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]
although this is a “return to haShem” holiday, that no matter how far away you get, you can always return to Him, still the problem that Rav Hoffman describes in this article are more problems in PARENTING.
Perhaps the frum communities should offer courses in how to raise and how NOT to raise children so that the kids not be driven to go OTD! I have seen too many frum musarnik give advice and see their own kids go OTD.
We need people to listen to older people who raised successfully their kids to give advice..
Thanks for bringing the topic to the forefront.
I just dont understand why they go to such extremities. Instead of dropping all that they grew up believing why not just try a different hashkafic sect of Yidden? I mean if they are afraid that they will have to change the customs they were brought up with, is that more of a problem than just dropping Yiddishkeit completely? Im sure there are many that wouldnt mind finding shidduchim from outside their circles but in the cruel reality they never get a chance.
Some easy, very inexpensive, suggestions/solutions (for Rabbeim, Moros, Menahalim, Menahalos, Michanchim, Michanchos, teachers, and parents:
1) Talk with your students/children. Don’t only teach them. CHaZa”L teach us “umei’talmidai yoser mei’kulam.” Clearly there is what to learn from our students; their interests, the way they think, the way the see/understand the world around them, their relationship with HKB”H.
2) When teaching, remember the goal is for your students to know the material, to integrate the material into their lives, to relate to the material. It is not to “cover the material” regardless, or to complete the materials, course, shiur, etc., which inevitably leaves the majority of the students behind.
3) V’sein chelkeinu b’sorasecha – Assure that not one student feels they have nothing to contribute to your class, to their community, and to their people. Their questions, their answers, their strengths, their talents need to be seen as important, irreplaceable components in your classroom / in your school.
4) Live with the words of CHaZa”L – Of you teach / believe in “l’fum tzaara agra”, then don’t systematically award only the naturally talented/smart students, or even those who worked hard and achieved. Those who “give it their all”, even if they don’t have the marks, should realize they have accomplished immeasurable amounts of reward.
5) Never encourage bullying by running a classroom based on smart, average, and below average (dumb, retarded, etc.) divisions. Stick up for any/all students.
6) Take nothing for granted – basic information is not always known by all. Common sense is not always so common. Make sure your students know and prerequisite information.
7) Communicate your students’ accomplishments and achievements with their parents. Do so early on in the year and do so close to Shabbos (Thursday Erev Shabbos).
8) Make sure your own excitement about learning and teaching Torah shines forth.
9) Design tests for the success of your students. Make sure you have taught all the requisite materials. Make sure there are varied question types.
10) Love your students. Love your subjects. Love teaching.
Let’s start by dealing with all the children not accepted in Moisdos for so many stupid reasons.
If our Yeshivas, schools and chadorim were properly funded by the community, allowing them to put proper resources and programs in place for struggling children, we wouldn’t be left picking up the pieces after the kids fail.
If you are giving tzeddoko to overseas charities- ask yourself first; are the kids in my community getting the education that they need? Are the rebbeim overstretched and stressed? If kids have difficulty in reading a piece of gemorah are there support teachers in place? If a girl has problems is there someone for her to talk to?
If the answer is no (which I am sure it will be) then give the overseas moisad $10 and the rest to your local Yeshiva. Our children come first.
An extremely relevant topic to all Jews. The devrai torah in this article are great and worth repeating.
We have a big challenge in our generation B”H. “CHINUCH”. It’s unfortunately getting more and more difficult, for many unfounded reasons to give each child the proper attention he or she needs. Many of them are just missing one important treatment called” AHAVAS CHINOM”. If and when a child feels love from his Teacher, Rebbe, Parents his achievements can get rocket high even if its academical potentials are not always at best.
We need to inject in our children at the earliest stage in their CHINUCH the meaning of EMUNA , the meaning to be proud to be a member of Klal Yisroel and explain to them in a simple way that Hashem loves them. Then they will enjoy much more their studies even at the lowest level. I spoke to many OTD’s and I felt in most of them an inside revolt . They felt rejected by the Yiddisher community. I am not saying that all their arguments were right but by showing them free love we can open them a way back home. They are waiting for it.
Not sure why one avenue of yeshua was not mentioned above: Tefilla, Daven for your children, Daven for your students, Daven for other’s children. Many Gedolim said that Tefilla is the main way to have hatzlacha with your children. Of course we must do all of the above aitzos, at least the ones that apply to your children and that you can implement. However, without Tefilla, without reaching for Hashem help and realizing the yeshua will come only from him, the hishtadlus will not bear fruit.
is there a connection between this and the rising divorce rate?
They are leaving Williamsburg in droves Tzeni’us police not innocent for this one.
@eli lev – You most perceptively ask, “is there a connection between this and the rising divorce rate?
I would think so. In a system where kedushas and taharas Yisroel is not transmitted, where asher bachar banu is taught on neither a personal nor communal level, and where being the mamleches kohanim v’goy kadosh is not communicated by neither word nor deed, that which is called kiddushin is going to suffer. When the nitzchiyus of Klall Yisroel is not emphasized or glorified and is perhaps not the light by which our path is led or the lens through which we look at life and its challenges, we will not look at our role as a link in that eternal chain with any degree of seriousness or commitment.
@shuali well said. and there’s more, …western society where selfish “feelings” are encouraged , even by therapists “you deseve better” “you deserve more” “you dont feel loved ” ….. the roots of all this is in the leftists/liberal culture, and can never bring one to joy and happiness. The focus is on the ‘body’ self actualization which only causes unhappiness with oneself, instead of “neshama actualization” bringing one to true connection with Hashem, which is true pleasure and joy/happiness.
There is so much confusion out there….. Assuming there is truth, in the “you dont love yourself enough” common saying, still theres a terrible misunderstanding of its anatomy and what to do about it. its the neshama crying for help, and so the road to loving oneself is in nuturing and growth of ones neshama.
They’ve been talking about OTD for thirty years now, if not more.
כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת
And that was before internet and smartphones.
So how can we fight anymore?
I heard there’s this place in France that has an impeccable record for bringing these kids back.
@eli lev – Yiyasher kochacha. Very true. All makes relating to reiacha as kamocha and to our people as goy echad ba’aretz so very, very difficult.