Where Mayor Adams Got It Right

Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

This week, the mayor of New York recognized that the only true solution to the gun problem is to become less secular and more G-dly. Baruch Hashem, we don’t have guns in our schools, but there are definitely undesirable influences infiltrating our classrooms and schoolyards.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

At an interfaith breakfast this week, New York’s mayor Eric Adams said (transcript):

“When I was growing up in South Jamaica, Queens, I was learning how to box and every time I would get in the ring, I would lose the fight. And my trainer will say, ‘Eric, the problem is you leave your best fight in the gym, and you’re supposed to take it into the ring with you.’ And that is what has happened to many of us. The synagogue is the gym. The church is the gym. The Sikh temple is the gym. The mosque is the gym. You are there for training. You are not there to leave your best worship in the gym.”

It must be hashgachah pratis that he should say this just several days before Purim.

A major part of celebrating Purim is through physical acts: mishloach manos, matanos l’evyonim and seudas Purim. The reason for this is based on what Chazal say, that during the story of Purim the Yidden reaffirmed their acceptance of the Torah and this was actually the culmination of Matan Torah. The purpose of Torah is that it should guide and affect every area of our lives. What’s the indication that we’re practicing Torah correctly? That even when we do ordinary things such as eating, drinking, working, or having fun, they are imbued with a spirit of kedushah. [1]

Reb Nochum of Chernobyl said in the name of the Baal Shem Tov:

Chazal say that since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdsah, Hashem was left with only the four amos of halachah. The simple understanding is that Hashem’s Presence can be felt mostly when studying Torah. But there’s also a deeper understanding. The four amos of halachah refer primarily to the space in which halachah is actualized, in the marketplace, with our families, and through all interpersonal dealings. When these are carried out in a G-dly way, those four amos are the ultimate haven for Hashem’s Presence.

We don’t need a goy to tell us the power and purpose of our Torah, yet apparently, Hashem chose Adams to remind us that our best worship is outside of the “gym.”

In a school or yeshiva where the students are learning Torah in the classroom the way they should, proper behavior should automatically be seen during sports, on trips, at recess and during mealtime. If the Torah we’re teaching isn’t affecting their behaviors in the “rings,” this isn’t a reason to search outside of Torah for guidance in how to educate our children and teach them social skills or the like. It’s an indication that we’re not yet maximizing the power of Torah. Or that we, the “coaches,” are not living examples.

Another point made by the mayor:

“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came in […] Don’t tell me about [no] separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”

Baruch Hashem, we don’t have guns in our schools, but there are definitely undesirable influences infiltrating our classrooms and schoolyards. The world is full of confusion and challenges, and we need to address this when educating our children. But it boggles the mind to think that we, the ones who have Torah, would bring secular guidance into our mosdos to deal with these issues instead of intensifying our efforts to draw down more Getlichkeit.

Focusing on woke topics such as feelings, self-awareness, trauma, secondary trauma, personal space, etc., are a fool-hearted attempt at helping our children. These passing fads are not the ultimate solution. And certainly not for a Yiddishe child with a neshamah.

This week, even a goy recognized that the only true solution is to become less secular and more G-dly. And even a goy recognized that a moment of silence, reflecting on a Higher Power, is more powerful than hours of lectures and workshops from secular sources.

And this, too, is related to Purim.

Mr. Yisroel Sadan was an influential educator in Eretz Yisroel for many years. In the winter of 5718 (1958) he visited the Rebbe, they spoke about his work, and the Rebbe gave him a pocket-sized Tanya. A short while later, the Rebbe wrote him a letter [2] in which he expressed the importance of giving children a full-fledged Torah education without compromise. The child must receive an education so strong, the Rebbe explained, that it will remain with him even once he is out on the street, exposed to the strong and unusual winds.

Then the Rebbe added an observation regarding Purim:

Chazal say that during the time of Haman’s gezeirah, Mordechai Hatzaddik gathered 22,000 children and studied with them the halachos of kemitzah, how the kohen would scoop flour with his fingers for the purpose of korbanos. The Rebbe points out that those halachos were irrelevant at the time since there was no Beis Hamikdash. Yet, it was this study that brought about the salvation. In fact, Haman himself admitted that the “handful” about which Mordechai and his students were learning outweighed all the silver he had offered Achashveirosh.  

