The enduring value of a stroll with our kinsfolk | Mishlei | By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita


Musings on Mishlei

The enduring value of a stroll with our kinsfolk

By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

The call was gentle, with an effervescent smile. The Bobover Rebbe Rav Shloma ztl lived beyond any norms of us mere mortals. His stamina defied nature and it seemed as though he never slept. The Rav’s lights were always on, people waiting till all hours for his compassionate advice and blessings. During the day the burdens of the Mosdos took front and centre, whilst communal needs demanded his wisdom and clarity as well.

Many times the Rav would need to break away and look after his own health. The doctors told him that he needed to take walks, but when and where? Bobov was then in Crown Heights, and the area wasn’t particularly conducive for a casual stroll. Sometimes the Rav would call for a bochur to walk with him, the said walk would be a half hour pacing back and forth in his office. To and fro he would stride arm in arm with the young man. Talking, asking, learning, bonding and so much more, the student found himself being given a whole world of kindness and Torah clarity.  The Rav’s warmth was astounding, and highly contagious. Those makeshift strolls in his office remain vivid in the memories of those blessed to be invited. I know, I was one of them. I well remember how the incongruence of a walk indoors soon disappeared and the Rav’s natural ability to connect took over.  It was a masterclass in chinuch that has lived with me ever since.

“A gentle reply turns away wrath, but a distressing word stirs up anger.” (Mishlei 15:1)

Often the Rav would explain how to approach others who are challenged or in trouble. He didn’t speak as if to teach, but rather explained in a gentle manner that permeated the listener with life skills for the future. It was as if the Rav sensed that my life would take me on a path that would be in a communal role and so he sought to sensitize me to what sharing with others was about.

“The tongue of the wise enhances knowledge, but the mouth of fools pours out folly” (Mishlei 15:2)

The beauty of that era of Torah growth was the intimacy that was available with the Giants of the generation. We were blessed to be in the shadow of these heroes of the spirit. Here was this American-born Brooklyn kid walking with a Tzaddik who had weathered the horrors of the Churban, been replanted in a strange new place and yet, was building a Torah empire. It was these informal shmuezen that gave us the next generation, a feeling of who we were and what was expected from us. We were given all the tools needed and given them gently and with warm simcha.

“Young people need sound mentors who will give them courage in troubled times”

All this took place over half a century ago; contemporary times have thrown up new challenges. You may think that those long-learnt lessons are no longer viable. After all, so much has changed.

“A merry heart makes a cheerful face, but by sadness of heart comes a breaking spirit.” (Mishlei 15:13)

Giving warmth, showing heartfelt love and non-judgmental concern is a lesson that Klal Yisroel has carried forward throughout our turbulent history.

The Chiddushei Harim  notes that the Torah tells us that when Rivka told her son Yaakov to dress in Eisav’s clothing before receiving Yitzchok’s blessing she was giving us a vital lesson. It may seem strange that the Holiest blessing that would be passed on to the future had to be given to one dressed in the garb of the child who had gone off the derech! The Rebbe says: that is the point! We must never forget that even those who may seem to have drifted off need the blessing of our previous generations. No one is beyond the pale; a Yiddishe neshoma always has a flickering of kedusha that needs to be blessed and enhanced.  It is interesting that it was Yaakov Ovinu who was sent away from the home of his parents, not the rogue son Eisav.

We have to look beyond the posturing of broken children who seem intent on destruction. They may wear Eisav’s clothing but the heart is the heart of a child of Yaakov, and it is this child that needs our blessings more than any other.

The Bobover Rebbe was a genius in giving each neshoma the warmth it needed.

We do ourselves no favours if we lose this warmth. Our kids face so very much; they need support and a knowledge that we are there for them.

All our hearts quiver with fear; how will this all go forward? We go to shiurim, listen to professionals, yet, it all depends on a basic building block of our Nation: warmth and understanding. Young people need sound mentors who will give them courage in troubled times.

My children are now grandparents, and sometimes I overhear as they relate to their children reminiscences of their youth. It is always the quite together moments that stayed alive for them.

Ours is a world filled with stress; nothing could be more conducive for bonding with our loved ones than a stroll, even if it is in a house.

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