Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

From the Mouths of Babes
by Z. Shlanger

When Rav Reuven Levine and his wife Shifra were given the opportunity to lecture at a seminar for baalei teshuva over Succos, it was clear to both that they would accept. They felt that they had something to offer and were interested in joining the staff of distinguished lecturers. Shifra's only deliberation was about the children.

She planned to take the baby, Rochel, with her to the seminar, where she would be under the supervision of the Beis Yaakov seminary girls who would be acting as counselors. Her only fear was: was it worthwhile to take the older children, seven-year-old Menachem, five-year-old Aharon, and four-year- old Sarahle? All three were young and impressionable. Wouldn't they be influenced by the children of those coming to the seminar, learn unsuitable words, imitate undesirable behavior?

The Levines had been involved for some time with chozrim beteshuvah and sometimes even invited young people, in various stages along the way, to their house. At the same time, they would give their children an age-appropriate explanation about the different people that came to them for Shabbos meals. Shifra knew that she could count on her children never to embarrass a chozer beteshuvah with questions about their past, but even so, this time she had some misgivings. The children were young and, until then, had not met children their age who were in a secular framework.

"I really don't know what to do," she turned to her husband. "To take them or divide them up among the family? I don't want the children to feel that we've disappeared, and be upset. On the other hand, it would be a week in the company of children who come from a different type of education."

Rav Levine answered her slowly, weighing his words carefully. "I wouldn't want to decide this without consultation. I'll go and ask Rav Weiss whom we consult about everything. When you're deliberating, it's best to place the burden of the decision on wider shoulders," he smiled. That same evening, he approached Rav Weiss and listened to his decision: "Take the children with you, and everything will work out b'ezrat Hashem. It won't hurt your children, and will be beneficial." He didn't expound further.

So on the eve of the holiday, the Levines found themselves with their four small children bouncing around the special bus for the lecturers and their families. "If not for what the Rav had said, I would have left them with my sister," her husband said, observing the doubtful look on her face and raising his voice over the noise of the bus:

"Shifra, soon we'll arrive and get settled in the rooms. You'll see that it will be better. The children will be occupied and they won't be so restless. They're tired right now." Shifra smiled a tired smile and nodded her head. Her husband was right. She needn't worry. After all, they had asked Rav Weiss.

As soon as the bus had discharged its baggage and its passengers, the women and children scattered to their rooms to organize themselves. The men disappeared to the hotel foyer to help greet the guests and several went to check that everything was running smoothly, that the Succah was kosher and that the improvised shul met their needs. Only the secretary who had organized everything was able to appreciate the work and effort that had gone into each small detail so that the seminar guests would feel that they had come to the right place and that they were being received with love.

And the early harbingers arrived: a couple with a child in blue-jeans and an undershirt; two black-clad young people, one wearing a motorcycle helmet. Rav Levine wondered if his wife's fears hadn't been misplaced when she hesitated bringing the children. Were it not for the Rav's promise, it was doubtful whether they would have taken the responsibility upon themselves. But then he shook off his personal concerns.

He had a job to do and he had to see the good in every person who came there. All were members of the Jewish nation and they wanted to check out what that meant for them. It meant that they had a good kernel inside them and it had to be given the chance to grow and develop. He welcomed the arrivals with a broad smile, asked how they were and how their journey had been and made the best arrangements possible for each one.

At three, the guests gathered for an introductory lecture where the goals of the seminar were outlined. The guests presented their expectations for the next few days. Some were anxious and withdrawn, some were enthusiastic about this opportunity to get to know Judaism from the inside, as they said, and the seminar began.

Among those who had come was a girl who consistently demonstrated doubts and resistance. The lecturers had already given up on her and her incessant questions which seemed provocative. However, during the course of the lectures, Shifra Levine identified something in the girls' eyes, a spark that had ignited and dimmed immediately. "We have to give her a chance," she thought to herself. "Who knows what this girl has to overcome to make the right decision. It isn't easy for everyone from the beginning."

As the seminar progressed, the girl became restless. Between lectures she tried to go out for some air. Sometimes she purposely missed a lecture or two, "Because I can't listen so intensely," she explained to Shifra who had tried gently asking her what had happened. In the end, Shifra also gave up. And the seminar ended.


Seven years went by. One day, at a wedding, Shifra felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and saw an unfamiliar chareidi woman.

"You don't recognize me," the woman said. "I'm the girl from the seminar that took place on Succos seven years ago. I was trying to decide my path in life; learning was never my strong point and I just didn't get the lectures. I thought to myself, If this is the real thing, I'll be able to see it in the children because children can't be false. I left the lectures and followed the children. I was amazed by your children, Rebbetzin Levine. Once I saw them gently lifting a branch of a palm tree from the ground and discussing whether it belonged to the s'chach and therefore had to be treated with respect or whether it was just a branch. Another time, I saw how they enthusiastically kissed the four species and once I tested them. Yes, I gave each one a candy."

Shifra paled slightly. Was she about to hear that the woman had succeeded in tripping up her children? "Don't worry," the woman told her when she saw Shifra's reaction. "They handled themselves very well. They thanked me politely and put the candies in their pockets. Afterwards, I saw them run to you to ask if the candies' hechsher was okay and if they were allowed to eat them." Shifra remembered the incident.

"That's right, I checked the candies and they had the Mehadrin hechsher we had agreed to with the hotel. You had given them candies from the hotel."

"Yes," the woman smiled. "I wasn't able to trip them up. They were so young, and I was so mature and intelligent. All of a sudden, I was ashamed. I saw I still had a lot to learn. And you know what? I think that had it not been for your kids, I'm not entirely sure I would have done teshuvah. Your children with their lovely behavior tipped the scales."

Only then did Shifra remember what Rav Weiss had told her husband back then: "It won't hurt your children and will be beneficial."


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