not do what he had been accused of doing, someone else did it. The next day, when the matter was investigated, it turned out that the other boy was at fault and admitted it.

If the father would have slapped his son or vented his anger at him, how would the father have forgiven himself? The father told me I saved him.

That’s just an example that teaches us to listen to the child. True, the child may have embarrassed us, but our position is of lesser importance here. We need to listen to the child, to hear what he has to say. The story I just told is extreme but we always need to speak nicely. We can help him and save him. If we act in a positive manner and he feels that we are on his side and think about him, he will feel secure, confident and stable.

Before the Giving of the Torah, we had to bring guarantors and these were our children. Only then did we hear “I am Hashem your G-d.” This is the foundation of the Torah: our children.

May Hashem help that our “guarantors” – areivim, be sweet (from the same Hebrew root) and our reward will be that they will educate their children in this way, and the verse “they [the words of Torah] will not move from your mouth and your children’s mouth and your children’s children’s mouth, says Hashem,” will be fulfilled in us.

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