But the truth is, one must ask himself what kind of Yiddishkeit was there in his home to begin with? Was there really that much for the child to leave? Or was it all a mile wide and an inch deep?
Faranak Margolese, in her book Off the Derech, addressed the problems of "empty Yiddishkeit" in chapter 11. She talked about some people never grow up with all kinds of bad or horrible experiences in their families or with Yiddishkeit. They left observance, but it did not follow divorce, abuse, yelling parents, condemning principles, Morahs or Rebbeim. They had a relatively happy, normal time growing up. So what was the problem? Why did they leave observance behind?
It is "empty Yiddishkeit," or as Mrs. Margolese calls it, "neutral" Judaism. It is clear that leaving observance often is the result of having a Yiddishkeit that is void of spirituality, passion, or love of G-d. My rebbe always quotes Tzav V'Ziruz #9 (from the Piaczena Rebbe, Rav Klonymous Kalmish Shapira) in this regard for an absolutely fundamental point that one must understand in order to successfully raise one's self and one's children (adaptive translation):
The soul craves excitement and sensation. This does not only apply to joyful feelings alone. Rather, it merely loves "feeling." It even desires sadness and crying. People love to watch horrifyig scenes, and to hear scary stories, even to the point of causing one's self to cry, just in order to feel something. This is an absolute requirement of the soul, like any of a person's other natural needs.I think of this teaching often and I think I need to re-read it even more frequently. It is fundamental to understand its principle not only for the way I bring up my children, but also for how I live my life as a Jew personally.
Therefore, only one who fulfills this requirement with Avodas Hashem and with exciting Torah and tefillah will guard his soul. But if someone does the work of serving Hashem without feeling, then the soul will gratify its need for excitement with other, cheaper things, even through aveiros, just in order to fulfill its fundamental need for excitement. Or, if it is unable to achieve excitement through anything at all, it will become diseased, as it would if any of its other physical needs were not met.
If I do not bring up my children in such a way that mitzvos, learning, chessed, davening, Seudos, Shabbos, brachos, etc. are exciting, then the question will not be whether they will simply continue living without that excitement or not. Rather, they WILL achieve excitement. The only question is: Through what?
If my kids see me getting excited and jumping up and down at a baseball game, but falling asleep whenever I pick up a sefer to learn, where will they learn they can fulfill their soul's need for excitement? If they see my wife's eyes light up when new furniture is delivered or when buying a new dress, but if they never see her saying Tehillim or speaking words of Emunah with great feeling, then where will they learn that exicement can be found?
If one looks at his (or her) own feelings and finds that avodas Hashem/Yiddishkeit is not one's main source of joy/pleasure/excitement in life, then *this is a major problem,* both for one's own situation and for how one's children will grow up. It should be a wake-up call to start taking whatever steps fit the predilictions of one's own soul to start reorienting one's hopes and dreams about what will give him fulfillment and excitement in life.
Once a person at least gets on the right track by moving in the right direction in avoiding empty Yiddishkeit, and moving toward a fulfilling Yiddiksheit, then he will take a major step in avoiding that particular cause that could lead to one's children going off the derech.
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