By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati
In the past few articles, we discussed some of the basic and necessary approaches to educating our youth today. There is one more very important and necessary component that can’t be stressed enough: Trust. Our children must hear and feel from us that we really believe and trust in them that they will use their capabilities to be successful.
The youth of today, especially teenagers, are not really in touch with themselves. There are many changes going on in them and they are not always able to react appropriately. They feel in themselves a tremendous energy and do not always know how to express it. That is why many times they end up doing silly things. It leads to a lot of guilt that weighs on them internally, and this does not allow for positive growth.
Conventional wisdom dictates that youth is a “stage” that they need to grow out of. In the world of the Rebbe, that does not exist. The Rebbe views the youth as a world-changing power, a power that naturally looks for truth and if channelled properly can turn over the “Hanachos Ha’olam” and make the world a better place. To tap into that energy, the youth must feel believed in and loved. When that happens, they will dedicate themselves and all their unique energy to better the world.
The truth is that the Rebbe gave over this message from the beginning of his leadership. In the letter for 10 Shevat 5711, the Rebbe gives the following instructions:
“In the course of the day, people (who are fit for the task) should visit centers of observant youth and, in a neighbourly spirit, should make every endeavour to also visit centers for the young people who are not yet observant in order to explain to them the warm love that the saintly Rebbe constantly had for them. It should be explained to these people what he expected of them; they should be told of the hope and the trust that he placed in them — that they would ultimately fulfill their task of strengthening the observance of Judaism and disseminating the study of Torah with all the energy, warmth and vitality that characterize youth.”
When analyzing the above it is clear that while it must be made very clear to the youth what is expected from them, it is sandwiched between explaining the youth the love that the Rebbe has for them and the trust that he has for them. The Rebbe is not hiding or sneaking in the expectations; he is teaching us that the only way that the youth will respond to our expectations is if it sandwiched between love and trust.
We see this as a general approach in the Rebbe’s behaviour. The Rebbe demanded complete dedication to the cause and to the Hanhala of the Yeshiva. He would not hold back from telling the Bachurim – and many times very strongly – what he expected of them. Yet the Rebbe would start the year with Birchas HaBanim (blessing to one’s children on Erev Yom Kippur) directed exclusively to the Bachurim. He showed them that right before Kol Nidrei, when one thinks about what is most precious to him, the Rebbe thinks of them.
Our Rebbe – even before the Nesius – always had the loyalty of the Bachurim. They knew and felt that he believed and loved them. Not only did this not interfere with his demands of them, it allowed the Rebbe to demand more.
The important principle that rules were created to help us grow must be delivered to today’s youth (we will explain more in our next article), but that cannot be done and will not be internally accepted if the youth do not feel that those who are enforcing the rules trust that they can and will grow and succeed.