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Weekly Story: Two approaches to Education

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

Last week’s story generated a lot of interest and correspondence, so I decided to post another story that is connected to the topic of chinuch (education). The following was related by the Rebbe Rashab, however, I chose not to include in his biography, which I am currently working on. It was said during one of the Sheva Brochos of his youngest sister Harabbonis Chaya Mushka.

As it is known after HaRav DovBer, (known as the Mitteler Rebbe) married, he was appointed by his father the Alter Rebbe, to guide the young men in the ways of chassidim. The Mitteler Rebbe’s approach to guiding his charges was with closeness and positive inspiration.

Once it happened that he was not well and the doctors prescribed a few weeks of rest. At that point the Alter Rebbe appointed Rev Aharon Halevi of Starishela, to guide these young men, until his son regained his strength.

Now Reb Aharon was a baal hispielis (extremely emotional) and was quite demanding. He felt it was his duty to point out to the young men their shortcomings and he did so.

A week or two later he felt that something is missing in his own learning and especially in his davening and as much as he tried he couldn’t rectify it. He no longer felt the brenn, so he went to the Alter Rebbe and in the yechidus he bemoaned his new situation.

The Alter Rebbe placed his head upon his hands and after a few moments of d’veikis (deep contemplation), he picked up his head and said; The way a person conducts himself with others that is how Hashem conducts Himself with that individual. Everything is measure for measure. Someone who pushes away a person, even if their intentions are that this should be a catalyst to ultimately bring him closer to Hashem, in other words it is l’shem shomayim, but being that he pushed him away, and closed doors on others the heavenly court does that to him also and closes the doors on him.

However, one who brings people closer by being friendly and try to uplift them, then the heavenly court also deals with him in a similar uplifting manner and open up for him all the doors and gates, included the door of Torah and davening.

When the Rebbe Rashab related this story to an individual who looked down at others and was shocked that the Rebbe Rashab spoke of their praise, he then said, there are certain aspects in discipline that one should use only on themselves, and nullifying or negating (mevatel zein) someone’s efforts is a prime example of that rule, it should never be done. And even on them themself it should be measured.

The proper way of guidance is to uplift and strengthen them through love and friendship, for the truth is everything that your charge/student does, as insignificant as it may seem, in truth as it is seen through the lenses of Chassidus it is extremely valuable.

Igros kodesh of the Frierdiker Rebbe vol. 4, pp 302-303.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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