I am a regular reader of your column for many years and I feel that it is a way to get out a small message to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Jewish community.
The summer passed by very quickly, with unfortunately too many tragedies taking place here and abroad in Eretz Yisrael, where a whole family was wiped out in an instant. It makes us wonder why these things are happening.
I see it as a wake-up call to all of Klal Yisrael for what I feel is a lack of ahavas Yisrael – respect and love that we should be showing one another, regardless of what type of Jew the other person may be.
From my own experience, I can tell you that I have felt the lack of ahavas Yisrael in many ways throughout the years. My husband and I are regular frum members of the community and like everyone else try to raise our four children the best that we can, by sending them to well-known yeshivas. Like many families these days, we have had some difficulty in raising our teenagers.
We brought our children up with love and open-mindedness and never shut the door on any of them when he or she had some difficulty with self-awareness or self-esteem, etc. Yet, like many other parents, we have had to face the absolute worst when dealing with the yeshivas in whose care we place our very own treasures, our children: repudiation.
Helping out a child who may have some minor learning difficulty is not an option in the yeshiva system; kicking the child out is. And what happens to a young boy or girl once they are shunned by the yeshiva they had been attending? I am sure I don’t have to tell you. We all know – he or she becomes known as a child “off the derech.”
Of course he is “off the derech” – his rabbeim made sure that their “derech,” their road, is closed for them. It is so much easier to just get rid of the rotten apples, as they are termed, than to practice ahavas Yisrael by embracing these children or leading them in the right direction.
The yeshiva’s rejection affects entire families who are left to suffer as a result of the callousness of so-called “teachers.” They suffer in shidduchim, others in the community look down upon them, and their children are maligned by the lashon hara spoken about them. (I, as a parent, have personally been given the cold shoulder at neighborhood social gatherings by people afraid to talk to me because one of my children may not have measured up to theirs in degree of frumkeit.)
Baruch Hashem, despite some hardship in raising our kids, I am proud to say that they have grown up to be wonderful people and proud Jews who do not look down at any fellow Jew. We taught our children to be respectful of everyone; we taught them that a long beard or no beard, a black hat or no hat, does not define the individual or make someone a better Jew. A person’s exterior is worthless if he is lacking on the inside.
My message to all of Klal Yisrael: “Please wake up! We are lacking in the most important midda: “v’ahavta le’reiecha kamocha” – love your brother as you would love yourself. Respect each other regardless of Yiddishe background. And if you see a friend or neighbor going through difficulties in raising a child or in maintaining a livelihood, be there for them; ask what you can do to help; do not push them away because you are afraid for your own name.
And last of all, the rabbonim of every yeshiva have the obligation to take care of every child in their yeshiva – to help each of them go in the right derech and not to send them off the derech.
Hope you understand me
Indeed many of us do, though not everyone is ready or willing to accept the truth, which may be too painful to confront.
To be fair, it is not necessarily the teachers who are at fault; more often it is the administrators of the yeshivas who curry favor with their wealthy benefactors by acquiescing to their demands of maintaining a “pristine” presence in their learning institutions. These patrons make it clear that they will not tolerate “exposing” their children to students whom they regard as “inferior.”
Those who are in the habit of assessing themselves as being a notch or two above the rest of us may be well advised to do some serious soul-searching. They can begin the process by taking the eminent Chassam Sofer’s teaching to heart:
We frequently excuse our shortcomings to G-d by citing our mortality. After all, we argue, we come from earth and will return to earth; that is our lowly nature. In our Neila prayers on Yom Kippur we actually say, “You, Hashem, know that our end is earth and worms and therefore You should forgive us.”
He who looks down upon others may G-d forbid lose any hope for reprieve, for he cannot invoke humility in his defense.
In other words, by being pompous fools we only end up fooling ourselves. Hashem sees all our flaws and knows our weaknesses, regardless of the show we put up for others.
May we all be inscribed for a happy and meaningful life!
* * * * *
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.