Headlines Scream of Atrocities Committed by a Vile Organization


Headlines scream of atrocities committed by a vile organization.

Rebbetzin Sora F. Bulka

Headlines scream of atrocities committed by a vile organization. We would think that all decent human beings would recoil in horror at their brutality. But then we are taken aback at the steady stream of young ‘recruits’ who are galvanized to join them. We are further stunned as we learn that these young people have grown up in western society.

The question of ‘why’ is one we are all forced to contemplate. What would lead young men, and women, to leave their homes, to abandon their western values, to embrace this violent and relentless scourge known as ISIS. We might think that these are the disenchanted, the disenfranchised, alienated, and deprived. But the reality is that many are from affluent homes, having been afforded all the comforts and luxuries that their society offers. They are mostly educated, having a bright future ahead of them. So why?

And even more, why is the answer to this question one that should matter to mechanchim. How is any of this relevant to chinuch in our yeshivos, Bais Yaakovs, and day schools?

The people who flee their own comfortable existence to live in tents and to fight and destroy do not see themselves as marauders and murderers. They see themselves as part of a glorious movement, they see themselves as being transformational. They see themselves changing the world in fundamental ways. They picture themselves in a new light. They feel that by joining this movement they will matter. And here is the crux of the issue. The lives they lead in a modern world of comfort and ease is all about materialism. It leaves them empty; it leaves them searching and needing more. They are not escaping poverty and desperation; they are running away from emptiness and a despair born of a meaningless life.

This murderous movement attracts people with their heinous acts. They glory in the deaths of their ‘enemies’, the more gruesome the better. They offer a life that lives in the shadow of death – the death of others or their own martyrdom. And they think that this will mean that they will leave a mark on the world. So each additional horror serves as a recruitment tool to bring more and more of these lost souls to join.

This all sounds foreign, so strange as to be incomprehensible. But let us look around and consider what we see around us. Recently, there have been discussions and articles about ‘adults at risk’. We have graduated from the ‘teens at risk’ to the grownups. Who are they? Why are they at risk? Are they the teenagers now at a new stage in life? Or are they adults that glided through their younger years, making no waves, and now suffer their own crises in how they live and why they live this way?

The old adage ‘vi es goyisht zich azoi yiddisht zich’ – loosely translated as that which happens in the non-Jewish world finds itself in our world rather too quickly – holds true. And this means that the emptiness that drives these people is one that is part of today’s society. It is in the air, it is part of the zeitgeist – the spirit of the times. Ask the mechanchim and mechanchos, certainly the veterans, of how different today’s students are from those of forty and fifty years ago. (I am not of the school that everything was great then and berating the youth of today. Their challenges are different and, in fact, more difficult to contend with. Their successes and triumphs are to be celebrated.) A very important difference of then and now is that once upon a time we argued over the various ‘isms’. They ranged from communism to Zionism and feminism; they engaged the minds and hearts of the different sides. People saw themselves engaged in a debate about the meaningful issues of life. They would argue, passionately, as they debated the merits of every side. When they did so, this meant that they were thinking, they were going beyond their immediate circumstances and they were looking at their lives and life in general on a more global scale. When this was so, we could engage them, we could convince them, we could open their eyes to the greater truths of a Torah life. And they came to understand and to love what they could now embrace.

I have spoken with women who appear, outwardly at least, to epitomize the standards of our community. But when you speak to them about anything beyond the practical aspects of their day to day living, the simchos they are making, or their community involvement, there is an emptiness. More than one has said that she doesn’t really understand much about what we – and they – believe. They go through the motions, because this is what is expected if you are to be a part of the community – if you will belong. But this is a problem – because these very same women are entrusted with the responsibility of forging the next link in the chain of the mesorah. It is up to them to hand over the mantle of Jewish womanhood, of the role of the akeres habayis, to their daughters. And they really cannot. They cannot because they don’t know what that role is; they know its trappings, they know how it should appear. They don’t understand how essential that role is, they don’t value themselves because they don’t have a deep enough understanding of what Yiddishkeit is all about. And so they are vulnerable, they are easily swayed by whatever they read in the media about Jewish women. Instead of rejecting the negative images painted, images that are far removed from their own lives, their own experiences, the seeds of doubt are sown.

So how do we answer this situation? What response can we offer that can fill the void, not allow a vacuum to exist in our talmidim and talmidos that is ready to be filled with all kinds of negative things. How do we let them in on our secret – that a life lived on a different plane, meial lashemesh – above this material world, offers the promise of a fulfilling life, of potential reached, of making a real difference? Many years ago, as I was opening my own school, I asked Rebbetzin David about finding an excellent teacher to teach X. The answer she gave me then is one that still resonates and one that I have tried to follow. She said, “First comes the Who, then comes the What.” And she was so right – the Who, the teacher who is inspired will inspire, the teacher who lives and loves what he or she teaches will engage the students. (If nothing else, they will be curious about what it is that makes this Rebbe or Morah so excited about what they teach. They will want to taste it too.)

