Breathing Life Into Our Mitzvos
Chovas Hatalmidim – Week 10
By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
“There should be a pill,” such was the exclamation from a well respected hiemisha psychologist who works almost exclusively in the Torah community. Pill, what sort of pill, what ever can he be going on about? “Rav, these kids are so uninspired, I wish there was a magic pill that I could provide that would wake them up.” Ah that pill, yeah sure, any day now, or perhaps not.
I know exactly from whence his despair stems. Anyone working with our young will experience the all too often stab of pain when trying to get them a bit excited about yiddishkiet. It’s not that they don’t learn, or that they are lax in observance, it just feels that it’s all so cold and dry. We all talk about this, parents, Rebbe’s, teachers, Rabbonim, it’s on everyone’s tongue but what can we do? This coldness has stealthily creeped into our shuls and homes, it permeates our lives as we become ever more enamoured with the materialistic traps laid by a crafty Yetzai Horah.
The Rebbe speaks to this lack of excitement and he asks:
“Let me ask you this please, lethargic youth. Why is it that if you have to travel on a trip you love, you automatically become diligent? You rise early, hurry to dress yourself, and you do everything quickly and with precision.”
The Rebbe continues:
“This is because the excitement of the moment makes you want to do these things, they make your soul feel happy and it wakes up and grabs a hold of every part of your mind and your body and everything becomes alive! You expend effort without becoming feint, you stay awake rather than fall asleep.”
So my dear readers, what is missing with our present generation, why are they cold when it comes to doing Mitzvahs although they apparently have strength too become awake when it comes to materialistic endeavours? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that our young have been given everything on a silver platter. There is no excitement when all you have to do is go into a shop and put everything on your fathers debit card. They are not invested in their mitzvahs, they just ask, and everything is laid out for them.
My generation was blessed with Rebbe’s who were on fire and that warmth was instilled in us. We are now educating children three generations later, the fire is no longer organic, and so we have to create it.
Sadly many kids don’t feel that the mitzvos they perform are somehow special to them, they come with no effort and so are done with the same relative lack of energy.
I have been thinking about this for some time, and would like to propose a new trend. Let us ask the bochurim in our schools to come along and together with their Rebbe’s tie new tzitzis on their arba kanfos. Let them work on counting the strings, caring how they make the various twists, remembering to say Leshem Mitzvos Tzitiizis with each knot. Those taleisim ketonim will become theirs, not only because of the receipt from the book shop, but because they have invested time and thought into they’re making.
The Rebbe explains that getting rid of lethargy when it comes to holy endeavours can’t happen in an instant. It’s not like material thrills that are here and gone in a moment. The neshomah has to grow strong step by step, making mitzvos personal one at a time. One tefilah, one Shabbos Kodesh, preparing each step of our torah path with intent brings a whole new dimension to them.
One such special mitzvah that has found new life is the baking of challahs. It was not long ago when challahs were the sole purview of local bakeries. After all, our lives are busy and many an aishes chayil has to work to help support her family. Then some insightful ladies started to revitalise the mitzvah of taking challah together and within a short time groups of holy Yiddisha ladies were gathering to take challah and offer the merit for this unique mitzvah to help others who may be facing health problems or other challenges. Such challahs now have a whole new flavour, the aroma of holiness permeates our homes, and those challahs have a special impact.
Taking everyday mitzvos and opening them up to individual effort will make them real and personal to our young. This could very well be a beginning, a first step, towards breathing fire back into our hum drum lives.
So, we may not have a pill, and in fact we should never seek shortcuts when striving to create warmth in our avoda, but we can seek new opportunities to make our mitzvos real to our kids, and just maybe they will become renewed for us as well.