The Young Generation is On Another Wavelength

IBM, Lag B’omer, and the story of the communist teacher: No one would ever dream of surrendering our Yiddishe “hardware,” but what about the Yiddishe “software.”? An article by Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin.

By Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin –

Lag B’Omer is the yahrtzeit and hillula of the holy Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. In addition to his greatness in the revealed aspects of Torah, he also authored the holy Zohar, transmitting Pnimiyus Torah, the inner dimension of Torah.

As a young bochur, I participated in the “Released Time” program in New York. Once a week, on Wednesdays, Jewish public school students were allowed to take time out of their regular classes to attend a class on Yiddishkeit. I had the zechus to teach some of these classes.

Whenever I had a new group of students, I always started with a humorous story about the communist teacher who sought to disprove G-d’s existence.

“Do you see teacher’s hat?” the communist teacher asked his young students. “Da!” they all exclaimed excitedly. “Therefore, teacher has a hat,” the teacher drew the logical conclusion.

“Do you see teacher’s jacket?” he asked the class. “Yes!” they all said. “Therefore, teacher has a jacket,” the teacher noted.

Mockingly pantomiming a short but intense search around the classroom, the teacher went for the punchline. “Children! Do you see G-d?”

“No!” The class dutifully answered. All except for one clever Jewish student, Yankele. Before the teacher could draw his heretical conclusion, sweet little Yankele jumped up on his chair “Class!” he exclaimed, “Do you see teacher’s brains?”

“No!” his classmates all yelled, laughing out loud.

“Therefore, teacher has no brains!” Yankele concluded logically, to the merriment of his peers.

The story is humorous, but the point it makes is very serious. There’s more to reality than is readily apparent. There’s an unseen Creator who creates the world, there’s an unseen soul that animates the body, there’s a Pnimiyus that is the foundation of everything we see.

The truth is, the communists – and their various equivalents and counterparts through the generations – don’t really reject the idea that there is a foundational truth beneath the surface. They just want to be the ones to establish what that truth is.

In an effort to share the clarity and strength of Emunah and Bitachon with all who need it, I organize or attend various programs, give as many Shiurim and classes as I can, and engage with people directly in one-on-one discussions or by hosting them for Shabbos or Yom Tov.

I recently hosted a family for Shabbos. It was a wonderful Shabbos, filled with inspiring Davening, spirited Nigunim, and interesting conversation. Inevitably, the topic turned to emotional well-being and the solid foundations which Torah provides. This is a hot-button issue for some, who maintain that other sources and disciplines can be or should be consulted in these matters.

As usual, I was passionately making the case that Torah provides the real foundations for emotional well-being. The details of the discussion are not the focus here, beyond noting in passing that the Torah’s guidance stands in stark contrast to other approaches:

The Torah makes strong and clear moral judgments; it appeals to our clearly defined purpose in life; it shifts our center from self to Hashem; and it proudly embraces Kabolas Ol, just to name a few obvious points of difference.

As we talked, I noticed something very interesting. While at least some of my points were novel to the father of the family, he nodded in agreement as we spoke. He questioned a point here or there, but he was generally on board with the fundamentals.

The younger generation, the twenty-something-year-olds, were another story. As we spoke, I found myself rehashing and defending assertions I would never have thought necessary: the unified nature of our lives, every aspect of which is connected to and permeated with Torah; the validity and centrality of Kabolas Ol (as in Naaseh V’Nishma); the reality of Kedusha and Tumah; and so on. 

It seemed like these boys were on a totally different wavelength, running totally different software.

It reminded me of a story that made headlines a long time ago.

International Business Machines, better known as IBM, used to be a household name. They were pioneers in the computer industry and dominated the market for a long time. In the 80s, personal computing was becoming affordable, and the industry experienced explosive growth, but the one to benefit the most wasn’t IBM. In fact, they lost significant ground. 

The focus of IBM was on the computing machine, the hardware. When it came to the software needed for personal computing, they left it all to a different company called Microsoft (for microcomputer software). IBM conceded the ground on software to Microsoft, and as a result, Microsoft not only outdid them financially, it came to be a strong voice in dictating hardware specifications as well.

This business story demonstrates a lesson we desperately need to learn today. As Yidden, in our personal lives and in raising the next generation, we absolutely cannot concede the ground on the “software.”

Torah life demands physical actions, fulfilling the Mitzvos and Minhagim which connect us to Hashem. That’s the “hardware.” There’s also the “software” – the stiff-necked commitment to cling to Hashem, the love and awe of Hashem that lies at our core, the perceptive certainty that there’s more to the world than the physical. This software is innate to our Neshama and is brought out and fleshed out through studying the Torah and doing the Mitzvos.

It goes without saying that this “software” applies to our religious life, providing the neshama – life, emotion, and motivation – to our Mitzvos and Minhagim, to our study of Torah, and to our Avodas Hashem.

