By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
In our previous article, we discussed how Emuna in Moshiach is a sine qua non for Chinuch in our times. In this article I would like to address a second pre-requisite for chinuch in this generation: Our children and Talmidim must know that the Rebbe is accessible today and that we can communicate and receive guidance and Brachos from him even in 5775.
To explain: In the hearts of many boys (I say boys, because those are who I deal with daily), there is a feeling that they were “forsaken” by the Rebbe (ch”v) – or they are trying to connect to “The Rebbe of their father” – and therefore they find it difficult to commit themselves completely to the Rebbe. In order to deal with this issue, there needs to be constant reinforcement that the Rebbe is still accessible and leading us. We can all turn directly to him and receive Brachos and guidance,
To elaborate: In order for people to commit themselves, the cause needs to be “theirs.” It is not enough that they appreciate the cause that their fathers and grandfathers dedicated themselves to, it needs to be their cause.
We see this clearly on the Yomim Tovim of Pesach and Shavuos. On Pesach, when the children ask, “Why are we celebrating?” we don’t just answer that we are celebrating the release of our grandparents from Mitzrayim, rather we make it very personal, “If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
The same is true about celebrating the giving of the Torah on Shavuos. We do not tell our children that the reason we celebrate is because our grandparents received the Torah. We tell them that their Neshama was by Har Sinai and they themselves received the Torah. Hence, it is their Yom Tov.
Dealing with the youth is not always easy. The Yeshiva system – and daily schedule – can often be long and gruelling. It can even be restricting at times. With the advance of social technology, the youth today are more aware – and have such easy access – to the enticements and instant pleasures of the outside world. Many of them have friends – or family – that seem to be “enjoying life” and free of limitation and restriction. If our youth feel “forsaken”, it is a losing battle.
We must keep encouraging them with the message that they have not been forsaken and the Rebbe is their Rebbe. We must tell them stories that took place specifically after Gimmel Tammuz. We must encourage them to write to the Rebbe and experience for themselves a direct answer or guidance from the Rebbe. It will change their perspective and attitude and strengthen their commitment.
When they ask, “If I do not see the Rebbe, I cannot connect,” I tell them the famous “cell-phone story”: A young boy gets a new cell phone from his parents for a present. The next day he goes to visit his grandfather and shows him the new phone. The elder gentleman is used to having a phone with wires that is connected to the wall and that the connection is visible. He laughs at his grandson and tells him that it is impossible that the little gadget is a phone. They get into an argument that seems to be “going nowhere” as each person is living in their own world.
In middle of the disagreement the father walks in and observes the scene. He asks them both to calm down and to be quiet for a moment. He takes the small cell-phone and dials a number. He puts the phone to the ear of his father and tells him to listen for a moment. When he hears a live voice on the other line he exclaims “I don’t know how it works, but it is definitely a phone!”
Before Gimmel Tammuz our connection to the Rebbe was through visible and tangible “wires,” i.e. dollars, t’fillos, farbrengens, lekach etc. Today the connection is not visible and our children wonder if there is still a way to connect to the Rebbe. It is our job to tell our children that we live in a wireless era. The cell phone is the biggest proof. All we need to do is “dial the Rebbe’s number” – encourage them to write to the Rebbe – and you will hear them exclaim, “I don’t know exactly how it works, but I know that the Rebbe Lives!”
Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.