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Hashkafa Shiur Summary
Explaining Sensitive Torah Concepts to Children #2

by Rav Simcha Klein


>Printable Version available here<

  • Although children should be aware of the concepts of Divine punishment and gehenom, it is not wise1 in today’s day and age to use them as motivating factors2.
  • When discussing gehenom with children, always stress3 that the essence of gehenom is not about Hashem taking revenge4 on those who disobeyed His will, rather it is akin5 to a Divine washing machine6 where souls can be cleansed of spiritual stains7.
  • Reiterate to them that true teshuva8 eliminates the stains of sin9, precluding the need for gehenom.
  • It is also extremely important to underscore to children that personal suffering10 in this world, both physical and emotional11, can be in lieu12 of gehenom in the next world.
  • Inform your children from an early age about the astounding and awe-inspiring concepts of mashiach and techias hameisem13.
  • Tell them the reason that we desire the coming of mashiach so much is because we will be able to become much closer to Hashem’14 than we are able to now15, and not because there will then be no tzaros and life will be physically easier16.
  • Explain to them that coming closer to Hashem gives a person tremendous knowledge of Torah, and is a source of enormous spiritual pleasure to a person and his neshomah17.
  • It is wise to demystify and make the era of mashiach more comprehensible to children by mentioning the Rambam’s opinion18 that the coming of mashiach will take place as a natural progression and that the world as we know it will not change at all during that epoch19.
  • Mention should also be made that the exact sequence of events20 and all the details of mashiach’s coming are totally unknown to anyone21 even to Chazal22.

1. Rav Hutner z”l.
2. Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l in Igros Moshe (Y.D. 3, siman 71) dedicates a responsa to the topic of how we should motivate our children here in America to the adherence of Torah and mitzvos. It is amazing to note that nowhere in responsa does he mention gehenom. It is quite clear that he felt that in the present era gehenom should never be used as a motivating element in chinuch.
3. If children don’t realize this they can develop a subconscious animosity to Hashem for creating the concept of gehenom.
4. See Nefesh HaChaim (shaar 1, perek 12) at lenth.
5. Point out that gehenom was actually created for our benefit, since no one would want a visible stain on their spiritual clothes for all of eternity, see .דעת תבונות (ח”ב ס’ נ”ב), מכתב מאליהו (ח”ג עמ’ רמ”ו)
6. Illustrate that if clothes had feelings they would also not enjoy being tumbled about in the washing machine, however if they are to be worn again they have to go through this process. The same dynamic is true regarding the soul and sin, see .תפארת ישראל (סנהדרין פ”י אות ב’)
7. Point out that aveiros are not just a violation of Hashem’s will, they actually create and disperse a negative charge (or contamination) that affects the delicate balance of the cosmos (see Tomer Devorah perek 1, noseh avon) that ultimately has to be reversed or rectified one way or another, see בית הלוי (בראשית יח,כ)..
8. See Mesilas Yasharim (perek 4) who posits that teshuva works retroactively. The effect of teshuva on past misdeeds can be explained to children as a permanent edit on a video clip.
9. See Tomer Devorah (perek 1, noseh avon).
10. Even drawing the wrong coin from one’s pocket can be considered yissurim, see Eruchin.
11. Tzidkas HaTzadik (57), see also Rashi on Berachos 55b chalom rah.
12. Kiddushin (40b). The Vilna Gaon z”l would often say human suffering is an exchange for gehenom, see Shaim Olam (chelek 3) and Yalkut Meishev Nefesh (p. 128). Regarding the great benefits of yissurim see Chachmo U’Mussar (vol. 1 siman 193), see also Krayna D’Igrata (vol. 2, letter 28).
13. Besides the fact that these concepts are included in the 13 Principles of Faith of the Rambam z”l, they can be a great source of comfort to children when they are confronted with human mortality.
14. See Yeshaya (11:9).
15. The Rambam z”l mentions the idea that our primary desire for mashiach is due to spiritual reasons (Mishnah Torah, Melochim 12:4). This approach will also resonate better with children who have not yet experienced any difficulty in life.
16. Even though this is indeed true, see Mishnah Torah (Melochim 12:5). The Rambam z”l (Perush Mishnayos Sanhedren, perek 11) says people will live much longer then because there will be so much less stress and tension.
17. See Mesilas Yesharim (perek 1) where the idea of the supreme perfection and pleasure inherent in being close to Hashem is articulated beautifully.
18. See Mishnah Torah (Melochim 12:1).
19. The Chofetz Chaim z”l once said that if Klal Yisroel is not zoche, all the miracles portended for the messianic era will be fulfilled by natural means. It is highly plausible that the unprecedented explosion of technological knowledge that humanity is currently witnessing is indeed a preparatory fulfillment of the predicted wonders.
20. For example, the coming of Eliyahu Hanavi will take place prior to or after mashiach.
21. Children will therefore not be disappointed when you are unable to answer all their questions on the subject.
22. See the strong words of the Rambam z”l (Mishnah Torah, Melochim 12:2) to that effect.