What is really our responsibility? This is the right approach as we begin the Three Weeks. And, guess what? It’s not kiruv.
What should be done with “those kids?” You know “those kids;” the boys who sit outside and schmooze during davening. The girls who walk around dressed in ways which embarrass their parents. Or perhaps “those kids” in your neighborhood are even worse off as they hang out in mixed groups at night, blasting music loudly while doing who knows what at all hours of the night…
Unfortunately, like with Corona, no neighborhood is spared. Every community has its own issues with the local youth.
So the question is: what to do with “those kids?” CAN anything be done?
The short answer is: Yes, there is what to do. In fact, there is a lot which can be done.
So What’s the Solution?
The first step to solving the problem is to recognize: It’s not “those kids.”
“Those kids” are really “our kids.” Every child in the community is everyone’s responsibility.
Now of course, parents have a greater level of obligation towards raising their children. Nobody can shirk their responsibility by saying, “Let the kehilla take care of my children!”
The foundation of building a community is realizing that everybody is responsible for everybody else.
We call it “כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה’ all of the Jewish people are guarantors for each other.
This concept is well known to us. If you can’t make kiddush, I can make kiddush for you even if I already fulfilled my obligation. Why? Because as long as you haven’t fulfilled your obligation, I’m still lacking in my own personal fulfillment.
The same holds true with chinuch. I can’t say I’ve fulfilled my obligation at raising children as long as other people are struggling with their own children.
And this is, of course, in addition to all the other mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro which obligate me to help out a fellow Jew. Is helping a teenager struggling with Yiddishkeit any less a mitzvah than helping our neighbor struggling with parnassah?
When viewing the issue from this perspective, we realize that things are not what they seemed.
Because besides my obligation to help out those kids on the street, I also have to be concerned for:
-My neighbor’s kid who is struggling academically
-The kid who gets straight A’s but has no friends
-The children who come from unstable, broken, or (chas v’shalom) abusive homes who don’t know what emotional support is
-and everybody else.
As long as there are kids in my community who have unfulfilled needs, I have an obligation to try and fill them.
It’s that simple.
Here’s one question you might have: “Why do I need to be concerned about my neighbors’ son? Let them worry about him!”
The answer is simple: Because he’s Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s child. We are all His children. And He expects us to act as family and take care of each other.
In upcoming articles, I’ll share some practical ideas and help on developing community resources to reach every child in an efficient, effective manner.
But the first step is remembering that we’re all family.
Now you’re probably wondering, “This sounds nice in theory. But what does this mean practically? How do I change my perspective of them?”
There’s an easy way to work on this. It’s called “Bein HaMetzarim” or “the Three Weeks.”
We’re in the three week time period between 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’av. We all know this is a time for mourning, for reflection and contemplation of the state of the Klal Yisrael.
Of course, the major push should be focusing on the Beis Hamikdash―both what was, what we’re missing and what we want to have back. And yes, the actual Beis Hamikdash is very important, as well as the avodah and everything which goes along with it; we need to take time to appreciate the loss and daven for the rebuilding.
But we should also take time to contemplate the state of Klal Yisrael. Think about what it was like when Klal Yisrael was united in Eretz Yisrael, with the Beis HaMikdash. Then compare it with now, how Klal Yisrael is in galus. We have no way to appreciate how far we’ve come from our glory, and how great it would be to be there again.
This last point is crucial to developing a proper mindset: We’re all in galus!!!
“Those kids” are in galus, and we’re in galus. We all need our own personal geulah, to bring us back to our true level of gadlus.
With this in mind, here are a couple specific exercises to work on during these 3 weeks:
1) When we catch ourselves thinking of them as being “those kids,” we should stop ourselves and verbally say: “Those our ‘Our’ Kids’, those are ‘Hashem’s Kids’.” By making a verbal statement it will reinforce the idea and help us change our thoughts.
2) When we start to look down on “those kids,” think about them as being in galus. And then remember that we’re also in galus, both as a nation and as individuals. Think about where you are holding today compared to where you would be if we had a Beis Hamikdash. Don’t you think you have work to do on emunah, bitachon, fulfilling all aspects of mitzvos perfectly like Mesilas Yesharim says… suddenly instead of looking down at “those kids” we can sympathize with them. We’re all in the same boat, struggling to reveal our true greatness.
3) Focus on trying to help them. After viewing them as being part of our family, and after developing sympathy for their spiritual states (since ours are not much better) the third practical step is to think about what we could do to help them. What do those kids need?
Not “What could I do to make them frum?” If you’re viewing them as a “kiruv project” then give up now! Think about what they need, that you could give them.
Often times, what the kids need the most is just validation, respect and dignity. So give it to them! Greet them with a smile, even if you don’t like what they’re doing. Better yet―find out their name and greet them with it.
Show those kids that you value them for who they are.
If you spend these three weeks focusing on these three points―”those kids” are “our kids,” we all need help to develop our own greatness, and thinking about how we could help these kids―I can guarantee 2 things will occur.
One, you will find these weeks to be inspirational and will help you connect to the churban Habayis, and to daven for the geulah.
Two, you’ll find that your attitude towards “those kids” will have changed dramatically.
Then we can daven that this year we won’t need to fast on Tisha B’av; that instead, Hashem will bring us―ALL of us―to the Beis Hamikdash בב”א.