1 Av 5761
From the Desk of: Rav Menachem Nissel
I would like to share with you a memory of an NCSY regional shabbaton in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
The climax of the weekend was the motzai Shabbat “kumsitz”. In time-honored custom, high school seniors bid their farewell. They expressed gratitude for what they had achieved in the past and shared their fears, hopes and ambitions as they prepared to navigate the stormy waters of their future. Candlelight seemed at times to radiate warmth and reassurance and at times to be mysterious, dancing and mocking. The experience is a rite of passage. A collective catharsis of youth.
As I sat cross-legged on the floor, I noticed parents standing in the corner of the room, watching the spectacle with bemused detachment.
What were they thinking? If I could have looked into their minds, I imagine that they were very proud of their children and the “good job” that NCSY was doing. But the scene had no direct relevance to their selves. They were, after all, parents. They were busy with things that parents do – laundry and carpools, making money and keeping up with their neighbors. And making sure they can give their best to their children.
But wasn’t it just yesterday that they too were children? What happened to their dreams and ambitions, their idealism and enchantment with life? At what point did they just get apathetic and say, “We are getting too old for all this, lets pass the torch to the next generation. The kids at the kumsitz will learn Torah. The kids at the kumsitz will have dreams”…
Someone passed me the candle. I didn’t plan on speaking, but a voice from deep down inside spoke. I looked into the candle, put on my finest British accent and imitated myself as an eighteen year old.
“My name is Menachem Nissel. I am eighteen years old and have just completed Hasmonean Grammar School in London, England. I plan to study in Yeshiva for a year and then study Medicine. I hope to repay all the people who have helped me reach this stage in my life by becoming the best doctor I can be…
“I am at this stage in my life totally unaware that I am about to meet a Rabbi who will change my outlook on life. He will teach me the most important message I will ever learn:
“Believe that you can do more than what society expects from you. Dream a dream and then believe you can go further than your dreams. Every Jew has unfathomable potential. Every Jew can make a powerful and unique contribution to Klall Yisrael. Never stop dreaming. All you need is willpower of steel and the capacity to think big…”
Who do you identify with? The bright-eyed NCSYer or the parent who is too busy to dream? In seminary (remember seminary?) you had time to think about what made you special and what your life was all about. And you too met inspiring people who challenged you to “think big”. Don’t allow your hectic lifestyle to suck you in to becoming “just a parent”.
Don’t let go of the candle. It’s hidden light is bigger than you can ever imagine.
Rav Menachem Nissel