What should also go without saying – though it is becoming increasingly necessary to say – is that our Torah “software,” the truth of Torah, relates to every single aspect of life. It’s not a religious truth – it’s true insight into the nature of reality and our place and purpose within it, and there’s nothing it doesn’t apply to and change.

Our observations and perceptions of the world around us and the attitudes we bring to everything in life should be shaped by Torah. Our sense of self, our place in the world, and in society, should come from Torah. Our approach to parenting and our career aspirations, our approach to emotional well-being, and our coping strategies for upheavals in life (whether tremendous bracha or life-changing catastrophe) should all be rooted in Torah. 

In short, we should see life through the clarity of Torah, because that is the hidden truth,  the unseen Pnimiyus, whose reality is not diminished because it cannot be seen. It is our task to see it, internalize it, and live by it.

By revealing and drawing our attention to the Pnimiyus – the underlying truth of all reality conveyed in the inner dimension of Torah and manifested in the revealed Torah – Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught us how to unite every aspect of our life through Torah. Not by creatively applying Torah insights to other categories of our life. There are no other categories. 

We understand the physical world we inhabit and the experiences we have through our Pnimiyus, our software. As Yidden, that software is provided by Torah. Torah tells us what it all means, what it’s for, and how to best make use of or confront it. 

Yes, there are others who would happily provide us with different software, offering alternative models of reality, different values and attitudes, and ways to navigate choppy waters. We should unequivocally turn down their offer.

No one would ever dream of surrendering our Yiddishe “hardware,” compromising even one iota of Torah observance in action. We need to be just as vigilant against surrendering the software and learning to see ourselves or the world around us in other ways.

That would not only result in damaging our inner life and connection to Hashem, but experience has also shown that whoever provides the software ends up dictating how things will be done with the hardware. 

As we celebrate Lag B’Omer, let’s learn from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to bring the Pnimiyus of Torah to every aspect of our lives – and also benefit from the emotional well-being, the strength, the clarity, and all the practical Brachos that come with it, greatest among them the coming of Moshiach. 

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  1. Fantastic article. A vital but subtle point brought out in a clear relatable manner. I would add that the change of the youth can be traced to over exposure which should be combatted, as eluded to in the article, by an counter dose of Chassidus.

  2. Just to make sure I understand: is the author suggesting that because a Jew only eats Kosher chocolate cake, and only sitting down (not standing) and only with the intention of using that energy to serve Hashem better etc., that therefore, one should only use cookbooks that are written by G-d fearing Jews? Or does he agree? It’s OK to take a chocolate cake recipe from a non-kosher/non-Jewish cookbook and then use that recipe to make and eat the chocolate cake with the right intentions?

    1. Life is not a chocolate cake. It’s much more complex and touches the heart and soul of Jewish living. We call it a neshama.

    2. This commenter seems to have an ax to grind or a living to make. No need to keep making the same point multiple times on every article.

      1. There is a need to say it as long as there are people taking values from the secular world (professionals, internet)

        1. Our values come from Torah. But we can learn techniques from technical non-Torah places, as we can regarding nutrition even though our food/eating values come from Torah.

      2. Absolutely excellent article, wow really needed point and explained very well!!

        One can take it from Rabbi Rubashkin who spent 8 years in -a place called prison- who knows full well and (unfortunately) experienced great nisyonos that what gets you through life is the chassidishe teachings, our inner make up, that gives the greatest of strengths.

        All this secular rubbish which people idolise demoralizes and devalues the inner human worth that each person and Yid has, being a creation of Hashem and insane power, and value

        Dealing with a lot young people I fully agree with all this

        Schools need to make a point of explaining to students how all the ‘lofty’ concepts being taught are real things and the best and most true and beautiful way to live our lives, it must be explained very well, extremely clearly and brought down, so that they understand

        All this secular stuff is so damaging

        I was shocked to hear that even in the best of seminaries, they garner points of social emotional living from places antithesis to Torah and much of what they are teaching literally goes against the values of Torah!!

        This is being fed to our youth in some places, and the non sharp students (or too young to understand fully) don’t understand or see an apparent contradiction and it literally ruins so much!!

        Rabbi Rubashkin, perhaps you can write a set of points (and publish it), that can be taught in schools, showing their source or how we see them from Torah (and maybe add how could be the secular world sees it and opposite to Torah and how its so not the truth, I’m not sure if the Rebbe would want this second bit, why explain, but maybe to just show how it’s different to what the secular world believes)

        Mechanchos and schools it’s really time to get this straight because it’s our job to teach the next generation, empower them with the gifts and truths of Torah

        (I’ve seen often its actually some mechanchos and principles own fault, they don’t actually believe or understand this…I’m not quite sure how they became the principles or mechanchos of Chabad institutions..)

