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A Chassidic Education In These Modern Times?
By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber

Beis Moshiach is proud to present an article by the experienced mechanech, Rabbi Yeshaya Weber, addressing the question of how to educate a Chassidic child in this modern technological age.

I met with a number of parents of ten-year-olds in order to prepare this article. One of the parents asked the following question: My question is one many parents have. We want to educate our children in the ways of Torah and Chassidus. We want them to carry on our traditions, yet we cannot ignore the many influences of the "modern era," which our children are exposed to wherever they turn. What is the best way to provide a Chassidic education in these modern times?

The question is a general one and touches on many topics. Perhaps we should first attempt to better understand the question. We must also provide some general guidelines as background for the answer.

It is important to note that a Chassidic education is not a discovery of recent generations, but a revelation of the inner content of Jewish education as it is outlined in Torah.

Jewish leaders always knew how to direct chinuch – the chinuch of the nation as a whole, but most especially the chinuch of Jewish children – in accordance with the needs of the time and the challenges of the particular era. An outstanding example of this is brought in the first chapter of Bava Basra, about Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla, who is remembered favorably for instituting the enactment that every father bring his son to a teacher. Before he did so, fathers were expected to teach their children themselves. Rabbi Yehoshua saw that an enactment was necessary since, due to the difficult times, many children were not being taught by their fathers and they grew up ignorant.

The Gemara says that the enactment was expanded so that it became the obligation of every community to provide a teacher for the local children. The serious punishment awaiting those who do not comply with this enactment illustrates the importance attributed to it. Jewish leaders at the time saw this as vital to the continuance of the Jewish people.

Enactments such as this along with rules and various educational approaches established over time, based on the pure understanding and far-reaching vision of gedolei Yisroel, became the foundation for a religious Jewish education.

Chassidic education only began to be revealed and developed at a time when the Jewish people cried out for spiritual help. In contrast with earlier enactments and specific decrees which were promulgated in earlier generations, the Chassidic approach to education sheds light on the entire topic of education. Chassidus addresses the entire Jewish nation and relates to every individual, including those Jews who were simple, who found it hard, whether due to lack of knowledge and understanding or because they simply weren’t strong enough spiritually to cleave properly to the ways of Torah.

A Chassidic education was not limited to a framework, a rule or a decree, but created a new atmosphere that breathed life, instilled warmth and generated self-confidence that fortified people against negative enticements. It helped them face daily challenges to their livelihood and health without breaking, in a way that uplifted them.

This special atmosphere that imbued the warmth of a Chassidic education applies to every generation and era and is effective and influential under all circumstances. We have to know the weaknesses of the era, with which issues and problems we have to contend, and focus the energy of our Chassidic chinuch there.

Our era is complicated in that it lacks a definite identity. On the one hand it offers many tools and possibilities, yet on the other hand, it does not provide a line of thinking based on any ideology or principles, directly or indirectly. Our era is noteworthy for its intellectual laziness, which leads to emptiness.

This differentiates our generation from those which preceded it. In all other eras, our spiritual battle for survival was waged on an ideological front. As difficult as it was, people knew who and what they were fighting against. There was an opposition to confront. Today there is nothing concrete to fight against. We go to battle instead against boredom and vacuousness.

The ideological messages used in previous generations to fight opposing ideologies are not helpful as a first line of attack in our time, which is empty of all ideology. The first tools we have to enlist in our battle are the tools of the times, so that we can penetrate the emptiness. For that is the approach of Chabad: to take the available tools and use them to penetrate enemy territory. Then, when we have a foothold, we are able to present our ideology in order to fill the vacuum.

The question defined our era as the "modern era," a description I don’t think is correct and appropriate for our generation, in either the positive or the negative sense. The term "modern era" is already obsolete. A more precise characterization for our times would be "the era of user-friendly technology."

Our era offers the privileged to accomplish a great deal with a minimum of time and effort. These opportunities shatter limitations of earlier generations. Superficially, one could think there is no need to invest in learning about and developing one’s personality, a view typical in our era in which superficiality and shallowness prevail. One’s personality can shrink into non-existence, and technology, which is developing and progressing by leaps and bounds, can take its place.

The problems specific to our generation can be condensed into four categories, which I choose to describe as the "arbaa avos nezikin" (the four primary forms of damage):

1 ) The boredom of a child caused by playing games that do not require thinking or depth, but physical speed and quick reflexes. These are games of limited and momentary pleasure, which do not provide lasting satisfaction; 2) paralysis of personal development; 3) insufficient development of learning skills; 4) lack of energy to the point of utter passivity.

How can a Chassidic education address these problems?

Since the time it was revealed, Chassidus has proven itself as it made its way successfully through all life’s challenges. Our generation is no different than any others as far as this goes.

