Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As many parents are worried about the problems facing their children, this is a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe addressing some of those concerns.

 

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By the Grace of G-d
2 Elul, 5723
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

After the long interruption since our meeting, it will surely come as a surprise to you to receive a letter from me. Yet my hope is that just as our meeting, and the content of our discussion, remain in my memory, the same is true regarding yourself, especially since our discussion was on matters that concern the greater public, and is thus worthy of having a continuation.

My immediate reason for writing you now is the notice in the press that you have been elected chairman of the international teachers’ association, IFTA. I would like to express my heartfelt wishes that you should optimally utilize the new opportunities that have been extended to you toward their ultimate purpose – the establishment of proper education in all countries of the globe, and in our Holy Land in particular. A new position always entails new responsibilities, and divine providence surely provides the ability to fulfill them.

As a continuation to our aforementioned discussion, allow me to speak of a certain matter which might seem inappropriate to the occasion because of its distressing element. But the verse has already said that “every sadness should have an advantage” – the advantage being the lesson it contains. And it is the lesson that I have in mind…

Education has two basic purposes: a) to impart a quantity of knowledge to the student; b) to educate the student toward proper conduct in his future life. Each of these areas is obviously comprised of many fields; regarding the behavioral aspect of education, there is the field of interpersonal relations, and the field of the student’s individual personality development – the manner in which he will regard his own drives and desires.

[H]owever – and this is the distressing point – the same contemplation also brings the realization that the public schools have not succeeded in the area of the student’s personality development, in training him to curb his desires. It is only thanks to the influence of the home and religious instruction that this generation’s youth have not completely cast off the constraints of civilization and turned the world into a jungle.

The result of this is that in those places where parental influence has been weakened for whatever reason, one sees a disproportionate rise in juvenile delinquency in comparison with other places, though the quality of the schools is more or less the same.

…The above should come as no surprise. Regarding the expansion of the student’s knowledge, there are many ways to waken and encourage his will to advance and achieve, by explaining its usefulness to him now or in the near future. The same is true regarding his social and democratic sensibilities – indeed, the very fact that the student must interact with other boys and girls contributes much toward this end. Not so is the case regarding his moral self-discipline. This cannot come from within the person, as in the famous analogy that a person cannot raise himself by pulling upwards on the hairs of his head. Rather, it must come from a point outside of the person.

…One sees no other way than to instill in the hearts of the children, from their earliest years, a strong belief in Him Who created the world and continues to rule it and direct it. In the words of our Sages, there is “an eye that sees, and ear that hears, and that all one’s deeds are recorded in a book” – a book that cannot be forged, an eye and an ear that cannot be bribed or outsmarted by any schemes or deceptions.

…So any school, if its program includes “education” – moral as well as social – must set as one of its foundations the above belief, not only as a subject for theoretical study, but as something that concerns day-to-day life… While there are schools that do not have the word “religious” in their name, it is obvious, based on the above, that the difference lies only in the [number] of hours devoted to religious matters. But if the school is completely devoid of religiosity, G-d forbid, it lacks what, especially in our generation, is among the most primary functions of the school: to educate the student to be a human being worthy of his name – as distinguished from a mere beast. And the primary difference between man and beast is that the human being is not subservient to his natural instincts, desires and tendencies, and, at the very least, endeavors to restrain them and control them.

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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at Lubavitchyouth@gmail.com.