Monday, May 5, 2008

Building on the Positive

An assembly was convened in Baranovitz to develop strategies that would galvanize the community to avoid laxness in Torah observance. Rav Meir Karelitz and the famed Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, attended.

When Rav Karelitz spoke, he elucidated an important principle in education, in how to set other Jews back on the right path. “The main way to build up a true connection to spirituality is by developing the positive. This is the best way to destroy another’s tendency and attraction to negative behaviors. This principle underlies a dictum we find in Nedarim 40a, ‘The building of youth is really destruction, while the destruction of elders is really building.’

He continued, “When the young and inexperienced wish to build, they think that the best way to go about new construction is by first breaking down the bad. The elderly and more experienced educators realize that this will never work. The best way to destroy the bad is by strengthening and building on the positive that is already in place!”

The Chazon Ish, zt”l, acted on this principle. One time, he worked hard to convince a certain yeshiva to accept a weaker student. The yeshiva found that this boy had not severed ties with some very inappropriate friends who hung around in the worst areas of town.

When they complained to the Chazon Ish about his protégé, he requested that they summon the boy. One member of the yeshiva’s staff was present at their meeting. The Chazon Ish took an obvious interest in every aspect of the boy’s learning and growth during their conversation, and spoke about his feelings and assessments at great length. When the he left, the young man was glowing with joy.

The staff member was confused, “But wasn’t the entire purpose of calling him here to correct his associating with such bad friends?”

The Chazon Ish responded, “Until now, he had no real pleasure in spiritual things; the only delight he took was with his old friends about town. If we deprive him of his old associations, he will have no pleasure in life. First, I must help him find pleasure in learning. Only then can he be weaned from the street!”

No comments: