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Wednesday
Jan272016

SOWING WITH TEARS IS AN OBLIGATION

In 5713 a group of boys and girls from the Mizrachi movement in Mexico City traveled to a youth village in New Jersey to train to be counselors.

Toward the end of the course, which took close to a year, it was decided to send the group for a series of meetings with Jewish leaders in the United States, mainly in the New York area which had numerous Jewish leaders.  Among the many people they met, the group visited the Rebbe in 770.  Even then, only two years since he accepted the Chabad leadership, the Rebbe had acquired a reputation as a wise, warm person to whom chinuch (Jewish education) was dear to his heart.

After making arrangements with the Rebbe’s head secretary, Rabbi Chadakov, the group of boys and girls arrived at 770.  It was a summer day.  While on their way there, on the subway, their leader, Shlomo Eckstein (later Professor Eckstein, president of Bar Ilan University) prepared them for their encounter with the Rebbe.  He wrote down for himself some points about chinuch on which he wanted the Rebbe’s opinion.

When they walked into the Rebbe’s room, the secretary asked the boys and girls to stand separately.  It was early evening.  The Rebbe’s face shone in welcome as though he had just begun his day.

The Rebbe went over the list of participants from a list he was given and then looked at the group.  Silence filled the room.

“Does anyone want to present any questions?” asked the Rebbe encouragingly.

Due to their awe in the Rebbe’s presence, they were shy about speaking up.

Shlomo Eckstein took a step forward and cleared his throat.  The Rebbe looked at him encouragingly.

“For a long time now, I have been very much pondering the issue of investing heavily in the area of chinuch,” he began.  “My students here are future educational counselors and they will invest, as I have done, many hours in the education of children.  We invest so much time into chinuch, sometimes at the expense of attaining great personal goals.  My experience has shown that often a great investment goes nowhere when a child, into whom so much has been devoted, ultimately leaves religious life and sometimes even assimilates among the gentiles where he lives.  Such a student is a stinging failure for the educator.  Instances such as these raise the question – why should we try so hard?”

Then Eckstein added, “It would be a privilege and pleasure to hear the view of the Rebbe on this matter.  How can I know that my huge investment is worthwhile?”

The Rebbe listened closely and for a brief moment silence returned to the room.  Then the Rebbe began to speak about the words in T’hillim, “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy.”

“To sow in tears is a mitzva; an obligation on every Jew.  To sow Yiddishkait requires a tremendous investment, with tears; we cannot avoid this command.  But at the same time, the Torah promises the one who sows in tears that he will ‘reap in joy.’  There is a guarantee that ultimately we can harvest the fruits we planted.”

The Rebbe paused and then added, “But it is not always guaranteed that the one who sowed in tears will himself merit to see the reaping too.”

At this point, the Rebbe illustrated this idea by describing a possible scenario that could occur with this very group.

“When you are in Mexico,” said the Rebbe, directing his gaze at Eckstein, “you hold educational activities for children on Shabbos afternoon.  Imagine that one Shabbos, after you begin your program, a Jewish child passes by. You don’t know him and he doesn’t know you, but since he sees Jewish children sitting together, he joins you in order to hear what’s being said.

“Since you are in the middle of talking to your group, you don’t stop even to ask his name, but you think that at the end of the program you will go over to him.  In the meantime, you continue talking and you tell your students about the history and magnificent legacy of the Jewish people.  You tell them about the Fathers of the nation, Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, about their self-sacrifice to fulfill the commands of G-d, and about our privilege to be a direct continuation of these giants.  It’s a privilege which is also an obligation, an obligation to observe the mitzvos of the Torah and to live as a proper Jew who is faithful to G-d in every circumstance.

“Before you finish what you have to say, the boy gets up and leaves without you having asked him his name.  He doesn’t know you and you don’t know him and now your paths diverge forever.

“Years go by and the boy grows up and his spiritual state deteriorates until he decides to marry a gentile woman r”l.  On his wedding day he already reaches the steps of the church and then, suddenly, he has a thought.  He remembers how one time, he doesn’t remember when, where, or with whom, he heard about his history as a member of the Jewish nation.  He remembers that he is a descendant of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov and the great privilege as well as obligation to preserve his Judaism at all costs.

“These thoughts rouse him to repent. He recoils and on the spot he decides not to take this step which will disconnect him from the magnificent chain of the Jewish people.  He informs the gentile woman that the wedding is off and he immediately leaves with the resolution to start living a proper Jewish life.

“That is an example of ‘reaping in joy,’” explained the Rebbe patiently.  “You or your students who are here won’t see it, and won’t even know about it, but that is ‘reaping in joy,’ which is a direct result of ‘sowing in tears.’”

***

This extraordinary yechidus lasted close to two hours.  Throughout the yechidus the Rebbe spoke in Yiddish, a language which most of the youth understood.  Even the few who did not understand, expressed their deep impressions at the end of the encounter, from the loving expression on the Rebbe’s face and his eyes which radiated infinite goodness along with genuine interest in the state of Jewish education in the world.

Shlomo Eckstein continued over the years to climb the ladder of excellence.  He earned his doctorate at Harvard University.  “I was one of the few who wore a yarmulke and was religiously observant at the university,” he once said.  He eventually became a professor of economics and later, president of Bar Ilan.

“In the various leadership positions I held at Bar Ilan University, including a period when I served as president of the university, I met hundreds of Jewish leaders and well-known public figures.  However, there was never an encounter that compared to those two hours of fascinating yechidus with the Rebbe.

“The many years that passed since then left their mark and most of the things spoken about in that long yechidus are gone from my memory.  One thing I will never forget from that yechidus however – that extraordinary teaching of the Rebbe about ‘sowing in tears and reaping in joy.’  That teaching was my guiding light throughout the years to come and defined my approach to education.” 

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