Whispers from Our Avos

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Whispers from Our Avos

Harav Y. Reuven Rubin

In the quiet moments of the morning, when all are still asleep, you sit and think. You worry, even torment yourself, are you doing the right thing? Will this next step in life be a positive one? There are so many different paths that we take in life; and with each decision we face new crossroads.

In our heart of hearts we want to do what is right, we have learnt what the Torah expects, we have our Rabbonim, and yet, there is that frisson of anguish. Questions abide, our mesorah has created moral borders and hopefully we won’t be found abusing them. And yet…

The world of today is a fast flowing river, and you just don’t have time to figure out what way is for the best. You hope your instincts will guide you in the quick answer tempo of today’s rapid-fire world.

It is vital that we find moments in our lives when we can stop and take inventory of where we are going. There is a need in every soul for private discussion of one’s own needs – quiet, gentle times, within which you can take some measure of how you are proceeding through life. In the loud blasting of the noisy world of the everyday, it is close to impossible to have such thoughts.  It takes an early morning moment for the gift of concentration.

So sit with a cup of tea and think, allow your inner voice to hear something besides its own tension bearing whine. Let the sounds of sleeping loved ones create the backdrop of your inner conversation, and come with me into that hopeful place that lives within.

Paramount in many of our hearts is the perplexing challenge facing our young.  A chill runs through the heart just at the thought of “what can happen” to our own sweet neshoma. We have heard the stories, the rumours, the tragedies and we wonder how best to ward off such disasters. We want to create a loving ambience in our home, yet need to draw borders so that our young should feel and remain safe.

The howling winds outside are full of temptation and it doesn’t take much for its grime to seep into our own young.  After all, much of modern technology is geared towards entangling users into becoming addicted to its various enticements.  So come and sip some more tea with me and let’s work something out.

First let’s share a Mishnah from Avos: “Nittai of Arbel says: Distance yourself from a bad neighbour; do not associate with a wicked person; and do not despair of retribution.” (1:7)

‘Neighbour’ intonates the environment we live in.

The first thing you must do is create a border around your family, one that deflects outside influences from entrenching themselves. There must be a place of safety for our young, and their souls expect that place to be in the home. We cannot allow ourselves to think that we can be “trendy” and “with it” whilst by some miracle, the children will remain simple and pure. Your “shmutz” will drip slowly into all corners of the home. Kids pick things up quickly, they know when they see hypocrisy. Yidden who are rooted in the Torah can engage in the wider world yet need never be of it. This may seem farfetched but if we instil in our young the ability to be strong in their own understanding of who they are, then we can triumph.  When our young know who they are, they can carry their safety borders with them.

Many years ago I remember a particular domestic soap being advertised as being “so pure it floats.”  The image of rising above the waves is one of purity, and it is this that we must try to encourage.  This happens when the family creates a safety zone where borders are drawn between its members and those who seek to undermine us.

Whilst talking about this very vital aspect, may I add something? The borders we draw should be enshrined with smiles!  The bedrock of a Torah home must be built of love and warmth. There can be nothing allowed that drives a wedge between us. The whole enticement of the secular world is put forward with a smile. They coax us into leaving our treasured traditions with words meant to seduce the soul into leaving the sanctity of our Torah path. Millions of pounds are spent to create images of fun, happiness, and accomplishment.  Distancing ourselves from such a strong opponent will never be easy, and you won’t stand a chance by trying to do so with threats and anger.

The distance we must create from outside enticements should not be a vacuum, rather it should be a place filled with warmth and the love we share with one another. More than once I have heard from youngsters, who have perhaps strayed a bit, that if only they had experienced some more smiles when young, “if only.”

“Do not associate with a wicked person” doesn’t have to mean freezing out all those who may be seeking to learn from your positive actions. In a world that has lost its way, every Torah Yid is an ambassador for Hashem’s truth.

How then do we keep ourselves from letting others drag us down whilst we seek to bring them forward? In hospitals, we are told to wash our hands, and in some cases even wear special clothing, so that the infections should not attach themselves to those visiting. We visit but are aware of the invisible health hazards that lurk about.  This Mishna tells us that those who seek should attach themselves to our ways, not that we should allow ourselves to become attached to theirs.

And so, drink your cup of tea, and take heart. Yes, our world is extremely complicated, our lives are as well, however, as the Izhbitzer Rebbe Zt”l would often point out, ‘the most complicated of all are Hashem’s ways. Yet we have full hearted faith and from this we take our strength.’

Listen to the quite dear Yidden, hear the whisper of our Avos, and have faith. Our bitochen will overcome all bearers, and we will share in simchos together.