During a visit to the Belzer Rebbe, a prominent Rebbe asked a brachah for a relative of his, a young boy who was struggling in cheder.
“He doesn’t want to learn,” the visiting Rebbe explained.
The Belzer Rebbe related that he received from his father, Harav Yissacher Dov, zy”a, a mesorah that was passed down through the generations from the Rebbe of Lublin, zy”a, that one should not say that a child “doesn’t want to learn,” and gave two reasons.
First, doing so will shatter the child and cause him to stop trying, and he may give up totally, G-d forbid. Second, it will cause a kitrug in Shamayim.
“He should be told that he will learn a lot,” the Belzer Rebbe advised.
The Rebbe followed his advice, and soon a dramatic change for the better was seen in the learning of this child.
This week we learn how, under pressure from his own servants, Pharaoh partially backtracked from his refusal to allow the Bnei Yisrael to go and serve Hashem. Recalling Moshe and Aharon, the king told them: “Go and serve Hashem, your G-d; mi va’mi haholchim — who and who are going?”
“With our youngsters and with our elders shall we go; with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our cattle shall we go, because it is a festival of Hashem for us,” Moshe Rabbeinu responded.
Why did Moshe Rabbeinu mention the youngsters before the elders?
The Belzer Rebbe, Harav Yissacher Dov, explained that Pharaoh was cognizant of the pivotal role of the children in Am Yisrael — and knew how crucial it is for youngsters to be under the constant and careful leadership of the adults. The vicious Egyptian king wanted to separate the children from their adult mentors, depriving them of the chinuch and spiritual guidance they so desperately needed.
Therefore, in his response to Pharaoh, Moshe Rabbeinu underscored not only the vital importance of children — the future of Am Yisrael — but also of the crucial importance of proper chinuch.
This week, we also learn about the Korban Pesach.
Among the various halachos of this special korban — may we all merit to bring one this upcoming Erev Pesach — is that children under bar mitzvah were “registered” and counted as part of the chaburah that ate the meat of this korban. Furthermore, if a boy turned thirteen immediately after Pesach, he was exempt from bringing a korban on Pesach Sheini, because he had already been part of a korban when he was still twelve — even though he was still a child before bar mitzvah.
For, in direct contrast to Pharaoh’s stance, the mitzvah of Korban Pesach illustrates the role of the children, and the fundamental importance of inculcating avodas Hashem in the heart of our youth.
As the story of the Belzer Rebbe indicates, the use of positive language and warmth are a key part of this mission.
The Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita, adds that when a child is repeatedly labeled with a negative term, in addition to shattering his morale, he will convince himself that he is indeed what he is being called. Conversely, if a child is praised and described in a positive way, that will influence him to grow into this description.
He tells of the time when a Rosh Yeshivah, along with one of his talmidim sought the advice of the Steipler Gaon, zt”l. The bachur felt that he had no success in learning and wanted to join the work force.
The Steipler asked the bachur if there was any sefer that he did learn.
“I know Kitzur Shulchan Aruch,” he responded.
“[You learn] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch? Then you are a talmid chacham!” the Steipler told him, and advised that the bachur should devote much time to learning this sefer, and when he finishes it he should come back to him.
Through building the confidence of our youth, and much tefillah and siyatta DiShmaya, will we merit to help them lead lives dedicated to serving Hashem.
(Adapted in part from the Kuntros Meoros Kedumim – Rachmastrivka)