Thursday, July 17, 2008
If the Only Way We Can Sell Our children Torah is by Forbidding Everything Else, Then We are Bankrupt
Over Shabbos, I saw a quote from Rav Shlomo Freifeld in Rabbi Yisroel Besser's book, "Reb Shlomo," which captured so much that my rebbe has been teaching us as well. He said (paraphrasing) "If the only way we can sell our children Torah is by forbidding everything else, then we are bankrupt."
I read this to mean basically the following: While it would be foolish not to forbid clearly damaging things to our children like TV, movies and unfiltered internet, when our isurim get more and more dakusdik by overextending them to see potential dangers in almost anything in life, it begins to totally miss the point.
We cannot blame Lipa Schmeltzer (esp. starting at minute marker 11:00), gold-decorated women's shoes, or text messaging to explain why our children sometimes go off the derech. Before these things, along with TV, the internet and Lipa Shmeltzer concerts existed, kids went off the derech because of the haskala or Enlightenment, Reform, or any number of other movements throughout the years. Whereas before, different ideological and intellectual movements may have been attractive, now it's cheap entertainment that threatens by appearing more exciting than Torah. There is always going to be something that will be the kli to draw Jews away from Torah and mitzvos.
However, if we allow ourselves to get caught up in these problems which are merely the conduit through which our children sometimes go off, we are deluding ourselves as to the real problem. If the Yiddishkeit that we live and that we teach our children is not the most vibrant, joyful, exciting and meaningful thing for us in our lives, then almost any vanity of this world will seem more attractive by comparison. It is cruel and unusual punishment to our own and our children's neshamos if we try to correct the presence of text messaging in our midst but we don't correct the kind of messaging that is going on between ourselves and our Father in Heaven! As long as we ignore the internal problem within our own neshamos and our own homes, there will always be some temptation that will "take the children away from Yiddishkeit."
Rav Freifeld said that if we can only get our children to like Torah by fobidding everything else, we are bankrupt. What does it mean to be bankrupt. It means you have nothing! You're empty handed. If our Torah and Mitzvos are empty, then of course we cannot compete with anything of this world. It is a tragedy to blame outside forces when they are just the conduit through which our internal, spiritual problems express themselves. Let's not miss the point. Instead of focusing on outside threats, we must work on filling our spiritual bank accounts so that we can emerge from bankruptsy and live the kind of ruchnius-dikeh life that will make any of these ancillary external distractions pale in comparison to the beauty, happiness, fulfillment and joy in our own Yiddishkeit.
(Picture courtesy of Shor Yoshuv)
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