I teach a graduate course in trauma and family crisis. The question most often asked by students is, “Why are there so many families in crisis compared to the families our parents grew up in?”
Whenever changes in a support system occur, making it no longer secure and defined, our ability to cope, adapt and problem-solve will be impaired.
In the past, the parameters of the yeshiva system were secure and well-defined. There were two Torah methodologies by which children were placed into classes as they entered high school. These Torah methodologies were modeled after two famous Torah partners: Shevet (tribe) Yissachar and Shevet Zevulun.
What made this Torah support system so secure and effective is that each partner catered to the other’s needs and resources, as though they were his own.
Shevet Zevulun were the businessmen who financially supported Shevet Yissachar, who would sit and learn Torah, and teach it to the children. As a result of this partnership, Hashem rewarded them and all of Klal Yisrael!
When Hashem made a covenant with the Jews as His Chosen People, He set up two business accounts in order to keep the whole Jewish nation interconnected. The first one was the “The Brothers Keeper Cable Account.” Recall the famous question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” asked by Cayin to Hashem in Sefer Beraishis. This parsha teaches that yes, you are your brother’s keeper. “Kol yisrael areivim zeh lazeh” teaches us that Jews are responsible for each other’s actions. When one Jew is in pain, the nation feels his pain, and when a Jew is celebrating a simchah, the nation feels and joins in his celebration.
“The Torah Partners Business Account,” the second account, is a financial and educational support system used for those learning Torah in our schools.
In the past, when a child entered high school, he/she had two classes to choose from: Class A or Class B.
Class A housed Shevet Yissachar. These children learned Torah well and listened to the rules and regulations as stipulated by the administration. The yeshivas took great pride in them, in hopes that one day they would grow up to be the role models and Torah scholars of the future.
Class B housed Shevet Zevulun. These children were not ready to take on the challenges of the school system. As a result, they were not into learning and required an innovative and creative rebbe or teacher who would present the materials in a way that would be more conducive to learning. In the past, our support system was secure and well- defined, in that the Class A and Class B partnership would stay intact. As a result of this partnership, Hashem would reward not only these two classes, but all of Klal Yisrael. These children grew up, got married and became great business leaders. Today they support most of our mainstream yeshivas.
I recall that many of my friends were in Class B, and it’s interesting to see their names in all the journals and community newspapers as honorees for major chesed organizations and school dinners. I often wonder what would have happened to these children if there had been no Class B. I guess they would be labeled “at risk teenagers” and put into “alternative” schools. For the most part, they would feel rejected, and without a “Torah Partners Business Account,” the resources from Shevet Zevulun would be lost.
One evening at the Touro College Advisement Center, a young man in his mid 20’s came to see me. He had questions about his major. As he shut the door behind him, he sat down and started telling me a little about himself. It seems that a few years ago, he was expelled from yeshiva. He got very lucky and found an alternative yeshiva that would accept him. He told me that he went to yeshiva in the mornings and worked part-time for a Manhattan electronics firm in the afternoons. He began at Touro College as a Business Major. He now owns a very successful mail-order electronics business. What shocked him is that the very same school that expelled him contacted him for financial support. They wanted Shevet Zevulun’sfinances, but not Shevet Zevulun!
Problem A: There is inherent danger in using methods that are normally associated with negative values to achieve desirable goals. The negative energy from “The Brother’s Keeper Account” is affecting our families throughout Klal Yisrael. As a result, there are so many more families in crisis, compared to the previous generation.