On Monday evening, April 8, the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Briarwood, along with Chazaq, hosted a shiur with Rabbi Aharon Walkin, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola Beis Nosson Meir of Queens, the Chazaq kollel.
Rabbi Siman-Tov Yanetz, rav of the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Briarwood, introduced the speaker. Rabbi Yanetz shared that he offers hakaras ha’tov, which translates as much more than appreciation, to Rabbi Walkin who was teaching at Congregation Ohel Simcha more than ten years ago when Rabbi Yanetz first came to the Queens community. “I was looking for a place to learn and I found a diamond in our community. Rabbi Walkin is giving his life to the Bukharian community.”
Rabbi Walkin then began his shiur on raising children with wisdom through the night of the Seder. He stated, “Chinuch is an art. It is not a simple thing. It takes a lot of skill and wisdom.” The Seder night teaches us lessons of how to teach our children properly. In the Hagadah, it says that Hashem sees our ameilus, our toil. This toil is, according to the Rashba, all the work we do for the children. Someone once asked the Chofetz Chaim for a brachah for good children. The Chofetz Chaim responded, “Dear Yid, you do not get good children with a brachah. You need sleepless nights, tears, and sweat. You need to put a lot of work into it.”
Rabbi Walkin shared that the Hagadah is called Hagadah because we retell the story of coming out of Mitzrayim. The father becomes the master storyteller. Hagadah means retelling. He asked, “Why is Pesach different from all other nights?” He answered that on the night of Pesach you are teaching your son and daughter. Every night it’s a mitzvah to teach your son; but on Pesach, the mitzvah includes your daughter.
“When we teach the story of Egypt, it’s about teaching emunah – about creating the Jew. You take the child and bring out the Jew in him and her.” You speak to your child’s neshamah.
Hagadah is connecting father to child. “The night of the Seder is the time children connect to parents.” The Belzer Rebbe taught that generations don’t see eye to eye. Parents are closer to the experience of the past and the child is farther away from that and closer to the days of Mashiach. The generations connect on the night of the Seder. Some have the custom for the father to ask the Mah Nishtanah to the child after the child asks. Rabbi Walkin said that it’s like the father is saying, “Now tell me from your generation’s perspective.”
Rabbi Walkin taught that we are supposed to talk into their ears when we talk to the child. Rabbi Walkin said that this means that you need to connect to him. Rav Dovid Leibowitz zt”l, former Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, taught that Europe is a different generation from America. You first have to create the ear, and then you can talk to him. Rabbi Walkin elaborated: “It has to be his ear. Every child has a different ear.” This is a lesson in the Hagadah that we have to know that each child has his own set of ears. We read about four sons, which represent four different messages. “The skill of chinuch is to give the child what he needs.” Rabbi Walkin stated, “On the night of the Seder, each child is your only one. Each child needs to know that he has your full ear and full heart.”
In the same way, for a rebbe, each talmid is your only talmid and should be addressed as the only one in the world.”
Rabbi Walkin stressed, “The night of Pesach, you need to draw your children to you.”
We want to draw them in intellectually with their minds and emotionally. Many have a minhag to bentch their children on Friday night and also on the Seder night. “The only way a child will learn is if he feels the love and warmth of the parent.”
On Seder night, we show how loyal we are as Jews. We went through exile and the Holocaust and so many things, but we remain loyal Jews. “The way the father conducts himself on the night of the Seder instills emunah in the child.”
You want your children to see how happy you are. Are you upbeat and excited about the Seder and Pesach? Rav Moshe Feinstein taught that we lost many American Jews because their parents would say it’s so difficult to be a Jew. We must never give this message to our children. They need to see how proud I am to be a Jew – how lucky, how privileged I am to have these mitzvos. This demonstration is more effective than 100 speeches. Rabbi Walkin taught, “We are teaching what it means to be a Jew on the night of the Seder.”
He continued: If children are rebelling like the rasha in the Hagadah, we see how the Hagadah teaches us that you answer him and bring him into conversation. You need to show him that you are not frustrated, and you love him just as you love the others. You thank Hashem and show appreciation even for this frustrating and challenging child. Show the child, “I’m happy you are here.” You must build him up. “Tell him he’s good. Show you are not bitter. Show you are happy. Talk to him. Don’t ignore him. He needs more attention.” The Hebrew word used to explain what to do with this child some translate as “hit,” but it is spelled with a kuf which really means rebuttal or to engage him. Rabbi Walkin stressed that we should never teach through fear. “In chinuch, we can’t influence with force or fear.” Rabbi Walkin shared that the number one ingredient for chinuch is to build up the child’s self-esteem. “Don’t break the child; build him. You need to show him how special he is.”
In the Hagadah, the child who doesn’t know how to ask is shy. The solution, according to Rabbi Shlomo Alcabes, author of L’cha Dodi, is to open him up. Build up his courage and self-esteem.
Rabbi Walkin also taught that it is not good to use the word stealing about the afikoman. This is not teaching the proper behavior. He then explained that the Seder night is children and we are children of Hashem. We and Hashem, our Father, connect on the Seder night. “The underlying lesson is that an integral part of the Seder is that we want to connect with Hashem, our Father. We reconnect with our children and we, ourselves as children, connect with Hashem. Reconnect to your neshamah that’s calling out to your Father.”
Rabbi Walkin then taught a special secret. When the Hagadah says, “Here the child asks,” we can ask for whatever we want from Hashem. It’s a time we can ask Hashem for g’ulah and for our ruchniyus needs and for y’shuos and r’fuos. This is a good place to ask Hashem for children and to ask for good children.”
Everyone left inspired and energized, looking forward to Seder night. This shiur can be viewed on TorahAnytime.
By Susie Garber