Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Learning To Adapt

לע"נ ר' אהרן בן ר' יעקב שכנא 

Our entire lives revolve around tradition. The way we dress, talk, think, the friends we have, the community in which we live, the schools where we send our children etc. Here is where we reach a very subtle but critical point. Is EVERYTHING in our tradition necessarily appropriate for our day and age??

I am not referring to keeping Shabbos or eating kosher or any other eternal laws that were given to us by Hashem. Those of course are not open to dispute. I am referring to those behaviors and attitudes that were developed over the generations. For example, in Europe parents weren't so lovey-dovey with their children. How often did children hear "I love you" from a parent [especially from a father] or teacher? How much affection did they receive? Were their opinions listened to and valued? Was there a focus on instilling children with healthy self esteem? Were children encouraged to play ball and to develop their talents [artistic, musical etc.]? 

I am not that old but I am first generation American [my parents are both European born] and growing up I knew a lot of European born people. My impression is that the general answer to all of the above questions is "NO" or "very little". 

What happens if the same educational principals are applied to today's children? They will be destroyed. We live in a new world. That means that we have to ADAPT. 

The Rav ztz"l writes in a letter that many rabbis of his time refused to adapt to the changing times. 

…"קשה לי לבא לעמק השוה עם רוב גדולי הזמן, ד' ישמרם, שהם חפצים ללכת רק במסלול הישן, ולהתרחק מכל כשרון ומכל תנועה של חיים, מה שהוא לדעתי ברור נגד דרך ד' לגמרי, ובזה נותנים יד לפריצים….ואין לי דרך אחר כ"א לחזק את ידי החינוך הנותן חלק לידיעות העולם והחיים, והמדריך את הילדים ברוח צהלת החיים בעז ואמץ לב, בניקיון וסלסול הגון, שכל אלה כשהם מצטרפים אל הדרכת התורה ויראת שמים של אמת, מעטרים הם אותה ומאמצים את חילה, וסוף כל סוף מלאך רע בע"כ יענה אמן…וידע ידידי שכל הענינים הגדולים הם תלויים זה בזה, כי מתוך שאין רוב הלומדים, אפילו הגדולים שבדור, משימים לבם להיות גדולים בהלכות יראת שמים, בהרחבה גדולה הראויה למנהיגי הדור, על כן אין כחם יפה ללכת בשבילים החדשים הראויים לפי הזמן, ולכוונם כלפי הקודש, והם אנוסים לעמוד על הנקודה של הסגנון הישן, בלי לקחת כל נקודה טובה מהדרכים החדשים, לתקן על ידם את מעמד הדור..." ( אגרות ראי"ה, אגרת רעד, ע' שי).

We have to take all of the good that exists in our generation and make use of it in our avodas Hashem. Much of the Charedi world has in fact adopted this stance and today there is much more awareness and openness to the emotional needs of children, the need for therapy at times etc. etc.

One area where we need to place more focus is on the marital bond. The ancient model of marriage just doesn't work for most people today. Most people want [and need] love, romance, excitement, a deep emotional bond etc. In the olden days - he hunted and brought home dinner, she cooked it, they had babies - and they lived happily ever after. Today both spouses want so much more. Many people don't even realize how much they are lacking. The need to give and receive love are of the most intense human needs and we are soooooo busssssyyy that we don't even realize how much our souls are starving. The Iphone works as an opiate to dull our deeper emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. 

I see this as part of mankind's development towards the greater era where love will reign supreme. When people fall into the traps of internet addiction, overeating, drinking, a constant search for entertainment etc. it is just a substitute for what they really need. 

I recently had a guest for Shabbos - a young, very lost, man. He didn't stop eating the entire Shabbos. When he wasn't sleeping he was eating. How much can a person eat?? You should have come over to see.... 

Why?? He wasn't hungry???!! No. He is STARVING. But he is unable to give soul what it really needs [love, connection, family, meaning, fulfillment etc.] so he tried to satisfy his hunger with food. 

It doesn't work. 

So let us be open to anything the world has to offer that will help us reach our spiritual [and material] goals in life, while at the same time remaining faithful to our eternal Torah attitudes, laws and practices.