Our thoughts turn somber as we count down the last few minutes until Tisha B’Av and with all of the deaths we have experienced in recent weeks, it isn’t all that difficult to feel the churban in our own generation. While it is convenient to compare the destruction that we experienced centuries ago when both Batei Mikdash were destroyed to the epidemic that is currently sweeping through our community, it seems to me that the two situations are not at all alike.
In the churban of both the first and the second Beis Hamikdash, there were foreign forces that swept through our land, as our enemies wielded swords and killed with no remorse. In the plague that we are experiencing today, the forces that murder our children come from within our own community.
Yes, it is clear that our children are dying of abuse and addiction, but those behaviors are the symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. It pains me to be the bearer of bad news but I firmly believe that there are two entities in our communities that our killing our kids: our yeshivos and our parents.
Allow me to explain.
While our chinuch system has evolved in numerous positive ways over the years, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Torah U’Mesorah, most of our yeshivos have shifted from being community schools to businesses. Schools used to contain a healthy mix of students of a variety of academic abilities and they all learned from and supported each other. But today? Today schools are for-profit entities and all too many are caught up with finances, kavod or both, leaving the weaker students to fall through the cracks. Lacking confidence and craving positive reinforcement of any kind, many turn to the streets in their search for something that will chase away the darkness.
But it isn’t just the schools that are the problem. Sadly, all too many parents are failing their kids, refusing to seek the help that they know their children need because they are afraid that it will have an adverse affect on potential shidduchim. They are so focused on finding the “right kind” of match for their children that they completely overlook the fact that their child is in pain and in need of serious help. Those same parents would never think twice about taking their child to the emergency room if they were in physical pain, but once we venture into the realm of emotional pain, everything changes. Noooo, we can’t get help for our son or daughter. It will mess up future shidduchim for the entire family.
Shidduchim – I hate that word. How many lives have been lost because parents have been focused on shidduchim? More than you can possibly imagine. Far too many of our beautiful children have been sacrificed on the altar of shidduchim, or brought as a korban to ensure the sterling reputation of a particular mossad.
We need to face facts. Sexual abuse happens in our community. Drug abuse happens in our community. It’s time to stop burying our heads in the sand and to get those who are suffering the help they need.
Each of our children is a Mikdash Me’at and this year alone we have seen the Beis Hamikdash destroyed again and again, dozens of times. So when you sit down to hear Eichah on Tisha B’Av, and when you try to connect with the words of kinos, think of the lights that have been extinguished. The children that will never be born. The tears that continue to flow in rivers, not just during the time of the churban, but today as the destruction continues unabated.
Cry for the Batei Mikdash that we lost centuries ago. Cry for the beautiful lives that ended all too soon, both then and now. And then take those tears and put them to use. Let us demand of our educators to do right by all of our children, even those of lesser academic ability. And let us gather our courage and embrace our children, accepting them for who they are, supporting them in their journey through life and getting them help when they need it.
This Tisha B’Av I beg of you. Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of those who are suffering. Feel their pain. Cry for them.
And then do everything you can to prevent yet another churban from taking place, today, tomorrow, next week or next month.
Because we can’t afford to lose any more of our precious children.
Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim Community Resources, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 15 years. For more information go to www.amudim.org.