Written by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshivas TT”L Cincinnati
To my dear friends sheyichyu,
Many have asked me for my thoughts and reactions to the heart-wrenching video of a few Temimim aggressively vandalizing a “Yechi sign” in a Lubavitcher Beis HaMidrash. There is obviously a gut-reaction of disgust, nausea and – truth be told – anger. Yet, I did not respond publicly in the heat of the moment and allowed myself to digest the situation.
I will not be speaking for/against any specific Bachurim or Hanhalla members, Just some thoughts:
Let us start with a very simple principle.
1) Every hanhallas haYeshiva has the right, and the eventual din v’cheshbon to the Rebbe, to choose a way of Chinuch for their Talmidim. Parents are not forced to send to a specific Yeshiva, and Talmidim don’t need to stay in a certain Yeshiva, and the Talmidim need to have Kabbalas Ol to the Chavrei Hanhalla.
2) In my opinion, there has been a major change in the role and goal of Hanhallas HaYeshiva. In the past, the goal of the Hanhalla was to contain the fire of the Bachurim. Bachurim would sit by Farbrengens of the Rebbe and would leave with ideas how to “conquer the world” with unlimited Mivtzoim and Farbrengens etc. The Hanhalla would then come in and say, that there needs to be limitations as Bachurim need to learn etc. The bachurim would then “revolt” and have secret Farbrengens etc.
Today it is very different: The Hanhalla needs to ignite the fire in the Talmidim. I remember when I was in a certain Yeshiva and the Hanhalla said that on a certain Chassidishe Yom Tov, we would not be allowed to have a Farbrengen. They expected us to “fight back” and push for a Farbrengen. Instead we smiled and nobody had even wanted the Farbrengen!
Today, the Hanhalla needs to be very clear and open, and aggressively pursue to instill, the type of Chinuch that they feel the Rebbe wants. Even of that “kav” of something that I do not agree with, I respect it. A telling story: When I was in Kollel, I saw a Bachur hand up a wedding invitation in the Kollel that had “Yechi” on it. I personally witnessed Harav Y. Heller go to the sign and cross it off. I could not contain myself and asked him, why he would “lower himself” to do such a thing and not ignore it?
His answer was a paradigm shift for me: I do not go around Crown Heights crossing Yechi off signs. The Rebbe put me in the kollel to be the executive Mechanech. I need to show everyone where I stand on Chinuch issues. I think that having Yechi on signs is wrong.” He then turned to me and said very strong: If you feel it is right, and you go into chinuch, please let the Talmidim know that you feel that it is right. Mechanchim need to be clear where they stand on these important issues.
3) To those that do not educate their children, students to live with “Yechi” etc., I hope this event caused something to stir inside of you. I want to share a few very personal thoughts:
A) That this story happened during the year of “Chaim Shana – Yechi Hamelech”, to me is a message that we need to speak about this issue in a real, direct and respectful way.
B) I am sure that most of you were also shocked by this video. Why does it bother you? We were all raised, those that were born before Gimmel Tammuz, that “Yechi” is “Kodesh Kadashim”. We sang it with a full heart in front of the Rebbe – with the Rebbe’s full encouragement – for nearly two years! What happened? For many the pain and disappointment of Gimmel Tammuz made us move away from this issue. Not because we feel it is wrong, but because it has either been abused (in our opinion) or been too personally hurtful. We really believed, and lived with, the immediate Hisgalus of the Rebbe and now… it is 5778! But look what happens to our silence?! The next generation is raised with a hatred to what we hold sacred! They interpret our silence as something that we don’t think is “ours”. Imagine it was your son in the video? Instead of late by night, after Mashke, singing Yechi (as many people do when the Emes comes out), Bachurim taking down Yechi??
C) The most important point: We see many of our children losing interest and/or going “OTD”. There are many Bachurim, Yungeleit that are not thinking of Shlichus – not because of lack of places, rather – lack of interest and motivation. How many “pure” – inspired, dedicated and motivated – do you know?
Why is there no motivation? Because deep down, many feel that the Rebbe, and thus the mission of Lubavitch, is a thing of the past! How do you expect me to connect, and give up my personal comforts and enjoyments, to a Rebbe – and a mission – that “left us” before I was born? “Yechi” – is the answer to this problem, not the cause!
What does “Yechi” mean to a young Bachur?
1) The Rebbe is with us today and we can connect in a real way. Besides just learning the Rebbe’s Torah – which is very important – as that we do to all of our Rabbeim.
2) The Rebbe gave us “Igros Kodesh” to receive personal answers from him.
3) The concealment in temporary.
4) The mission – and every word of the Rebbe – is “alive” and will be accomplished. We will be the ones to make it happen.
5) The concealment of 27 Adar and Gimmel Tammuz, did not derail the Rebbe’s plans, rather was part of the plan.
6) Instead of ignoring the sichos of 5751-5752, we look there – as per the Rebbe’s instruction in Igros 4 page 24 – for comfort and direction.
7) WE ARE ALIVE and have what to live for!!
8) Our Rebbe is not just another Tzaddilk, or Rebbe, rather the greatest of all – that the entire creation has been waiting for: Melech HaMoshiach! We need to follow his directives proudly.
Is this not what you want from your children? Why should we just be happy that our children are Frum with beards (or not…) if we can give them the tools to connect to something higher. It is not a guarantee, but something to hold on to and live with. Truth is the strongest anchor in life.
The world is speeding towards Geula! Let’s get “back to basics” – living with our Rebbe as Melech Hamoshiach – and may we merit to be Makbel Pnei Moshiach Tzidkeinu now!!
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
Rosh Yeshivas TT”L Cincinnati