Monday, April 15, 2013

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Searching for Chinuch

a2(Chinuch is Hebrew for education, in religious Jewish circles the word is synonymous with “good Jewish education” – the key word being “good”.)

…via Merkaz Anash

Today our children face strong challenges of peer pressure and a negative surrounding cultural environment.  What can we, in the religious Jewish world with a religious family, do to deal with it?

1. Create a positive environment. Three mistaken approaches that people may have when facing spiritual negativity in their surroundings: (1) feeling dejected by the situation, (2) embracing it and adapting themselves to all the negative influences, (3) looking condescendingly upon others who are lost. None of these are productive.

Instead, parents must create a positive environment by focusing on the positive elements of yiddishkeit in their surroundings and their life.  By highlighting the positive (and there are Thank G-d many wonderful things going on), we lift ourselves and our children to a better plane, where these challenges are not significant.

2. It is the necessity for parents to be in-tune with the specific needs of their child. Even a "grown child" has emotional needs, and ignoring them is equivalent to ignoring the cries of a hungry infant. It is our obligation to ascertain our children’s troubles, to sympathize with him or her and, when possible, to help him or her resolve the issue.

3. Appreciate the value of what we have. Every day there are hundreds, from very religious to not-yet religious, who are moved by the Chassidus and Chabad, while we, having grown up with it, lack that excitement. Yet, we must constantly remind ourselves of the great treasure that we have and expend every effort to connect with it.

However, here too it is important that we recognize the specific needs of each child. Different children will respond to different valid elements within chassidishkeit: one will be inspired by a video, another by a niggun, and a third by a chassidishe story. We have to recognize this and give each child the chassidishkeit they can relate to. Pushing a child towards a practice which they are not suited, can, as the Frierdiker Rebbe writes, "lead them completely off the proper path."

It is critical to maintain the healthy balance between the inspiration ("ohr") and the child's capabilities ("keli"). The child's capabilities must be assessed so that he receives the proper measure of inspiration, not overdosing them. At the same time, the Rebbe has shown how even when one seems very distant (poor "keli"), the inspiration of yiddishkeit is powerful enough to draw them close.

Today we face a challenge of our children being 'inside' with their eyes focused 'outside.' As the Rashbatz told the Frierdiker Rebbe as a child, "Better to be outside looking in, than inside looking out."

It is our responsibility as parents to inspire the child with a joy for yiddishkeit so that nothing will be able to distract him or her from it.


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