Pesach Sheni – The Holiday for the OTD By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

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For the Five Towns Jewish Times

Today is Pesach Sheni. And although many people eat Shmurah Matzah today, unfortunately, few people understand its internal message.

It is a message brought out by the Gerrer Rebbe – the author of the Chidushei HaRim. Rav Yitzchok Meir Alter (1799-1866) was the very first Gerrer Rebbe.

He writes that this particular day, Pesach Sheni, is a tikun for those who are perceived as beyond the pale – “B’derech Rechokah” – in his words. They are outside the scope of assistance. To them, to those who could not develop the closeness and Dveikus to Hashem that was emblematic of Pesach is this second chance.

The Psukim in Bahaaloscha tell us: There were men who were impure of the dead, therefore could not make the Pesach Korban on that day. They approached Moshe and Aharon on that day. Those men said to him, “We are impure [because of contact] with a dead person; [but] why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of Hashemin its appointed time, with all the children of Israel? Moshe said to them, “Imdu – Wait, and I will hear what Hashem instructs concerning you.”

The Chidushei HaRim writes that Imdu does not mean wait – but rather it means imdu in Teshuvah and Tefillah. It is not too late, just stand and pursue these two Avodahs and Hashem will help you along the way.

The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is the day for the off-the-derech kids that are now in every single one of our communities.

Each community among us, whether it be chassidisha, litvisha, or modern orthodox, has children that have left the fold.

Look around. They are hanging out on the street corners, at the late night Dunkin Donuts – hechsher and sans hechsher, and worse. Much worse.

Those that the Chiddushei HaRim refers to have issues of self-esteem, serious alcohol consumption, and many are abusing drugs. Many OTD kids have tattoos and multiple piercings.

They are everywhere – on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, in Lakewood, New Jersey. They are leaving Williamsburg in droves. And their parents toss and turn at night worrying about them.

It is to the point where, to echo a Pesach theme – “ain bayis asher ain bo mais – There is not a home that has not been affected.”

This Chiddushei HaRim is telling us that we need visionary leaders who can revolutionize what is not working with our systems. We need leaders who can fix things so that the off- the-derech children do not find solace in areas foreign to Torah. We need leaders to keep our youth enthused in their Yiddishkeit.

We must conceive of not merely a stop-gap measure, but something more. We must research what the largest risk factors are. We must develop and innovate programs, plans and ideas that will reduce these risk factors. We need to put our collective minds and our financial pocket books together. Torah society needs a comprehensive solution to address this ever widening problem.

Indeed, the Sefer Chasidim (308) explains that even if there is significant financial strain we need to create separate institutions for our different types of children.

True, there are the Rabbi Tzvi Glucks, the Rabbi Silvers, the Rabbi Zechariah Wallersteins, the Rabbi Yaakov Horowitzs, the TOVA mentoring programs. But we need to support them and replicate what they do on a massive, massive scale.

We need an FDR social security program, a Marshall Plan. A GI bill.

We need someone to step to the plate, someone that can make a profound change that will effect and save generations. And we need to put our moneys where our mouths are.
We sweep all of this under the carpet and do not talk about it, but this issue, hands down, eclipses all others.

How can we attend gala Bar mitzvahs and weddings, Yeshiva dinners and functions while knowing that there are children out there that we have failed? We as a community must regroup and come up with a viable, palatable solution.

How can we not cry for thousands of holy mothers in Klal Yisroel whose every thought and prayer centers around her lost son or daughter?

And time is ticking. Let’s not kid ourselves. One or two years in the off-the derech lifestyle almost guarantees a point of no return. Those that do make the trip back are few and far between.

Our Rabbonim, our leaders, and our wealthy askanim need to hear from us. They need to hear of the heartaches that we suffer. Our voices need to be heard so that this issue will be given the prominence that it demands.

We can all do something. We can create happier homes and happier classrooms. We need to reach out to the people we see and smile at them. Of course, there are a myriad of reasons as to why these things can happen, and we cannot chalilah ever be judgmental.

We need to be that resource, that Rock-of-Gibraltar that genuinely cares about the neighbor’s child who has that missing or divorced parent.

We need to put our collective heads together to create tools, resources, and institutions that will address the issue of our ever growing lost brethren. This all needs leadership, direction, and vision.

These forgotten souls must be placed once again on our agenda. That is the theme of Pesach Sheni, according to the Gerrer Rebbe. Let’s listen to its message.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you very much for this article. Not only does a kid heading downhill fast in ruchniyus cause his/her parents great dismay, but it also can be detrimental to the Yiddishkeit among his/her siblings.

    I have a feeling that a big part of the tikkun is general chizzuk in very genuine avodas Hashem among all of us. When someone has a kid with a problem of this sort in the house, at first there’s a lot of denial and trying to hide the child when he starts to change his outward appearance. Then at a certain point, the parent comes to terms with the reality, stops hiding the child and fighting with him, and starts working on real chizzuk. “Not cut out for yeshiva? We can live with that. I’m okay, you’re okay. Let’s find what’s right for you.”

    Another point: I could be wrong, but it seems to me that among a lot of boys who are dropping out of yeshiva and roaming the street late at night, the primary root cause is ADD/ADHD. In other words, the way their brains were programmed from birth (some people call it neurology) is a bit different, and that is expressed in a lot of different ways (including a proclivity for more flamboyant clothes and hair). And obviously it makes it hard to succeed in school/yeshiva.

    It would be a big help if talmidei chachamim don’t all head off to teach in yeshiva, but some devote their energies to showing parents how to create a positive identity for kids who don’t fit the mold of the Lakewood or Mir yeshiva bochur.

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