By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
When the Ghetto Walls Crumbled
Once upon a time, you told a kid what to do, and the kid did exactly as told. The transmission of Judaism and Jewish practice from generation to generation was a simple process: Parents told their child, "This is what we do and this is what we don't do," and the child obediently complied.
Our ancestors lived in a physical ghetto, there was nowhere to go, and in a psychological ghetto, there were no other real options to choose from.
Education was a simple process.
Then the Jew was emancipated; the ghetto walls crumbled. And Jewish education changed forever. No longer was the child ignorant of the world around him. His options were endless—conforming to his ancestors' ancient ways was only one of them. The education of "do so because I said so" could no longer endure.
If this was a challenge in the age of horse and buggies and then mailmen, how much more so in the 21st century, when the outside world is at our doorstep, or better yet, in our bedroom.
A Chassidic Rebbe once said, "The sights that my Chassidim in America see on one train ride, is more than what my Chassidim in the shtetl saw in a lifetime."
How do we deal with education in the age of www and 3D?
Let's see what the Torah has to say.
In this week’s Torah portion Beha’aloscha (Bamidbor (Numbers) 8:1 -12:16) G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him, "When you raise ("beha'alotecha") the lamps [of the Tabernacle's candelabra]…" (Numbers 8:1-2).
Beha'alotecha, commonly translated as "when you kindle," literally translates as "when you raise up" What's the connection between "raising up" and lighting a menorah? The commentator Rashi explains that the priest must light the lamps in the menorah until they burn – rise upwards – on their own.
Spiritually speaking, the menorah represents the soul. To light a menorah means to ignite a soul.
The Torah is teaching us that when we ignite the soul of our children or protégés, we must educate them so that they can stand on their own two feet. Don't give them fish; teach them how to fish. Don't teach them dependence, teach them independence. Make them knowledgeable about and proud of their faith, rather than clueless and subdued.
We must build strong immune systems that can stay strong in the face of the “junk” thrown its way; so that their spirit and dedication to Judaism is not intimidated or weakened by the so-called world cultures around them.
This immune system is not hereditary, it doesn't come naturally. It is up to us to "raise the lamps."
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Levi Avtzon)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!