What is the best method of teaching of being mikareiv young people, even our own children, to come to awareness of Hashem and to have the fortitude to contend with nisyanos?
The best method is to teach them Chumash; to teach them Rashi; to teach them Tanach and Gemara. Because there you have all the experience of the generations; it’s all there.
You have to know, like Rashi explains, that Avraham was a little boy and his father was a businessman who made profits from selling idols. Now we are so accustomed that we forget to learn from this; Avraham was a boy whose father sold idols? And he became Avraham?!
So here is a boy in Oshkosh Wisconsin and let’s say his father works on a church; so this boy in OshKosh has as much chance as becoming a frum Jew as a snowball in a stove. And still Avraham survived; not only he survived but he won out. And therefore the goyim used to be happy to call their sons Abraham, Abraham Lincoln and Ibrahim Pasha. All over the world Avraham won out. And so we should learn that lesson, how to be mekareiv people to yiddishkeit, from Avraham; Avraham taught them about Hashem.
Let’s say you bring boys into your home on Shabbos afternoon – or if you are a woman, you bring in girls – and you start by feeding them peanuts and cake and other things. And while they are sitting and munching on the good things, you ask them “You know whose that is?”
“It’s yours,” they say, “Thank you.”
“No,” you say, “it is not mine. I couldn’t make a peanut; for the life of me I couldn’t create a peanut. Look how wonderful it is. You know the peanut has inside two pieces wrapped in a wrapper to keep it clean from dust. And the peanut has a spine. Show them how you press the spine and it opens in two neat halves; it’s made for opening. It is just like these candy packages or cigarette packages; you pull a little string and it opens up.
So you show that to them and you say, “I couldn’t make such a thing. It’s not mine. This peanut belongs to the One who made it.”
You’re doing just like Avraham did.
And say, “Boruch” and all the children chime in with you, “Boruch.” And together you say “Boruch atah Hashem, we thank You Hashem, the One Who created all this.”
That’s what Avraham did with his guests. He didn’t come out with a chumash and say, “Believe in the Borei!” Oh no; he took them in the garden and he stood over them and fed them delicious fruits and when they wanted to thank him he said, “It’s not mine.” They said “It’s not yours? Whose is it?” And he pointed up. So they said “What’s there? We don’t see anything.”
And he started talking to them. He said, “If you find a watch, you’ll say the watch made itself? Can a watch make itself? Can an orange make itself? An orange is a masterpiece more than a watch. A watch compared to an orange is like a stone; it’s nothing at all.”
An orange is full of cunning. The packaging of the orange – the color on the outside, with the white on the backside of the peel. And the seeds are on the inside; it’s like those packets of cereal – when you get finished with it there is a little ticket inside entitling you to another package free. When you eat the orange the seeds are there; you spit it on the ground and another tree will grow. That’s how Avraham spoke to his guests.
That’s how to be makareiv people. Ba’achilah u’shesiyah, with eating and drinking; not with just theorizing. You need good times to bring people into yiddishkeit.
So how can you teach a child to contend with nisyonos? You need the lessons of the Chumash. But you need a rebbe who has a heart; not a rebbe just working for his salary. You need a rebbe who lives these ideals. This rebbe will make the things come alive in the neshomos of the child and those children will become Avrahams and Sarahs.
TAPE # 423 (October 1982)