        Students be aware, filter through, is this actually based on Torah, challenge your teachers,

        We need to highlight, endorse in the Chinuch system, the kids who have middos Tovos, and true Yiras Shomayim, and that will be what kids look up to and emulate, not the ones who are self centred or mean.. I find sometimes (more recently) that they endorse often the latter..

        We really need to develop this, because a lot of times people find themselves in a crisis or really difficult situations, and they’re looking for help, to soothe the pain, for a way out, to cope- go forward in life

        And because it may be a little underdeveloped or unexplained to many people they go to goyishe institutions or ideologies which really dont actually help, often they create so much more damage…and besides it’s not what Torah holds

        So even if there is a measure of help there, its not creating a truly happy person, sometimes it damages them, numbs them, makes them not think straight, become more selfish, disrespectful and self absorbed – all literally against Torah…

        And this affects their families and the people around them…

        And it’s such a shame, Torah gives the best way of life, the happiest, most empowering and all in all the truth..!

        There are some very good books which bring down Torahs and Chassidus real hashkofa, we need to get them and explain them really well to people

    3. The point of the article is that there’s a fundamental difference between the cookbooks. Not only are the recipes different, not only are the ingredients different, the entire purpose and perspective is different.

      To try to squeeze this into your analogy, some cookbooks are written with an eye towards reducing calories, impact on the environment, etc, while others have as their goal maximizing hedonistic pleasure and showing off opulence and excess.

  3. Thank you to Rabbi SM and those others who seek to bring the truth to light! May you be blessed!!

  4. I would like to comment to the editor,
    Re the title of the article,
    It’s very important not to label or stigmatise anyone, especially not our youth,
    The Rebbes way is to believe in everyone,especially the youth and the next generation
    Even if you see something that needs to be put straight we do so by empowerment, rather then talking down and saying statements like that

    The Rebbe emphasised many times that impressioning on a person an issue and giving them the message or feeling that this is who they are, will actually make them see themselves that way even more and it is untrue and detrimental

    Often the best way to get out of it, is by empowering the person to get better and not emphasising the issue (see many Rebbe letters)

    The younger generation is INCREDIBLE, they are literally ASWESOME and so POWERFUL,

    We need to teach them and guide them and bring them to their greatest amazing potential

    One must be careful how ones speaks about them or sees them – when one see them for what they really are, they will become that!

    Titles like these, show a detrimental view, and doesn’t empower them

    Yes one might be airing the issue but being that this is a public forum and many youth will be reading this, it’s important to speak to them with belief in who they are and empowerment, not denigration or labeling..

    Rather then embellishing the issue, and labeling the person with it,point them in the right direction!

    Yes chetzi Refuah is Yedias Hamachla, but when it comes to healing the machla one has to take this approach

    This goes for everything..

    Really excellent article though, thank you!!

  5. This secular idealizing has reached even the “Chassidish”. How many couples are taking the “Nurtured heart approach “ instead of asking what the yiddishe approach to chinuch is??? (R’ Michoel Gurary gave a great parenting course, I’ve heard Shais Taub has one also.)

    How many of us automatically recommend “therapy” to anyone struggling with life, marriage, self image etc? People don’t even realize that they’re imbibing goyishe ideology which will not help them be a successful Yid.

    Just today I read a booklet I saw in my house (!) arrived with the mail, on how therapy helps with everything… to give one example- for anxiety, they recommended writing it out, relaxation techniques etc

    That will not get to the root of the anxiety.

    The root is fear and the antidote is that Hashem is in charge and all He does is good. So nothing bad happens to you, and He wants you to daven to change it if it’s not your preferred good…

    Just one example. Choose a great mashpia instead of a therapist, book and pay for weekly sessions if you need lots of time etc

    1. Completely agree, couldn’t agree more!!

      That’s a great idea of paying a great mashpia, because sometimes one feels bad to be taking so much of their time..

    2. Writing out your thoughts is inconsistent with Torah? Muscle relaxation is inconsistent with Torah? This is such shtusim and am ha’aratzis. It’s a perfectly Kosher technique of calming one’s anxiety. The message of Bitachon is easier to hear when the body is calm. (And a yid must know that it works because Hashem is making it happen, not because of nature.) I challenge u to find a Chasidisher Rav who disapproves of journaling or muscle relaxation.

