Bringing light into the hearts of our children
Bringing light into the hearts of our children
By Harav Y. R. Rubin Shlita
The moment was one of the most poignant in history. The aging, sagely head of the family lay on his sick bed sensing his last moments were approaching. He summons his large family, all accomplished leaders in their own right. They are apprehensive, fearful that their beloved saintly father would soon pass away. He whispers; they incline to listen; his words are astounding: “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen at the End of Days…….” Yaakov Ovinu is about to divulge the greatest of secrets. His children are in Golus; they are about to lose their anchor, but here is the wisp of hope; father is about to tell us how long this will last and what our future will augur. And then, well, and then Father Yaakov goes on to bless his children, each according to his needs.
What happened to the prophecy? Where is the information that would give us hope? Rashi explains that the Divine Presence left Yaakov as he was about to tell his sons what would happen in the End of Days. Since Yaakov was not able to prophesy without Divine assistance, he blessed his sons instead. Why would the Divine Presence depart from Yaakov Avinu just as that moment? The Ropshitzer Rebbe ztl shares an astounding thought. He explains that once Yaakov was privileged to look into the future, he saw all the pain the Jewish people would endure until the end of time. This saddened him so much that the Divine Presence left him.
The Gemoro teaches us that sadness prevents a person from being able to receive prophecy. Therefore once Yaakov was overcome with sadness over Klal Yisroel’s pain, he no longer had the holy clarity about future events.
Learning this Torah insight causes a shiver to run down one’s spine. Yaakov Ovinu, surrounded by all his holy children, glimpses into the future and all the painful times we will have to share. His heart melts, his spirit is crushed and he cannot go on any longer, leaving the final prophecy lost in the ether. This is screaming out to us a vital lesson about what it means to feel pain for others. We are living in a time where pain seems to be on the ascendancy. Professionals will tell you that most of the heartbreak we call ‘kids at risk” stems from a sense of pain many are carrying. Within the blessing of our growing communities there lies a number of youth who are suffering painful realities that if not remedied become septic in their souls.
“To make a Jew who is suffering feel calm and at ease, even for one moment, is worth more than the entire World to Come.”
We all know about this, and most will pay lip service in discussing this blight. However, talk is not enough, and blaming outside influences doesn’t really deal with the issue. The rot starts within our circles and hence can only be cured from within as well.
Our Rebbes from before the Churban also faced tremendous battles for the souls of the young. There never was “the good old days”. After WW1 the young were leaving the Torah community in droves. In the 1930’s the Peasetzna Rebbe ztl wrote a handbook for those youngsters called Chovas Hatalmidim; even a cursory glance through its content shows you how clearly the Rebbe understood the eternal soul of the Yiddish child. The pain was being felt then; dismay and tears were tearing at the hearts of thousands of struggling noble Yiddisher homes. The Rebbe wanted future teachers and parents to hear his plea, and despite the generations that have passed, we need his support more than ever. With all our wealth and information, we are still surrounded by young neshomas in pain, and it is our responsibility to try to assuage their torment.
One path is mentoring, becoming a “Gutta Frinde”, a supportive figure who can guide these youngsters informally. If a young yeshiva bochur or Beis Yaakov girl has someone who understands, who will be non-judgmental, yet positively supportive, that will make a world of difference. Our Rebbes have told us that a “Good Friend”, someone who listens and understands, is the most important tool we can have in our battle to find light in these dark times.
With this in mind, our chevra, together with the askonim of Binoh of Manchester, is starting a mentoring training programme in the next few weeks. I will be using the seforim from the Peasetzna Rebbe as our starting point, and together we will hopefully be able to find ways to tap into each boy’s inner point of contact with Hashem.
There are many mentors who are doing noble work, but I believe this is the first attempt in training mentoring in a structured way as well as giving participants a place where they can be part of a chaburah that is sharing insights and experience. We have been granted some help from the local council so that costs are being kept to a minimum, and I daven that this will be a first step to a wider recognition of how we can give those doing this vital work the wherewithal to carry on with tools gained in a professional, structured manner.
I conclude with a story shared by Rabbi Aba Wagensberg of Yerusholayim. Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev visited an ill person who was very worried about whether he would receive a place in the World to Come. Upon hearing the man’s concern, Rav Levi Yitzchok called over some of his students to act as witnesses, whereupon he drew up a document transferring his own portion in the Next World to the ill man. His students signed the document, and a few moments later the man died.
The students were shocked by their rabbi’s behavior, and they asked him why he had acted in such a manner.
Rav Levi Yitzchok replied, “To make a Jew who is suffering feel calm and at ease, even for one moment, is worth more than the entire World to Come.”
Yidden, we need not say another word. The mitzvah for our times is to bring light into the painful hearts of our own children. Let’s all realize this and seek out ways to do so. In this merit we will hopefully be rewarded with those longed- for End of Days.