By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times
There is a well known story of a holocaust surviving woman who had asked Rav Yoel Teitelbaum to speak to her no-longer-observant son. The Rebbe approached him and asked what he did for a living. The man answered and the Rebbe then proceeded to ask his advice in various areas in which that man had expertise. He treated him such respect and love that eventually the man came back and did Teshuvah and became one of the Rebbe’s most loyal Chassidim.
The fourteenth of Iyar is Pesach Sheni. And although many people will be eating Shmurah Matzah, unfortunately, few people understand its internal message.
It is a message brought out by the Gerrer Rebbe – the author of the Chidushei HaRim. Rav Yitzchok Meir Alter (1799-1866) was the very first Gerrer Rebbe.
He writes that this particular day, Pesach Sheni, is a tikun, a means of repair, for those who are perceived as beyond the pale – “B’derech Rechokah” – in his words. They are outside the scope of assistance. To them, to those who could not develop the closeness and Dveikus to Hashem that was emblematic of Pesach is this second chance.
The Psukim in Bahaaloscha tell us: There were men who were impure of the dead, therefore could not make the Pesach Korban on that day. They approached Moshe and Aharon on that day. Those men said to him, “We are impure [because of contact] with a dead person; [but] why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of Hashemin its appointed time, with all the children of Israel? Moshe said to them, “Imdu – Wait, and I will hear what Hashem instructs concerning you.”
The Chidushei HaRim writes that Imdu does not mean wait – but rather it means imdu in Teshuvah and Tefillah. It is not too late, just stand and pursue these two Avodahs and Hashem will help you along the way.
The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is the day for the off-the-derech kids that are now in every single one of our communities.
Each community among us, whether it be chassidisha, litvisha, or modern orthodox, has children that have left the fold.
Look around. They are hanging out on the street corners, at the late night Dunkin Donuts – hechsher and sans hechsher, and worse. Much worse.
Those that the Chiddushei HaRim refers to have issues of self-esteem, serious alcohol consumption, and many are abusing drugs. Many OTD kids have tattoos and multiple piercings.
They are everywhere – on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, in Lakewood, New Jersey. They are leaving Williamsburg in droves. And their parents toss and turn at night worrying about them.
It is to the point where, to echo a Pesach theme – “ain bayis asher ain bo mais – There is not a home that has not been affected.”
This Chiddushei HaRim is telling us that we need visionary leaders who can revolutionize what is not working with our systems. We need leaders who can fix things so that the off- the-derech children do not find solace in areas foreign to Torah. We need leaders to keep our youth enthused in their Yiddishkeit.
We must conceive of not merely a stop-gap measure, but something more. We must research what the largest risk factors are. We must develop and innovate programs, plans and ideas that will reduce these risk factors. We need to put our collective minds and our financial pocket books together. Torah society needs a comprehensive solution to address this ever widening problem.
Indeed, the Sefer Chasidim (308) explains that even if there is significant financial strain we need to create separate institutions for our different types of children.
True, there are the Rabbi Tzvi Glucks, the Rabbi Silvers, the Rabbi Fishoffs, the Rabbi Zechariah Wallersteins, the Rabbi Yaakov Horowitzs, the TOVA mentoring programs. But we need to support them and replicate what they do on a massive, massive scale.
We need an FDR social security program, a Marshall Plan. A GI bill.
We need someone to step to the plate, someone that can make a profound change that will effect and save generations. And we need to put our moneys where our mouths are.
We sweep all of this under the carpet and do not talk about it, but this issue, hands down, eclipses all others.
How can we attend gala Bar mitzvahs and weddings, Yeshiva dinners and functions while knowing that there are children out there that we have failed? We as a community must regroup and come up with a viable, palatable solution.
How can we not cry for thousands of holy mothers in Klal Yisroel whose every thought and prayer centers around her lost son or daughter?
And time is ticking. Let’s not kid ourselves. The off-the derech lifestyle can set itself in after a substantial amount of time for a lot of people.
Our Rabbonim, our leaders, and our wealthy askanim need to hear from us. They need to hear of the heartaches that we suffer. Our voices need to be heard so that this issue will be given the prominence that it demands.
We can all do something. We can create happier homes and happier classrooms. We need to reach out to the people we see and smile at them. Of course, there are a myriad of reasons as to why these things can happen, and we cannot chalilah ever be judgmental.
We need to be that resource, that Rock-of-Gibraltar that genuinely cares about the neighbor’s child who has that missing or divorced parent.
We need to put our collective heads together to create tools, resources, and institutions that will address the issue of our ever growing lost brethren. This all needs leadership, direction, and vision.
This is the message of the Gerrer Rebbe and the message of Pesach Sheni. It is also the approach of the Satmar Rebbe at the very beginning of this article. We need to take these messages to heart.
The author can be reached at [email protected]