It was indeed encouraging to read a recent article in the Mishpacha magazine saying that finally some leaders took the time to personally go out and see for themselves what’s happening around Yerushalayim. The posuk says that before judging the people of Sdom, Hashem and His bais din went down personally to see what was going on, despite the fact that Hashem knows everything. This is to teach us that a bais din judging dinei nefoshos, no matter how great and wise, must see for itself what’s happening and not just rely on what they hear or read. As they say, “Seeing is believing.” Perhaps, now that the problem has penetrated our hearts to the point that we are unable to sleep, we will begin to take it more seriously and try to find solutions before it becomes pandemic.
The Gemora says “Gedolo legima shemkareves,” – Great is a drink, for it has the power to bring people closer. We must look for ways to make a Torah lifestyle enjoyable. Simcha – happiness – is part and parcel of every mitzvah. Many Rebbayim know that it’s the singing and dancing at a rebbi’s tish that’s the cement that holds many of their chasidim together. Many children and teenagers need spiritually uplifting experiences such as a Friday night tish, and melave d’malkes with music and all, as well as innocent distractions and activities such as basketball, swimming, or singing in a choir, in order to keep them from drifting away. It is dangerous to ban such activities and not giving them a kosher outlet for their pent up energies. When everything is forbidden, we are asking for trouble.
A wise rebbi I know would invite the boys in his class to his house every Friday night and Motzoei Shabbos. For Melave d’Malke he would get a good singer and guitar player and serve them pizza. The boys enjoyed the warm, joyful, and relaxed atmosphere. Even years later, when the boys were no longer in his class, the strong bound and friendship between them and their rebbi left an indelible impression on them. Many of them readily admitted that it was all because of him that they didn’t fall between the cracks like many of their friends.
The Gemora tells us that for everything that Hashem has forbidden, He has provided us with a substitute. It’s extremely important to give our children a kosher alternative. We must provide them with kosher places where they can “hang out” as the Pirchei used to do with their Motzoei Shabbos game rooms, which for the most part are now unfortunately, extinct. If we bring the “pizza” to them, they will have no need to look for it elsewhere. If our kids can’t find a place to vent their energy in a kosher environment, then they will find it elsewhere. In a time of war, the Torah permitted one to marry a captive non-Jewish girl under certain conditions. Chazal explain the logic behind this law. The Torah understood that a person is only human and therefore in this instance, while fighting a war, it gave him some leeway. Today’s war with the yetzer hora is far different than ever before. Today, unfortunately, we have television, movies, CDs, DVD’s, Internet, videos, certain type cell phones, and music that are extremely attractive and contain more filth than ever before. They are everywhere and they can easily be brought into our homes without detection. Their influence and message is so powerful and seductive that they have penetrated even the best homes. We are dealing with a mighty foe whose magnetic visual power of attraction is difficult to resist.
We must preempt the problem and not wait for it to take root. It is important to show children at a very early age that the Torah is not just restrictions, but that Shabbos as well as the rest of the week can be a time of constructive joy and pleasure. Happy laughter and family voices in the home will keep more kids off the streets at night than the strictest curfew.
Those who know the history of the Jews in pre-war Europe know that this is not a new American problem; it existed even then. Today, however, the yetzer hora has invented many new ways to entrap our youth and has even brought the “Eitz hadaas tov v’ra” into our own homes, so that they have no need to go out and find them in the streets as we had to do many years ago. The so called “enjoyments” and “pleasures” of life are right at our fingertips and can be accessed with the click of a mouse. This only makes our task more difficult. However, we are told that Hashemnever gives us any tests that we are unable to overcome. If we truly look for solutions, as the wise rebbi did, then we will find them. But we must look with both eyes, and not bury our heads in the ground and make believe we have no problem.
Some have organized special activities and places for these “at risk kids” to get together under proper supervision, but this is not the real solution. The problem must be addressed long before young people reach the “at risk” stage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If the money we spent on rehabilitation were to be spent on prevention, we’d get far more for our money, and fewer people would need intensive intervention.