When a child is educated according to Chassidic principles, even if it seems to be passing him by without making an impression, it’s not so. The power of Chassidus is that it is the inner dimension of Torah which works on the p’nimiyus (one’s inner dimension). It penetrates deep inside. Even if it is not outwardly apparent, subconsciously it affects the child tremendously.

Many times one sees a child who has certain negative outward behaviors expressing Chassidic ideas. This contradicts other actions of his which seemingly reflect his true character. Is this a split personality? Not at all. It’s just that his Chassidic chinuch has succeeded in undermining the "inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth." Even if it did not succeed in completely dominating it and uprooting it and becoming the sole ruler, its influence is apparent. At first the success is little by little, but with perseverance, this chinuch will conquer the child’s heart and soul. It will influence the nature of his midos and transform them in such a way as to become his ingrained world view.

The question is, how does one implant a Chassidic chinuch, a chinuch which provides the means to prevent the "arbaa avos nezikin" mentioned earlier?

When a child is educated consistently according to Chassidic principles, such as true simcha and inner satisfaction with Yiddishkeit and everything it stands for, and he sees himself as a shaliach to fix the world with the goal of bringing the world to its ideal state with the Yemos HaMoshiach – he thinks deeply about this idea and seeks ways of making it happen. The desire to bring about this lofty idea is what develops the child’s personality and gives him energy, and brings him to a state of action in which he uses originality and creativity.

The desire to attain the fulfillment of Hashem’s desire does not produce children who are "programmed," but rather, children who think for themselves. A child who has goals such as these will have a mind and heart full of real content and lofty desires. Being occupied with these matters and working to realize them will give him tremendous inner contentment. A child like this will not be bored.

After analyzing the question and understanding it on a deeper level, the time has come to deal with the original question. We need to explain how to direct our children’s chinuch and get them to use modern technology properly in a positive way. This is one of the greatest challenges of chinuch in our times.

In order to successfully deal with this challenge, the simplest advice is to walk in the path the Rebbe MH"M set out for us and to adopt his advice. The Rebbe’s advice is to encourage our children and to inspire each of them to be a mashpia; to enlist their inner strength and talents and harness them in the service of this important goal. When a child knows that he has a shlichus to fill in the world, that he has to influence his surroundings, he realizes that he has to be a personal example. When he will be faced with tests and have to deal with challenges, he will know he has to guard his standing. For his responsibilities are not only to himself, but to the entire world, or at least to his immediate surroundings (what for him is his entire world). Rising to the occasion, he will dig deeply within himself and draw the necessary strength from his abilities and talents, in order to stand strong and win the battle.

It is our job to make sure he has the inner resources to draw upon. We have to forge his personality and strengthen it on the emotional level with topics of emuna and bitachon and sippuk (inner contentment). This way we will imbue him with the absolute conviction necessary to see himself as being sufficiently educated and prepared for a responsible role.

When we speak about a responsible role, it doesn’t mean merely subjecting the child to organizational tasks such as organizing mesibos Shabbos and the like. Although every project is important and precious and its influence is great, it is important to remember that not every child is gifted with organizational skills. Not every child can express himself appropriately and articulately. Not every child is blessed with the self-confidence to stand before a group – even when the group consists of children – and express his world-view in a convincing manner.

A child’s responsible role is first expressed in understanding that in our world every individual is a partner with everybody else. The individual has a responsibility to the group and the group has a responsibility to the individual. However, it isn’t enough to convey only general messages. You have to relate to specific issues the child has to deal with, those he is familiar with from daily life at home, in his classroom, and wherever he spends time.

Take, for example, an individual success or failure. You have to look at the specific event in a broader context, to understand what the significance of it is, and to discern the ramifications to the world at large. Even when the analysis and one’s conclusions lead to blaming others, one should emphasize the general problem and how much it is necessary to strengthen oneself.

The educational objective ought to be faithful to the guiding principle of being a mashpia and shining a positive light on one’s surroundings. This is the personal avoda of every child – that he continue on the path upon which he is educated: "Educate a child according to his way; even when he ages he won’t veer from it." Being a mashpia will protect him spiritually and strengthen him in life. It will provide him with the tools to handle any situation, including the subject we are exploring at this time – technology. It will enable him to use it in a purposeful way to fulfill his important shlichus.

In conclusion, we are in a tremendously powerful era in terms of the tools and technical means it provides. On the one hand, there are opportunities to use these tools for the good. The more we strengthen the child’s personality so that his positive inner character becomes expressed outwardly, the more he will know how to use these tools in a permissible and proper way. His use of them will be well thought out, based on the confidence that he has the maturity and is responsibility to handle the situation.

Parents and young people who have more specific questions than those addressed in this article are invited to send their questions by fax in Hebrew to (03) 960-7289.


The Rebbe’s advice is to encourage our children and to inspire each of them to be a mashpia; to enlist their inner strength and talents and harness them in the service of this important goal.








We need to explain how to direct our children’s chinuch and get them to use modern technology properly in a positive way. This is one of the greatest challenges of chinuch in our times.



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