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Not Just Your Parent’s Rabbi

on Friday, February 15 2013. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
The best talk I have ever heard at a Rabbinic convention came not from a Rabbi, a scholar, a mental health professional or a Rosh Yeshiva.  It came from a 19 year old young man who had recently returned from his year in Israel.   To the credit of the convention chairs, he was invited to share the perspective of his peers on the state of the Orthodox Community and the role of Rabbis in leading it.  He shared many important insights that day, but one of them in particular has stuck with me ever since.  

“When kids are growing up and they need someone to speak to,” he said, “they don’t think of going to their Shul Rabbi for one simple reason.  Children perceive ‘The Rabbi’ as their parent’s Rabbi, not their own.”  I thought of his words last week when visiting with students from our community currently spending the year in Israel.  Yocheved and I tried to communicate that when they return from their year in Israel we welcome a close relationship with them.  We told them that we hope that they know that they didn’t leave their access to Rebbeim and teachers behind in Israel, but they have others to turn to in America who care deeply about them and are available to talk, learn together or help in any other way.

Obviously, a relationship between a Rabbi and the children of the community begins long before their year in Israel and needs to be cultivated from an early age.  Since becoming the Rabbi of BRS eight years ago, I have had the privilege and blessing of naming almost every one of the close to 335 children who have been born in our community during that time.  Sadly, in too many cases, I haven’t had the chance to use that name many times since then, as it is extremely challenging to spend time with the more than 1,000 children in our community.  

In this week’s parasha, Terumah, the Torah describes the keruvim, the two figurines that adorned the top of the Aron, the ark that housed the tablets in the Mishkan.   These golden angels were molded in the image of children.  One would think that the centerpiece of the Holy of Holies would have the image of a pious old man or a virtuous aged woman.  Why would our great Torah, its values and teachings be associated specifically with children?

Though the answer may sound clichéd, I believe it is true – children are our future.  As we think about the Torah we are to imagine it being adorned with and protected by the faces of children.  Children are exuberant, enthusiastic, filled with energy, purity, curiosity and wholesomeness.  

Shul Rabbis, in my opinion, need to work harder to not only be Rabbis to adults and parents, but to be the Rabbis for the children of our communities who are indeed our very future.  I personally am committed to spend more time in our teen minyan, at onegs, visiting our schools and spending time informally with our children.

However, I need your help.  Please encourage your children to be receptive to a relationship.  Remind them to come say hello, to wish a good Shabbos and to come to a youth or teen event.  There is no better time to forge a strong bond than when a child is young.  For years, I watched with great admiration and frankly with slight jealously as every BRS child approached Rabbi Klein z’l at some point over Shabbos to receive a candy coupled with a warm smile and loving handshake.   

I don’t have the age, wisdom or charm of Rabbi Klein, but I do have the will and desire to greet every BRS child and wish them a good Shabbos by name.  

I would be honored if you would help me by sending your children up after davening so that I may give them a candy, wish them a good Shabbos and hopefully, be their Rabbi in addition to just yours.

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