My Father’s Secret to Bringing People Close

One of the strengths of my father, Rabbi Fitzy Lipskier a”h, was simply his joy. I still hear from his students at Tiferes Bachurim how his joy made Yiddishkeit attractive to those who were close and to those who still needed to come close.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

In the 1950s, the Rebbe saw a strong need for Jewish trade schools and opened several in Eretz Yisroel. In the winter of 5716 (1956) the Rebbe was asked if it would be okay to bring radios and record players into these schools as an outlet for the students, who were not your average yeshiva students. The Rebbe rejected the idea on several counts. But more importantly, the Rebbe emphasized that strong effort must be made for the vocational school experience itself to be enjoyable, by conducting farbrengens, singing, and even dancing, etc. Doing so would even help avoid the need for alternative forms of entertainment to begin with.[1]

In this week’s sedra we read: “V’haya,” and it shall come to pass, when you enter the land that Hashem will give you, as He spoke, that you shall observe this service. And it shall come to pass if your children say to you, what is this service to you? You shall say, it is a Passover sacrifice to Hashem, for He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and He saved our houses.

The B’nei Yisaschar [2] points out something powerful. As a rule, whenever the Torah introduces something with the word “v’haya” it connotes something happy. As in the above pesukim, Hashem informed the Yidden of three happy tidings: their redemption, their entry into Eretz Yisroel, and the children they’ll have.

But here’s a problem. In the Haggadah shel Pesach we read that the child asking the question in the above pasuk is none other than the rasha! What’s the joy in being told that we’ll have more wicked children?!

Perhaps one of the messages here is that no matter how far a child veers off the path of Torah and mitzvos, R”l, we must be aware of the happy news: don’t give up, for a Yiddishe neshamah will always return.

The Torah may also be giving us a strategy of how to reach such a child: v’haya, with joy. When Yiddishkeit is a happy and joyful experience, it’s attractive.

Moreover, making Yiddishkeit a happy and joyful experience can help prevent a child from going off. As the Rebbe advised the vocational schools that making the Yiddishe experience joyful will help avoid the need for other forms of entertainment.

The 28th yahrzeit of my father, Reb Yosef Yitzchak (Fitzy) a”h, is on the 11th of Shevat. As I reflect on his successes as a father and an educator, I realize that one of his strengths was simply his joy. Our home was a very happy place, not only for us but for anyone who spent time there. He was a mashpia in Tiferes Bachurim, a yeshiva for baal teshuvah men, and one of the things I still hear from his students is about the joy he had in Yiddishkeit and how he masterfully passed it on to them.

His joy made Yiddishkeit attractive to those who were close and to those who still needed to come close.

The 10th of Shevat is actually the yom hillulah of the Frierdiker Rebbe, whom my father is named after. And it’s not by chance that his name was Yosef Yitzchak.

When Rochel Imeinu named her son Yosef she said, “May Hashem grant me yet another son (ben acher)!” The Rebbe explains that the mission which the Frierdiker Rebbe initiated was to reach out to the Yiddishe sons who may feel like “acher,” another, i.e. alienated, and make them into a “son,” one who feels at home.

And the best way to achieve this is by using the method of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s second name, Yitzchok: Joy and laughter.[3]

May we all experience joy and see true Yiddishe, chassidishe nachas from all of our families!

[1] Igros Kodesh, vol. 12, pg. 317 and pg. 378

[2] Agra D’kalah

[3] Sichah of motzoei Yud Shevat5749 

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