For young men, they need to come to relish the sweet taste of Torah. They need to feel connected; they need to know that a life of Torah is joyous. For young women, they need to understand how to take each lesson they learn and incorporate it into their lives. They need to appreciate the sweetness of Torah living and to understand that it is they who will build the homes where those lessons will be learned, will be absorbed in the very walls, as they construct their own oases of purity and elevated living, no matter what the latest trends in society.

Throughout time, challenging times that are fraught with danger, and more placid times where the pitfalls are not so easily recognized, one thing has remained constant. People want to make a difference – they want to matter. The word ‘kavod’ – doesn’t only mean honor, it comes from the root of ‘kaved’ – having weight, taking up space. Every person wants to feel that their being there means something. They would like to believe that they will leave something behind even when they are no longer there. They need purpose in their lives. Shlomo HaMelekh tells us in Koheles (9:10) kol asher timtza yadcha laasos bechochacha aseh… He tells us to take what comes our way and to give it our all – to do our best in all situations, to make the most of every moment.

The difference between our approach and the approach of movements such as the one we described is that the Torah tells us ‘vechai bahem’ – Torah is about life, it is about sweetness. The Chofetz Chaim gave a famous mashal to explain. He tells of a diamond dealer who sends someone to pick up his case with his goods from the station. The man comes and is groaning under the weight of the case. The diamond dealer experiences chalishas hadaas – he is overcome with weakness. That cannot be my case, diamonds are light. That is Torah – it is light, it is sweet. It is our job to make sure that our talmidim and talmidos know that joy and that sweetness. That will enable them to grow into the men and women of our community who can share that same joy as they impart the precious lessons of Torah.

Seven Rules of Jewish Parenting


Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l

The traditional Jewish child-rearing that I experienced when I was young, was based upon certain lessons which a child must learn, preferably before he or she is spoiled by association with other children. Unfortunately, these lessons are the exact opposite of those conveyed by many parents today. Our children are our most precious possessions, entrusted to us as a “pikadon” – a “trust,” to rear as servants of Hashem.

What is the role of parents according to Torah? In בראשית , Yosef says, “Hashem has made me a father of Pharaoh.”
Rashi explains the word “father” as confidant and protector. The basic need of a child is a sense of total security; to be held by his father’s hands or in his mother’s arms. A child has a desire to be loved, encouraged, and appreciated. In short, a parent must be the child’s closest and most intimate confidant and advocate.
Another word for parents in the Torah is אומן” ” and “אומנת ,” as in the פסוק , ” כאשר ישא האומן את היונק “. אומן is related to the word “expert” and the word “artisan.” A parent is supposed to be an expert, an artist who molds and finely crafts his child’s character.

The parents are the masters of the house.
Despite his preciousness to us, a child must have impressed upon him the feeling – this is lesson #1 – that the main persons of the house are the father and mother and not the child, that the parents are the ba’alei batim (masters of the house) to be honored and obeyed. Therefore, it is a mistake for parents to ask, for example, “What would you like to eat – chicken or fish?” Children must eat whatever their parents give them. They know best what is good for the child. A Jewish household is not a restaurant, neither is the mother a waitress nor the father a busboy. The same applies to bedtime. We are talking of reasonable parents who are not unnecessarily strict, but when time comes for the children to go to sleep, there must never be a discussion. Certainly, the process of going to sleep must be a pleasant experience, with a story and a song, “Shema” and a good night kiss. But our children must not enslave us by unjustified tears.

Before the child, parents must share the same opinion.
Any disagreements must be aired out quietly, behind closed doors where the children can’t hear. When parents disagree (and they don’t always have to agree) and certainly if they shout at each other in front of the children, that sense of security and trust which a child craves, flies out the window and is gone with the wind.
Children must be imbued with the importance of their ultimate task.

The most important lesson which children have to learn as they get older is alluded to in Bamidbar. The Torah tells us how the members of the tribe of Levi were counted: from the age of thirty days and up, they were already called “Guardians of the Holy Watch,” the tile of honor they would achieve as adults. The Levites knew the secret of successful chinuch (education): they imbued their children, from infancy on, with a sense of the importance of their ultimate task. The parents told their children, “I love you more than everybody in the world – except Hashem. Do not forget that I love Hashem more than I love you.” (Indeed, when Jewry faltered at the golden calf, the Levites were able to disdain.)

To illustrate this point, I recall an incident from my own childhood, which highlights the kind of chinuch I merited to receive from my holy parents. I must have been eight or nine years old, the oldest of five brothers. At the Seder table, our father zt’l asked each of us, “Which of the ארבע בנים (four sons) do you want to become?” Of course, we all answered “chacham” (the wise son), except one brother, who said he wanted to be a “tam” (the foolish son). Then my father became deadly serious and he called out in a very loud voice, “If one of my children, chas v’shalom, would ever become a rasha (the wicked son), even disregarding one mitzvah, I would tell him, ‘Leave our home. You have no place anymore at my Seder table, because I love ה’ יתברך more than I love you.'” Then he resumed the Seder in his normal, gentle manner. This left an indelible impression on all of us. Leave no doubt to your growing children that Hashem is your first priority.

