("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
In the small Shtetlach of Europe, it was not uncommon for the local townspeople to be inspired by the emotional energies of the different Chassidishe Rebbes and their courts. Indeed many of the townspeople found themselves inspired by a local Rebbe, to whom they would pledge their allegiance.
Berel was one such Chassid. Not much of a learned fellow, Berel appreciated that he would be able to get his spiritual highs through a different means – the emotional attachment to his Rebbe.
Berel’s two children were also not too interested in Yeshiva schooling. Given Berel’s personal experiences, he decided to send the children to the secular Gymnasium (secular schools of Europe) and hope that through their emotional connection to the Rebbe, they too, would be consistently dedicated to Judaism.
The Rebbe was incensed and told him that until he removes his children from the Spiritual Sakana – the spiritual danger that the schools represented, the Rebbe did not want to see Berel in his presence again.
Berel decided that rather than heed the Rebbe’s warnings, he would seek a different Rebbe. He heard that Rav Yisroel of Viznitz was an extremely kindhearted Rebbe and decided that he would not reject Berel. So, in the month of Elul, seeking spiritual rejuvenation, Berel set out for Viznitz.
True to reputation, the Viznitzer Rebbe did not disappoint. He welcomed the newcomer to his Shul and his table and even spent time with Berel. When people told the Viznitzer Rebbe about Berel, about his falling out with his previous Rebbe and about the circumstances that surrounded the falling out – including the lot of his own 2 children, the viznitzer Rebbe just ignored the issue –
--Or so it seemed.
The next day he invited Berel to accompany him on his daily walk. They walked together through the trees and the Rebbe commented:
“When I was a young boy learning in Cheder, the wife of the Cheder Melamed asked us not to study in the building the week prior to Pesach because of her needs to prepare the home for the holiday. Our Melamed took us outside and tried to teach us there. But you know how it is prior to Pesach and we rambunctious youth did not really want to listen while we were outside. The Melamed got us to concentrate by changing the lessons to teach us about the trees around us. He showed us how to figure out what kind of a tree a particular tree was by examining its trunk and its leaves. Certain leaves were distinct to apple trees, others to pear trees and still others to plum trees. However, we youngsters had a hard time following his distinctions. What was the easiest way to tell what kind of a tree, a particular tree was? When we saw the fruit that came from the tree. Apples meant the source of the apples was an apple tree. Pears meant that its tree was a pear tree.”
In our daily lives we work very hard at developing a self-concept and self-identification. Indeed, many self-help books are heavy in their stress of the need to develop a positive self-esteem. But the Oheiv Yisrael of Viznitz wanted Berel to know that our best definition of ourselves is what types of fruit we give off.
The same can be said not only of the biological parents but of the communal parental generation as well. The identification of who we are as a people – and if we are communally doing our jobs, is to see the impact we are having on our next generation and their aspirations as well.
What can our children teach us about who we are?
What are the lessons that we feel are MOST important for our next generation to learn from YOU? How can we get those messages through?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.