something very unpopular

Friday, 16 December, 2022 - 4:08 am

Today I want to write about something very unpopular – something people really don’t want to hear about: the importance of good old authentic Jewish education.

But before that, here’s a quote from a letter I received recently:

“I thought the Jewish education I would give them would be enough. We thought that minimal Judaism, the kind we received, would be enough. But, to our great sorrow, we were wrong. Our sons have married out. Our grandchildren, whom we love dearly, are not Jews anymore. And that hurts. It hurts very much.”

I am sorry to say that this is not rare. I have received more than a few letters like that, and many people have told me similar stories.

On Shabbat Parashat Vayeshev, December 1950 (5711), about a month before the Rebbe became the head of the Chabad movement, a short time before he turned from an ordinary citizen to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he gave a very unpopular speech in America of those days – about the importance of authentic Jewish education. As I mentioned already, this topic is unfortunately still very relevant, except that since 1950 we’ve seen many more painful proofs of how right he was. The Rebbe said thus: The argument between Lavan and Yaakov was not just another ordinary argument between son-in-law and father-in-law; it was the presentation of two significantly different world views.

Lavan said, “The daughters are my daughters and the sons are my sons.” I will determine how they will be educated. Lavan, said the Rebbe, told Yaakov: “You are old, so you can do what you like; you’re of the old generation anyway, and you can sit and learn Torah day and night. But what do you want from the children? They belong to these modern times – they are young; why should they be raised in a way that will make them unable to fit into the modern world?”

Yaakov, on the other hand, said, “I have worked for fourteen years for your two daughters.” The goal of all those years of work was that I should be the educator and the person responsible for my offspring, your daughters’ children. I don’t believe in the new, modern way. There is only one way to ensure that my children will grow up to be Jews, the offspring of Yaakov, and will live as one would expect children of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah to live – and that is my old-fashioned way: to give them pure Jewish education, many hours of Torah and Judaism.

The Midrash tells us that Yaakov almost never slept during his entire stay in Charan. And the reason he didn’t sleep was that he was worried that his children would be influenced by the mainstream led by Lavan in Charan, because the mainstream has a way of taking over, and people have a way of going along with it.

Yaakov succeeded!

And our job is to make sure that his success is maintained, before it will be too late.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


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