by Rav Simcha Klein
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.