Over Yom Tov I had the opportunity to preview a book that was written based on the shiurim of Harav Moshe Wolfson, a great Torah thinker in our generation. In the beginning of the book he shares a changed vision on parenting and teaching Torah to today’s generation:
Today, we face a generation that is completely different from those that preceded it. While the causes for these differences are debated and often even lamented, they are quite clear and become more and more marked with each five to ten years. One of the ways people today are different from people even a few years older than they is their increasing
inability to grow spiritually through a critical, demanding approach. Our psyches are changing from responding well to a message of yirah, awe and fear, to being repelled by this same message.
Another change is the increasing need for and the expectation of pleasure. Western culture, which is as dominant in the east as it is in the west, promotes the serving of one never-ending smorgasbord of sensual pleasures. To preach duty and self-sacrifice today is to speak a foreign tongue.
What we are left with is a situation that if we would gather a group of young people and transmit the message that inspired their great-grandparents, or even their parents and older siblings, their eyes would glaze over and a smartphone (hopefully with a filter, Hashem yerachem) would be passed around in the back rows.
This does not mean, however, that our generation is any less capable of serving Hashem and connecting to His Torah than any other in history. To the contrary, our youth are honest and real, eager to please and connect. If we can fine-tune our message, they are most receptive. What, then, is the approach that works in our times?
Malachi, the last novi of Nach, opens with a message directed to the last generation: “’I love you,’” says Hashem. And if you will ask, ‘Why? What did I do right that I deserve Your love?’” Hashem’s answer is, “My love is unconditional. No matter what you do and how far you stray from Me, I love you anyway and always.”
The last generation of history, our generation, is moved by a positive message of love and tenderness. When we are taught how deeply Hashem loves us, we feel eager to reciprocate that intense love by dedicating our lives to serving Hashem, studying His Torah, performing His mitzvos and being careful not to cause Him pain by disobeying His
From Malachi, as well as from practical experience, it is clear to us that in order for our generation to serve Hashem, we have to internalize the message that Hashem loves us unconditionally and is always concerned with our well-being. When we suffer, we grow by thinking positive thoughts like, “This suffering is a gift of love from Hashem,” rather than the yirah approach of “Where have I sinned that I have been punished?” We have to change our approach from one of yirah to one of ahavah.
The change from yirah to ahavah, from discipline and restraint to love and connection, is a challenging one. Where do we find seforim that teach such an approach? Which
seforim tell us that Hashem doesn’t just love us, His love for us is unconditional and infinite? The seforim Klal Yisrael is accustomed to learning demand of us that we serve Hashem, that we must love Him – and rarely mention that He loves us. Standard texts hound us for committing sins and rarely comfort us with the message, “You fell? Don’t worry.
Falling is part of the process of growing. Do teshuvah and you’ll be alright.” The challenge of our times is that we have to reinvent the message. If so many sources useful to previous generations are ineffective today, from where can we draw our inspiration?
We must note that while Harav Moshe Wolfson describes a Jewish philosophy of “Only With Love” he does not ascribe to a philosophy of unbridled love without boundaries.
Before undertaking or embarking on any new strategy in parenting and teaching, it is important to consult with your rav for hadrochoh, guidance.
I would like to close this article by congratulating our parent body whose children were actively involved in the learning process over Yom Tov. I enjoyed the opportunity to teach many of the boys and to observe their diligence in Torah Learning.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman