From an Ohr Somayach alumnus. You can reach him at: email@example.com
AWARENESS OF OUR PAIN.
By Michoel Gutmacher
The reason I am writing this essay is because I am in pain.
Perhaps, if more people share the same pain, they can overcome the challenge and do something about it.
It is hurting me to see so many parents speaking about their children saying : my child is not happy being religious , he hates being in Yeshiva. It is hurting me hearing Yeshivah Bachurim saying : I hope we will be late for Shiur.
It is hurting me to see children taking drugs or drinking so that they could feel some high-spiritual feelings that they can’t find by doing the Mitzvos.
It is hurting me to hear boys saying : I go to Shul , or I’m Frum because my parents want to, because that’s how it is, because if I don’t learn they are going to be sad.
It is hurting me to see the kids speaking Lashon Hara against Jews and about non Jews as if it was permitted. It is hurting me seeing teenagers saying Brachos like robots and finishing prayer in 30 minutes and then rushing out to eat a long breakfast.
It is hurting me seeing faces that don’t reflect Simcha after a day in Yeshiva.
It is hurting me seeing that we do Mitzvos without trying to understand them deeply.
Rabbi Avraham Twersky says that our communities don’t want to see or hear .
They don’t do anything about it. The reason is that the power of denial is extremely great and the Yetzer Hara wants us to keep those subjects Taboo.
We don’t like to hear those things , we are ashamed of our own children
( Chas VeShalom ).
It is hard to change; it is not comfortable to realize we have a problem , that we do things wrong.
Who am I to say such things anyway ?
Well, I am just a simple Jew like anybody and I am just trying to internalize and make something about what our Sages are telling us:
From “Penimi on the Torah” Parashas Nasso :
Harav Aharon Kotler, ZT’L, explains that a wise man understands that when he performs a Mitzwah, he is not giving Hashem anything ; rather he is taking for himself a great spiritual benefit.
If the study of Torah is nothing more than an intellectual pursuit, it will not have the same effect on the individual as when he focuses on the sweetness of Torah. Torah transforms the one who studies it if lomaid – student senses its sweetness and spiritual flavor. One who studies Torah like the Nazir who deprives himself of wine, who thinks that by learning Torah he is relinquishing fun and other frivolities, might develop intellectually, but he will remain spiritually deprived and stagnant. At the first sign of a challenge, he will quickly abdicate his commitment to Torah study.
Horav Avroham Schorr, SHLIT”A , posits that this is the reason that a distinct minority of today’s youth are at risk for becoming totally alienated from a Torah way of life.
The wonderful education that they have received focused on scholastic achievement, on covering more round, on a more profound level of understanding, but not on the Love one should manifest for the Torah and the Joy inherent in learning Hashem’s Torah. The excitement, the sweetness, the passion and love are simply not there, because their teachers were not able to transmit these feelings. We are too busy creating Lomdim- scholars and not focusing on Ahavas Torah- Love for Torah that should be the crowning point of their learning. Torah learned with Love creates a bond between the Lomaid and the Torah.
When the founders of a Cheder for young children in Bnei Brak were ready to open their school, they approached the Brisker Rav,Zt”L, for his blessing. They showed the Rav their superior curriculum, indicating the amount of that was devoted to each subject. The Rav listened and replied, “ if I did not know for certain that you are fine upstanding Bnei Torah , I would have eject you from my home. You sound like Maskilim-heretics whose only concern is the mastery of the subject matter.
What about inculcating our children with Ahavas Torah, Middos Tovos – character refinement and raising their level of Yraas Shomayim- fear of heaven ? The problem today is that many children do not sense the Mesikus – sweetness of Torah”.
I was reprimanded many times for saying that there is a problem with our system of education, of course, who am I ?! “How many pages of Gemara do you know in order to say such things” a rabbi asked me .
It is true, I am a nothing, and I know only very little, but let the ones who reprimand me listen at least to our Gedolim who admit that there is a problem.
I am not saying anything new.
The only difficulty is that our Yeshivot didn’t really change yet.
Where are the classes about loving Hashem, where are the classes about Yiras Hashem, where are the classes teaching us how to connect to Hashem through the Mitzvos. About what the Mitzvos really mean, and how we can feel something while doing it ?!.
Where are the classes about Dveykus and Prayer?
Where are the classes about how one can work on his Middos practically ?
How much time do we spend on Mussar : 15 mn.?! 30 mn maximum ?!