Chinuch of children starts in the crib.
As soon as an infant is able to understand, parents should talk to him “b’lashon hakodesh – in the language of holiness”; namely, to tell the child there is a Creator who created us, watches over us, and gave us מצוות to keep. As soon as the child is able to talk, his parents have to teach him emunah in Torah (“תורה צוה לנו משה “) and emunah in Hashem (פסוק ראשון של קריאת שמע ). The first stories a child must hear are about our avos, yetzias Mitzrayim, matan Torah, and so forth.

A child has a desire to be loved, encouraged, and appreciated.

To Be a Parent בס”ד

Parents must be role-models.
The mitzvah to fear parents is preceded by the words, “You must be holy because I, Hashem, am holy.” If parents are living examples of this, they can expect their children to respect and obey them.
There are two kinds of chinuch: teaching by instruction (“והגדת לבנך – you shall teach your son”) and teaching by example (“למען ידעו דורותיכם – so that your generations should know”). When a child sees how his father is learning Torah, whether all the time or even only in the early morning or late at night, a child has a role model to follow. Mano’ach was unable to rear his son as a nazir unless he, too, abstained from wine. Similarly, when children hear parents say “please” or “thank you” or “excuse me” to each other, the child will pick up a habit of courtesy and gratitude – derech eretz – without any special effort on the parents’ part. He will also learn not to take favors for granted.

Rebuke and punishment are also aspects of love.
“כאשר יסור איש את בנו – As a father admonishes his son, so Hashem admonishes you.” Shlomo instructs: “Rebuke your child, and he will give you pleasure” and “Reprimand your child for then there is hope!” Dovid is criticized by the navi about his rebellious son Adoniyahu because he never gave him mussar.
There are two kinds of mussar: one is verbal, as it says, “שמע בני מוסר אביך – Listen to your father’s rebuke.” It starts when a child is very young, with telling him a firm “no” when necessary. When the child grows older, it might require some scolding to make him feel sorry that he made his parents angry and to make him anxious to regain their love.

“Mussar” also derives from the word “yesurim” (pains) and that means, in this case, corporal punishment. If parents hit in anger, however, they are teaching their child the ugly trait of anger and that the stronger can hit the weaker. So the first rule is never to hit a child when angry. The second rule is to introduce the punishment by saying, “I am very sad about what you did, and I am sorry to have to patch you on your hands in order to take away the sin that you did.” The purpose of hitting is not to hurt the child but to help him atone for his wrongdoing by causing him to feel ashamed. Thus, hitting should never be done in front of others, even siblings. Parents who preserve a child’s self-respect can hope to reap a rich harvest.

Parents have to grow together with their child.
During the child’s growing years, the bond between parent and child must become more intense; the older the children become, the more encouragement they need. Children thrive on recognition and praise. The words, “I am proud of you,” “I noticed you are improving,” “You have just done a great mitzvah” – all this is music in the ears of a child.

And let us not make a big ado over small issues. Parents have to learn not to see or to hear every little fault their children commit. Parents must never exert pressure like wardens in a prison, allowing their charges no freedom, stifling their initiatives and suppressing or ridiculing their youthful plans and aspirations.
Many of the points which we touched upon in connection with chinuch by parents also apply to teachers and rebbeim, only on a much broader scale. In פרקי אבות , we are told that a teacher is supposed to be called “ רבי, אלופי, מיודעי ” – “my teacher, my superior, my intimate.” One can derive this from the following: If Dovid Hamelech, who learned from Achitophel – a rasha – only two things, called him his teacher, his guide, his intimate, one who learns from another a single chapter, a single halacha, a single pasuk, kal v’chomer we treat him with honor.

The true rebbi creates for the child a firm basis of the יראה and אמונה that will accompany him all his life. I remember as a little child, an old rebbi taught us to read: “שמע ישראל “. He was a very old man with a loud voice. He began, “Now we’re learning the most important pasuk in the whole siddur: Shemaaaa Yisroel….” The shrek is still in my bones. He didn’t teach us just to say the words “Shema Yisroel.” He implanted the seed of emuna p’shuta in our young hearts forever.

Three times in our daily tefillah, we mention “ על פליטת
סופריהם ,” which means the teachers of children. These are “they who turn the many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” ( דניאל יב:ג ). They deserve our deepest gratitude, our most dedicated moral support, and our most tearful and fervent תפילות .

“Selected Speeches,” Rav S. Schwab, ch. 8, C.I.S. Publishing (“Traditional Chinuch in Modern Times”: May 17, 1990)
Rebuke and punishment are also aspects of love.