Oped by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: It is always during the summer that the “Talmidei Hashluchim List” is released and another group of idealistic Talmidim will be sent to various Yeshivos all over the world. Here’s some perspective for the shliach, Hanhalla, and their parents.
By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati
It is always during the summer that the “Talmidei Hashluchim List” is released and another group of enthusiastic and idealistic Talmidim will be sent to various Yeshivos all over the world on a very unique shlichus of the Rebbe: “Talmidim Hashluchim”. The Chinuch revolution of Talmidei Hashluchim started in 5727 with a group of hand-picked talmidim being sent to Melbourne Australia and has blossomed ever since.
While it is obvious that the Yeshiva – and community – benefit from the dedicated and enthusiastic work of the Talmidei Hashluchim it is important to realize that so do the Talmidim themselves. To echo the words that the Rebbe wrote to a parent in 5713 regarding Merkos Shlichus (Igros volume 7 page 349 #2208): “While externally the beneficiary of the Shlichus is Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch; in truth, it is part of the organized and planned educational development of the bochur himself in many aspects.” The year(s) of this special shlichus really build a bochur, and create true friendships and relationships for life.
As an impressionable bochur in Beis Midrash in Toronto, watching the older Bochurim, then meriting to be a shliach there for two years, and now being part of Hanhallas HaYeshiva here in Cincinnati for close to two decades; I have come to see and experience this special shlichus from (almost) all angles. I would like to share my experience and perspective with the three partners in this shlichus: 1) The Talmid/Shliach himself. 2) The various Hanhallas HaYeshiva that merit to have Shluchim. 3) The parents of the Talmidei Hashluchim.
[To be clear: This article will not address the “Shiur Daled – shlichus – Syndrome”, or the process in which the Talmidim are divided between the Yeshivos, which is worthy of a separate discussion.]
To the Talmid-Shliach:
1. Always remember what your main shlichus is, as the famous saying goes: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” As you are being sent as a shliach (not a fundraiser or program director), you must always know your shlichus: Your main shlichus is to be a role model for the younger bochurim as to what the product of Tomchei Temimim looks like.
The talmidim are young and impressionable (as we all were). They are hearing from the Hanhalla how they should behave and expectations of how they should develop. For many talmidim, these ideas seem lofty and non-achievable especially for bochurim that are growing up after Gimmel Tammuz and hearing from Mashpiim that grew up before Gimmel Tammuz. By seeing real examples of Chassidishe Bochurim that are excited to be Temimim (as they see older Chassidishe bochurim [born after gimmel Tammuz] coming to all sedarim, davening and learning with a Chayus and are involved in the Rebbe’s Inyanim), it makes the entire chinuch message very real and achievable.
2. The greatest impact you can have on the younger bochurim (in addition to being the role model) is by spending time giving them personal time and attention. Many Talmidei Hashluchim get lost in the excitement of large and expensive “Mivtzas” and programs. While those things can create a nice atmosphere, they are also Makifdik, it doesn’t come close to the life-changing impact that comes with learning, talking and spending time with the younger bochurim.
This is especially true for the quieter, and shy, bochur that may not be getting the full attention of the Hanhalla and could very easily fall through the cracks. Another point to remember: Doing a young bochur a favor bgashmius (going with him to the doctor or getting him some food when hungry or sick) opens them up to accepting b’ruchnius. This impact is much more Pnimisdik and everlasting.
3. Put a big emphasis in talking to the bochurim about the Rebbe. These conversations could include stories, minhagim, history etc. Your shlichus is to connect the Talmidim with the meshaleiach. Speak to them openly on how you developed your own feelings and hiskashrus after Gimmel Tammuz and how connecting with the Rebbe is the essence of the Avodah of a Chassid. You are their friend and “older brother” – not part of the “scary hanhalla” – and they want to hear from you.
[There is an additional concept that must be pointed out: Remember that you are in a Yeshiva, or a community, for a relatively small amount of time. What you do in your shlichus can have an effect (positive or negative) for years to come. Always coordinate your activities with the Hanhalla HaYeshiva who have the experience and see the big picture.]
To the Hanhallas HaYeshiva:
1. Recognize that these young bochurim are talmidim and you have an achrayus to the Rebbe for the ruchniesdike growth and development. While many Yeshivos are aware that they are responsible for the physical needs of the Shluchim, it is imperative that there is a true feeling of responsibility to their spiritual growth. That includes providing shiurim and Frabrengens and having clear guidelines on their phone and internet usage. While it may not be wise to have them marked by a mashgiach for each seder, there must be a level of accountability and responsibility.
2. Don’t distract the Shluchim – and their ability to have true impact on the talmidim – by turning them into fundraisers and community organizers. If the Mivztoim on Friday, or other Yeshiva programs, are not valued enough to the Hanhalla to pay for it themselves, it should not fall onto the shoulders of the Talmidei Hashluchim. They can be involved in coordinating some of the programming but not responsible to raise the funds. The idealism of the Talmidei-HaShluchim should not be abused and they should not be guilted into taking upon themselves the need to raise funds for any of their activities. The Talmidim Hashluchim should make it clear that they do not have any intention of raising money.
[There are those that feel that it is actually good for the shluchim to learn how to raise money and feel some “ownership-kav shelo” in the Shlichus. While the point can be argued, it is clear to me that the Peulos that Shluchim so which are integral to the seder and learning of the Yeshiva (Mivtzoim on Friday, Mivtza Torah and Likkutei Sichos etc) should be paid for the Yeshiva. The Shluchim can raise some small money for some extra Mivztas or Peulos.]
3. Always express appreciation to the Talmidei Hashluchim for their dedication, devotion and hard work. They are living day-to-day with the talmidim and have to deal with many of the challenges that the talmidim are going through. They deserve our appreciation. This should also be expressed in giving them some “extra physical comforts” when possible. In addition: Don’t pressure them to “reveal” information about a talmid as it can ruin the long-term relationship that can truly benefit the talmid.
[Being open and transparent: I myself am “guilty” of much of the above-mentioned behavior and I have realized that the truth must be said and I will work on myself to act accordingly.]
To the Parents of the Talmidei Hashluchim
1. One of the Rebbe’s conditions for a talmid to go on shlichus was the express permission of his parents. It is very important that the talmid feel that his parents and proud of his achievements and supportive of his shlichus.
2. Keep in touch with your son and have him feel that you are a partner in his shlichus and are interested in all that is going on in his shlichus.
3. The most important: Keep in touch with the Hanhalla to see how your son is doing. A startling fact: In close to twenty years, I have only received ONE phone call from a parent of one of the shluchim who called with the exclusive purpose of finding out how their son is doing.
Many parents, mistakenly, feel that if the child is old enough to be a shliach, he is “safe” and they do not need to worry about him or keep being updated on their progress. I have seen too many boys that age that have had strong yeridos in their Ruchnius (a separate discussion).
Wishing everyone a “Gezunte Zummer” and much Chassidishe nachas from all your children, Moshiach Now!
If you have comments, questions or ideas connected to the above, please write in the comment section below or email me directly at [email protected]