Unity in Difficult Times – Rav Mordechai Burg

It has been a week since the horrific terror attacks in Southern Israel. In that time not only have we seen the mobilization of our armed forces but also an unparalleled display of unity throughout all of Am Yisrael (at least in my lifetime). As an Israeli I can share with you that watching videos of people in Chutz La’aretz packing goods, gathering at airports to see the soldiers off or at pro-Israel rallies means more to us than you can imagine. In Mevaseret (the Yeshiva where I am privileged to work) we adopted a battalion of Tzanchanim and started a fundraising campaign to ensure their needs are being met. Fifty thousand dollars was raised in twenty minutes. One hundred thousand in forty five minutes. Within twenty four hours the boys had raised over two hundred and eighty thousand dollars! Mi K’amcha Yisrael!!! Watching the Talmidim collect money, tie Tzitzis for the soldiers, learn all night Mishmars, say Tehillim, pack boxes of gear and load them onto the truck, dance with the Chayalim, I was moved to tears on several occasions. As one Rebbe in the Yeshiva said to me, “These boys got a better Chinuch on what it means to be a part of Am Yisrael in one week than we could have ever given them over the course of several years.” My brother in law serves in Tzahal and when my sister asked if we could send baked goods to his base, my daughters hit the kitchen and the phones. They called their friends and their friends called their friends. The response from the community was absolutely overwhelming. There was enough for multiple bases. I have never been more proud of them.

There are so many important Chinuch lessons that we ought to be imparting to our children in these times. I imagine that if I had more time (and time is certainly at a premium these days) I could easily write for hours on the Chinuch challenges and opportunities that we are all facing. For now I think there is value in focusing on the importance of conveying to our children that being part of Klal Yisrael means knowing that you are never alone. Our community is unmatched in the arena of Chesed. From HASC to Chai Lifeline to Misaskim and Hatzalah (and much much more) if someone is in need we have an organization to support them. Chesed is so embedded in our community that it may go by largely unnoticed by our children. As we have mentioned in several articles, children have a deep need for attachment. The world is a chaotic place even on the best of days and having a strong sense of belonging gives our children the security they need to navigate their world. Attachment is meant to come not only from our immediate and extended family but also from our community. In Judaism, our extended family and community means being attached to the entirety of our nation. A child in our community grows up knowing that if their car breaks down on a random back road in the mountains, Chaveirim will come to help them. They know that if someone is choking in the kitchen their first phone call is not to 911 but to Hatzala. For those of us who travel often we are all too familiar with the knowing nod that comes along with seeing a random Jew walking through the airport (and if you happen to be flying to the same destination the “can you watch my bag while I go to the bathroom” request). Our children can feel securely anchored even in the stormiest seas knowing that there is an entire nation standing alongside them.

As a child I remember vividly my parents bringing me to rallies in NYC to secure the release of Natan Sharansky. In Yeshiva Darchei Torah, our Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Bender, would regularly give shmoozen about being Nosei B’ol, feeling along with those who are suffering. As a student in the Rambam Mesivta, our Rosh Mesivta, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, would regularly organize rallies outside of the home of Nazi’s who had taken refuge in America. Students were encouraged to lead these rallies by making phone calls to political leaders to garner support, spend the breaks making signs for the rallies and even delivering speeches at the rallies themselves. In Yeshiva Gedola, our Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Abba Bronspiegal zt”l, canceled Yeshiva and encouraged us to march on Washington to support Israel. As a teenager I was just happy to miss a day of school but as I grew older I realized the importance of the Chinuch messages I had been taught throughout my educational career. Writing a check is certainly of crucial importance but it does not necessarily communicate to our children the value of being involved with our whole being. In a conversation with someone who lives in Chutz Laa’retz this week, they mentioned to me that people are running around buying everything that is needed here in Eretz Yisrael. While this person was somewhat critical of people buying things that may not be necessary, I did not share his sentiments. Our children gain immeasurably when they see us getting involved. Even if we don’t need batteries per se, children who see their children filling up their shopping carts for brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael whom they have never met are learning first hand what it means to be a part of this exceptional family. Bring your children to Tehillim gatherings or rallies. Take them shopping. Bring them to centers where boxes are being packed. Talk about our shared oneness at the Shabbos table. Especially with those we disagree with. You’re not only helping us here in Eretz Yisrael, you’ll be gifting your children with a sense of attachment that will last them a lifetime.

Rav Mordechai Burg is the Menahel of Mevaseret, Mashpia of NCSY Summer, Mashpia of Nitzotzos, author of Nitzotzos on Chumash and a senior Rebbe at Tomer Devorah and Bnot Torah Institute. His shiurim can be found on Nitzotzos.com.

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