      1. Relaxation and writing is not goyish per se. But when one resorts to these pareve things INSTEAD of using the challenge as a springboard to come closer to Hashem and grow as a person (and it doesn’t even address the root of the issue as noted), THAT is goyish

  6. I wonder if Sholom Mordachai realizes that part of the reason why he was able to maintain a hopeful mindset in prison is because he knew there were countless people rooting for him, as well as people working on his behalf. Cognitively, he focused his mind on Hashem’s omnipotence and used that as a way to challenge his temptation of hopeless thinking. But there is no question that if he had no (knowledge of any)one rooting for him or trying to help him it would have been far more difficult to maintain a Bitachon mindset. The simple awareness that there are people on your side, regardless of how helpful they can be, makes the human brain feel supported and thus the weight of maintaining a positive mindset is less heavy. Certainly this is true when one knows there are people actually working on their behalf. This is true of any human. For a Jew, this includes a Bitachon mindset. This social support makes the brain healthier and more able to have Bitachon. A healthier brain can more easily be a Holy brain. Social support is one way of the brain being healthier. The science of cognition and neurology can offer a lot as well.

    1. Shaar HaBitachon takes the exact opposite view. Recognizing social support is not a complement to Bitachon, it is the antithesis. It discusses how to view the role of those through whom Hashem works, but any thought that their action (or inaction) can help or hurt is poison to Bitachon.

      In his book he describes actively dismissing those “encouraging” thoughts, only taking comfort from the support in that the Ahavas Yisrael they represent was a real keili for Bracha and that the support and positive developments could be seen as indications that Hashem was helping him…

      1. You misunderstood my comment. It is the nature of the brain to feel calmer and less fearful when it knows it has allies and is receiving support. Unless one is a Tzadik from Tanya their brain will experience support as a desirable thing, and feel less hopeless. The avoda is realizing that the true help comes from Hashem not from people. Just like the Avoda of someone getting financial support is to see his financial security because Hashem is helping him and not from the natural support of humans. A person in tremendous financial distress Does not have that advantage, and will require more effort to maintain Bitachon. But if the person who is receiving the support insists that it does nothing to help him maintain a hopeful mindset and that it would require only the exact same effort to maintain the same hopeful mindset even without the support, then they are delusional (and/or ignorant of neuroscience.)

  7. I agree with every word Reb SM Rubashkin has said here. Torah is the one and only truth and has the solutions to EVERYTHING in our lives. I am bh zoche enough to see some very close family members who have dealt with emotional issues by rlly being misbonen on Bitachon, etc. so I know it actually can be done practically.

    I think the main issue why people are turning to therapy or other approaches (as one commenter mentioned NHA) is that when someone is dealing with intense emotional challenges it is very hard to focus on Chassidus if you’re not very learned or you just don’t know HOW to apply the solution from Torah.
    So they turn to therapy and other such approaches that literally hold your hand and help u get through the issue.

    I think instead of people complaining that people are going to therapy or other approaches we need to be creating more courses based on Torah and Chassidus. We should have “therapists” that help thier clients get through emotional issues through Torah.
    Many people are turning outwards because they simply don’t know how to turn the words in a maamer to practically help them in thier challenges.

    In order to do sur mera we need ase tov.
    Let us see more people who have the talent to understand Chassidus and Torah and know how to make it applicable use this for coaching and hand hold the masses to be able to and want to turn to Chassidus before anything else!
    Yasher Koach to all those chasisdim who are already doing this holy work!

    1. The Rebbe set this up already by encouraging people to have and be a mashpia. Many role models are happy to listen and give practical Torah tools to work with. However, therapists do therapy as a job, and that’s why they can give significant time every week if needed. Mashpiim are generally volunteering and that’s beautiful. However if someone prefers therapy because they’ll have a weekly session for half hour or more, they can easily get the same from a mashpia if they offer to pay the same way as therapy is paid for.

      Also, with a mashpia you can get real Torah tools that will help empower you and the issue will stop taking up space in your life (as long as you’re willing to put in the work) whereas therapy often has people paying for years and years, they feel good with the attention but haven’t moved past the issue

      1. the issue is that unfortunately instead of mashpiem being Mashpia – the inyanim of the mamar how or sicha how you see it in your life and how we can relate to it in all aspects and struggles, the tend to try to explain the mamar and all the ways of understanding it.
        don’t get me wrong of course we should learn chassidus ‘as is’ and understand what the rebbe is saying, not what i am saying , But after that we need to understand how it can also be lessons to ourselves in a lot of areas
        not just the initial horah of the mamar about the inyan i.e. of bitul hoalamos… which don’t get me wrong is very important and could be beikar what is gono help the student, but show him how you can learn lessons to your specific circumstance from chassidus just like you can from any part of Torah ‘ki ham chayanu …’
        And when we have more of this there will be a understanding that Chassidus is not there just for my mental health but I really could take lessons from it for my matzov now (and not take away the kedusha of chassidus) with out ‘grazing in foreign fields’ and hopefuly are yeshivos will join bord with helping our youth actually navigate their emotional wellbeing not just get 100’s on test. hatzlacha! mashiach now!

  8. all these comments just prove how amazing this article is, that so many people have what to say about it!
    א’ב’ג’ – אמונה און בטחון בריינגט די גאולה!!!

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