Who Will Save Your Children From Going Off the Derech?
In a few days time, many of our children will file into their new classroom. They'll meet their new teachers, Rabbeim and Morot. Syllabi will be distributed, schedules will be negotiated. Learning will recommence, and along with it, all of our academic anxieties will return in full force.
But for those of us engaged in Chinuch, there is a concern far deeper than grades, skills or classroom participation. We want our talmidim to emerge from this year with greater connection to Hashem and His Torah, to Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit, Eretz Yisrael and The Jewish People.
This goal is daunting and cannot be taking for granted. But it cannot be dismissed as too overwhelming to tackle. I often think about my own classmates – the guys that finished high school along side me. I invite you to do the same. Ask yourself: which of my friends are still committed, connected and passionate about their Yiddiskeit? Are there any upsets? Any surprises?
Undoubtably, things didn't work out for some of the kids in your grade. Just like they didn't all work out so well for the kids in my grade. I have friends that haven't put on Tefillin in years. Friends that are unquestionably “off the Derech”.
This is not a point we should be willing to concede. There is much work to be done. But when things don't go well, naturally, parents will blame schools and schools will blame parents. Eventually, a few years later, everyone will blame the children themselves. But those children most often tell a different and far more specific story.
For every kid that “goes off the Derech” there were pivotal moments that drove them to that point: A dismissive comment from a Rebbe, emotional neglect from a parent, or a teacher that didn't value them. (This is without mentioning the truly devastating effects of abuse, trauma and substance abuse.)