Youth Minyans

Friday, 15 November, 2019 - 8:10 am

A beneficial phenomenon has appeared within the Chabad communities in Israel in the past fifteen years: youth minyans. In almost every place where there is a well-established, long-time community of Chabad Chassidim, shuls for young people have popped up, one after the other. The truth is that it’s not just a phenomenon; it can be said to be a healthy, positive development, involving a lot of growth.

The minyans soon become shuls and these go on to become wonderful young and dynamic communities.

As is the way of the world, at the beginning many of the old-timers were wary of the phenomenon, and wondered what the future of these prayer-houses would be. After all, they said, it is important for the younger generation to daven with the older one, so the young people can see and learn how and what to do.

Between the lines one could sense that the doubts of the older generation extended beyond this, except that they said it quietly, if at all. The young people who initiated this movement were considered a bit “modern” by the old-timers. This was expressed in their way of dress – not necessarily black-and-white during the week – and their interests, which at least at the beginning were not exactly detailed Gemara study or reflected light vs. direct light (concepts in chassidut). These concerns and others were the basis of their apprehension. I was already living in Switzerland when the phenomenon began. I observed it from the outside, like a journalist, and I also heard the pros and cons expressed by my friends. I followed all this quietly, and was not at all worried. I knew this was a good development, and would in the future be considered the most significant growth in the Chabad communities in the last generation.

Why? Because I knew the people involved and I knew that what they want and pray for their children, boys and girls, is that they will grow up as chassidim, having fear of Heaven and being learned. And what a person asks for regarding his children, that is what he really, really cares about. Moreover, that is what really defines him.

On Shavuot 5722 (1962), the Rebbe spoke about this in connection with Bnei Yisrael receiving the Torah only after they said, “Our children will be our guarantors”. When they said, “Our prophets will be our guarantors”, or “Our forefathers are our guarantors”, it didn’t work, because when you say that your father or prophet will be the guarantor, you are actually removing the responsibility from yourself. You are not obligated – you have no influence or responsibility when it comes to your father or prophet. And the main thing is, that this doesn’t teach us anything about what interests you and what you care about. It certainly doesn’t define you and your hopes. But you say, “Our children will be our guarantors”, this is already the expression of a direct commitment. And the main thing is that it shows that what interests you is that your children will observe the Torah in the future. It also defines you, because what you really hope for and wish for your children, that is what you really care about and what really touches you.

In this way the Rebbe there explained the definition of Akeidat Yitzchak as a test of Avraham. Yitzchak was 37 years old at the time of the Akeida. If he would have wanted to, he could have easily overwhelmed his father, who was 137 years old, and run away. If so, this was a test that Yitzchak passed successfully. And why is it considered the greatest test of Avraham? The explanation is that it is easier for a person to harm himself then to harm his children. It would have been easier for Avraham to offer himself up than to offer his son. In offering his son, he showed his complete loyalty. So too, when parents say that their children are guarantors for them, so even if for themselves they would have been lax, for the children they want the best.

After all, all of us in the end want our children to fulfill our dreams for ourselves…


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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