When this is why we were created for?! : The Vilna Gaon writes :The prime purpose of man's life is to constantly strive to break his bad traits, and to improve. Otherwise what is life for? All sin stems from unimproved character traits.
(commentary on Mishlei and Even Shleymah 1:1,2) .
The Ramchal says in his Messilas Yesharim : He should set aside definite times and hours for this weighing(of middos) so that it is not a fortuitous mater, but one which is conducted with the greatest regularity.( 3rd perek ).
Don’t we all learn the Messilas yesharim in Yeshivah ? who then applies those words ?!
The Chovot Halevavot in his Hakdamah already had said : How much more in our generation ! Most of the people do not take seriously the duties of the limbs, certainly not the duties of the heart.
Those among the people who are drawn to Torah study aim only to be considered scholars by the common people and to be thought of as great men. They veer off the path of the Torah to study that which brings no excellence of character, does not correct personal faults, and ignorance of which brings no punishment, while neglecting the study of the fundamentals of the religion and the foundations of the Torah , which should not be ignored or forsaken.
Without knowledge of these fundamentals* and foundations* and without practicing them , one simply cannot fulfill the commandments .
*: to serve Him in one’s inner life; to be in Awe of Him and Love Him; to long to fulfill the commandments which we are bound by...to have trust in Him, to banish hatred and jealousy from one’s heart, to abstain from materialistic excesses which distract us from the service of G-d.
Now, I am not trying to complain about our system or trying to attack any Rabbis;
It is just a cry of awareness. The one that keeps us blind and prevents us not to change is the Yetzer Hara and he has brought all of us in the routine of Jewish life.
Just like in the second
We can see from the words of the Baal Shem Tov how the Yetzer Hara is responsible for it :
“The words of his mouth are evil and deceit; he has ceased to be wise , to do good”(Tehillim 36:4) That is, “Because of The words of his mouth” i.e., of the Yetzer Hara, “ he has ceased to be wise, to do good”. This means:
Te yetzer Hara will surely not entice you not to study Torah at all. He knows that you would not listen to that. For if you do not study at all, people will not esteem you and you will not be called a scholar.
The Yetzer Hara thus entices you not to study whatever would bring you to fear of Heaven, such as the works of Mussar or the Shulchan Aruch, from which you would know the law properly. He entices you to study constantly nothing but the Talmud with all the commentaries.
This, then, is the meaning of ”he ceases”, i.e., the Yetzer Hara seeks to make man cease “to be wise , to do good”. He prevents man from occupying himself also with that kind of study that will have a good effect upon him, i.e., fear of Heaven.(Tzaavat Harivash 117).
So now that we are more aware of the problem I ask you the question: what are you going to do about it ?!
Maybe our kids should know that there is a problem so that all together we will be able to work on it.
This way , they won’t feel like they alone have a problem, they will understand that this is the fight of the Yetzer Hara and that we need to fight against him.
Let us all together ask the Yeshivos to make more Shiurim on the duties of the heart.
On what is most important:
So many times have I asked Yeshivah Bachurim to tell me if they knew the 6 constant Mitzvos, they don’t know. And those Mitzvos are supposed to be applied every second!
The character traits are the essential preparations for keeping or transgressing the 613 commandments. It turns out that one must be more careful about improper character traits than about keeping mitzvot.” (Rav Chayim Vital zt”l -- Shaarei Kedusha 1:2)
Orchos Tzaddikim in the Hakdamah : no deed is of much value without pure awe ... and if you do not have good traits, you do not have Torah and Mitzvos, for all of Torah hinges upon the perfection of one's traits. One's Olam Haba depends essentially on this.
The Meam Loez says : Even if one is a Torah scholar, but lacks awe of G-d ,
his scholarship will be of no value in the eyes of G-D (Ekev10:12).
I would like to end up with the advice of Rabbi S.R. Hirsh ztz”l.
The optimum situation is that children should feel they have no closer friend or confidant than their parents. They should be able to speak openly to their parents of everything in their heart.
If they are close to you , then when they are adults, you won’t need to fear sending them out into the world or on their own . They will always carry your picture in their hearts, and it will be an anchor for them when they are confronted with trials.
They will to prove themselves worthy of their loving parents, and this itself will give them the power not to forsake their parents’ path.
It is therefore so important that you ask your child where the problem is, ask them which Shiurim they would like to have to make the Yeshiva better , what type of Rebbe they need, what will give more life to their learning...
They need to fee that THEY THEMSELF are not the problem but that the problem is external and that together we can work on it.