A Discussion With Harav Yaakov Bender, Shlita – Rosh Yeshiva of Darchei Torah, Far Rockaway, New York
As the Rosh Yeshivah of one of the largest mosdos in the New York City area, and with decades of experience in chinuch, what advice does the Rosh Yeshivah have to offer parents who are going through this most difficult period?
Let me begin by stating that what we are going through at the present time is something no one has ever experienced, so whatever suggestion I will make is not because I have tried it in the past, but rather based on the feelings that I personally have.
I would like to share an incident that happened with me over half a century ago, and perhaps we can develop an idea of how we can create something constructive out of the situation we find ourselves in.
In 1965, I was a young bachur and I had just transferred to Yeshiva of Philadelphia. The experience was new for me, and I was somewhat homesick. My father, Harav Dovid Bender, zt”l, would write me numerous letters each week to encourage me and lift my spirits. He told me repeatedly that I was learning well, and assured me that the homesickness would subside in due time.
On Tuesday, November 9, 1965, the Northeast coast suffered a blackout for several hours. Lights in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Vermont went dark at 5:27 p.m., and most New Yorkers spent the night in darkness.
I received a letter from my father several days later which he had written during the blackout. He said that he was writing by candlelight, and indeed the paper had some dripped wax on it. Later, when I thought back to what my father had done, I couldn’t help but be warmed by the feeling that despite what was transpiring around him, the most important thing on his mind was to sit down and write to me.
This memory remained with me throughout the years.
I would like to suggest that parents should endeavor to create such positive memories for their children during this time of crisis. Sure, we are inconvenienced and we are going through tough times. But what would you like your children to remember when they think back to this time in the future?
In my own home, I have my grandchildren with me, and we set up a shul in our living room for our daily tefillos. We dubbed it Chevra Anshei Living Room, and we gather there each day for a special davening. We appoint a chazzan, and we daven at a slower pace with a sweetness that is often not possible when we are hurried and harried. My hope is that they will remember our Chevra Anshei Living Room in a good light.
Perhaps your children could make a special effort to call their grandparents every day, and share with them their accomplishments, and learn from Bobbi and Zeide some lessons gleaned from a lifetime of avodas Hashem. Or maybe they can arrange to do the shopping for the elderly neighbor who cannot leave their home during the crisis?
The possibilities are many, and the positive memories created will be priceless and enduring.