Torah, any part of Torah, taught properly, talks to the neshamah. And a fired-up neshamah brings about miracles. Haman knew this. Eric Adams seems to know this. And it’s up to, l’havdil, us to act on it.

[1] See Likutei Sichos, Vol 4, Pg. 1287, and Vol 3, Pg. 916.

[2] Igros Kodesh, Vol 18, Pg. 257

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  1. ???
    Focusing on woke topics such as feelings, self-awareness, trauma, secondary trauma, personal space, etc., are a fool-hearted attempt at helping our children. These passing fads are not the ultimate solution. And certainly not for a Yiddishe child with a neshamah.

    All these feelings and self awareness etc are very very important for a Yiddishe neshama. Being in touch with who you are and how to treat others and how to move forward and separate trauma from Yiddishkeit so you can continue being a frum Yid without the trauma you may have gone through is super important.

    1. Focusing on them is very different than dealing with them in their proper place. The “woke” idea is that A’s feelings outweigh everything else, such as B’s right to not have to lie, and that’s flat-out wrong and destructive.

  2. “feelings, self-awareness, trauma”

    There are countless stories of Reb Mendel, Zalman Moishe, and other great chassidim who, not only were they aware of their emotions, but they poured their hearts out by farbrengenish and in yechidus. They utilized their pain and trauma to serve der Aybishter.

    1. In other words, their emotions were controlled and used by their mochin. The modern idea that has seeped into our yeshivos is that feelings by themselves are paramount and trump everything else, including the evidence of one’s eyes and ears.

  3. Dear Author,

    Thank you for your article. I appreciate the complexity of this topic. There are many points that resonate as truth, and only two that I feel are not accurate.
    1) “Even a goy…” -This perspective is a major contributor to why yeshiva children do not have respect for secular Jews or non- Jewish teachers. It is not a chiddush that a goy recognized G-d in today’s world. It is perhaps even a function of the non-Jews while we are in Galus.

    2) “Focusing on woke topics such as feelings, self-awareness, trauma, secondary trauma, personal space, etc., are a fool-hearted attempt at helping our children. These passing fads are not the ultimate solution” – This statement is not supported by Torah and Jewish teachings. Consider the many simple and deep teachings relating to how one recognizes and controls one’s feelings: Avraham (Cheses) Yitzchok (Gevurah) and Ya’akov fear of Esav. Furthermore, Moshe becoming angry, Ahron remaining silent, and Shauli’s depression. Not to mention “Do not Covet” “Lobe thy neighbor “ and did I mention love and fear of G-d himself?
    Controlling feelings are the ikur- we would be remiss not to teach our children this- Au Contraire- it is a the ultimate solution.

    1. 1. There are any number of pesukim that make a big deal of the non-Jews recognizing Hashem in a way that they don’t now. So yes, it is most certainly a chiddush.

      2. Dealing with feelings and putting them in their proper place is the polar opposite of the modern “woke” idea that feelings trump everything, including actual facts of biology and so forth.

  4. BH

    I do not want to address this article as a whole just one point.

    The fact that mental health is not the ultimate solution does not in anyway preclude increased attention paid to one’s mental and emotional state.
    We are taught that a yid is comprised of two nefashos – drives. To neglect and be dismissive of either of them is not the ultimate.
    Just as we cannot, and rabbi Lipskier correctly points out, satisfy ourselves with addressing mental health issues without fostering a deep connection to the oibershter, we must also not satisfy ourselves with spiritual work alone. Our vessel – the body and the Nefesh habahamis as well – must be tended to in order for holiness and spirituality to rest within us in a pnimiyusdike way.

  5. I must say that I’m so surprised that some readers so badly misunderstood rabbi lipskier’s point. Do you really think he means that there’s no room for emotion in chassidus? C’mon. He’s referring to the obsession with these topics.

    And bravo to people like him who follow the rebbe’s example and are not afraid to say the truth, even when it’s not popular.

    It seems that those who bothered by this feel as those their precious subject has be hurt. And perhaps that’s part of the problem.

    As far as the last comment. A healthy nefesh habahemis will not come from giving it goyishe ideas. It will just make it more behemi. For someone who’s not emotionally well, they may need this, but not for healthy people. And we should not be treating everyone as if they’re sick.

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