Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

6 Nisan 5759 - March 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Letting the Children Speak for Themselves

by Moshe Schapiro

The young men and women who emigrated to Israel from North Africa and the Middle East in the 1950's are senior citizens today. They all grew up in religious homes, but when they arrived in the Holy Land, many abandoned religion altogether. The next generation is now in its thirties. Religion became a non-issue in their eyes. Their children are now school aged. They know next to nothing about religion. These children are like the Son Who Does Not Know to Ask. The Haggadah warns that this generation could, quite possibly, be the last, Rachmono litzlan.

Last year the gedolei Torah initiated a campaign to reconnect the generation of the Fourth Son -- the Son Who Does Not Know to Ask -- with its spiritual roots. How have they fared? Yated sent one of its Israeli correspondents to find out. Here is his report:

As we drove through the lush hills north of Mt. Carmel on the warm spring day, the heady aroma of freshly cut hay, pine trees and wildflowers invigorated our senses. We opened the windows wide and savored the clean mountain air. In the driver's seat beside me sat my guide, Rabbi Moshe Zeiwald.


The car climbed the steep incline leading into Rechassim, and the well tended lawns of the Ohr Chadash school complex soon came into view. As we approached the main gate I remembered the incredible scene I had witnessed there on school's opening day last September:

Construction workers were laboring feverishly to complete the outer walls of the new ten-classroom wing that the executive director of Ohr Chadash, Rabbi Yehuda Melamed, was adding to his school in order to accommodate one hundred and fifty recently enrolled nonobservant children. Rabbi Melamed managed somehow to have the entire four story structure erected, from the ground up, in less than six months -- an unheard-of feat in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, a gaggle of parents and children -- none of whom bore even the faintest outward signs of religion -- congregated near the school entrance, where Rabbi Melamed and members of his staff were welcoming them and directing traffic. The scene that most vividly engraved itself in my mind is that of Rabbi Melamed, bullhorn raised to his lips, reciting the first verse of Krias Shema together with the children. The medley of children's voices reciting Shema, many of them for the first time in their lives, is a sound I will certainly never forget.

The children I now saw playing in the yard appeared completely transformed. Most of the boys wore yarmulkes, and many had obviously had their hair trimmed -- gone were the crazy haircuts of last summer. The girls, clad in green uniforms consisting of skirts and long-sleeved shirts, looked like regular Bais Yaakov girls.

Inside the building, I saw dozens of boisterous children scampering along the roomy, immaculately clean corridors; they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their recess. We found Rabbi Melamed patrolling the halls. I explained to Rabbi Melamed why we had come.

"Have the Children Adjusted?"

On September 1st, the Torah communities in Israel, the United States and Europe rejoiced over the announcement that P'eylim / Lev L'Achim had succeeded in meeting its objective of enrolling 5,000 new students from non-religious homes into Torah-network schools. There was a feeling that a major miracle had occurred, yet at the same time many people realized that Lev L'Achim's success in enrolling the children was only the first step in a long and difficult process that lay ahead.

The crucial question was, what now? So many hopes had been pinned on these children; so much of the tzibur's money and energies had been spent on enrolling them into Torah schools, yet no one could guarantee that they -- or their parents -- would adjust to their new learning situations. Having arrived here, would they stay in the Torah world?

Besides the host of unfamiliar subjects to which they would be exposed -- Mishnah, Talmud, Tefilla -- they would also have to adapt to a completely different set of values and behavior norms, including their manner of speech and styles of dress. Would they acclimate? There simply were no precedents on which to base any kind of prediction.

In order to help new students make a smooth adjustment, Lev L'Achim organizers, together with local school officials, designed a unique educational program to answer the special needs of these children. The program had two basic goals: to create a system that would maintain open lines of communication between the staff and the new students; and to help parents gain a better understanding of the material their children were learning in school.

The system they devised hinged on close cooperation between school officials and Lev L'Achim's kiruv personnel. While the schools would endeavor to provide the very highest level of education possible, and to relate to their new students with sensitivity and understanding, kiruv workers would make contact with the parents of these new students, helping them to overcome difficulties and to defuse tension. In addition to helping parents understand the unfamiliar subjects their children were encountering in their schools, an optional Jewish enrichment program would be made available for parents who showed an interest in learning more about their religion. Substantial time and energy were devoted to meticulous planning of this program, yet everyone realized this was uncharted territory.

Seven months have elapsed since the school year began, enough time to allow for a preliminary assessment of the situation. How are the new students faring? What did last summer's enrollment campaign really accomplish?

These questions have more than merely theoretical ramifications, since Lev L'Achim -- at the behest of the gedolim -- is now revving up its engines for another major summer enrollment drive, equal in scope to that of last year. It is, therefore, crucial that we know what has been accomplished to date, and where we're headed.

I explained to Rabbi Melamed that I had set out to discover for myself and my readers the answers to these questions by visiting some of the new schools and interviewing students. In order to evaluate the situation objectively, I felt it would be best to let the students do all the talking.

Unlike Seder night, when the children ask the questions and the adults provide the answers, I -- adult that I am -- would ask questions to which only the children could provide the answers.

Rabbi Melamed was delighted to cooperate. As we strolled past dozens of bouncing children on our way to his office, he informed me with unabashed pride that very few of his new students had dropped out, and that in fact several dozen more had joined his school over the winter. He attributes the school's success largely to the high level of cooperation between his educational staff and Lev L'Achim's outreach workers and enrollment professionals. "You can teach Torah to children from non-religious homes until you're blue in the face," Rabbi Melamed said to me, "but unless you work with the parents at the same time, you won't achieve anything. A single remark, carelessly thrown out by a parent, can wipe out the fruits of an entire day of learning."

He explained to me that Lev L'Achim's outreach staff maintains regular contact with the parents of all Ohr Chadash students, and keeps teachers updated on each family's progress. Rabbi Melamed is convinced that this behind-the- scenes work is crucial to the school's success in reaching the hearts and precious souls of its new students.

Rabbi Melamed emphasized to me that he does not deviate from the policy followed by most kiruv organizations of never forcing anyone -- regardless of age -- to perform a mitzvah against his will. "You see all those children wearing yarmulkes?" he asked me rhetorically, with an all- encompassing wave of the hand. "They decided to do it on their own. My teachers never so much as asked them to. We believe in teaching through personal example."

Of the parents, Rabbi Melamed makes only one demand: that they relate to the school's values with an attitude of mutual respect. "I assure them that I don't require them to lead a religious lifestyle," he says, "but I make it very clear to them that they must never mock anything their children learn in school. So far, all parties have abided by the terms of this agreement."

At this point we were joined by Rabbi Gavriel Mishkin, the principal of Ohr Chadash. Rabbi Mishkin had been selected for the position on the basis of his extensive background in both education and children's outreach work. (He worked in the youth department of Arachim for over a decade.) He confirmed that the students were thriving, and he added that many of them had actually influenced their parents to begin observing mitzvos as well. In fact, he explained with some excitement, things are going so well that plans are under way to open two more parallel classes next year, and to double the student body to three hundred.

This all sounded good -- almost too good -- but I had come all this way to interview students, and that is precisely what I intended to do.

Above the deafening noise of recess romping, I asked Rabbis Melamed and Mishkin whether I could conduct private interviews with some of the children. I wanted to see for myself whether they were adjusting as well as the two school officials claimed they were. Both suggested that I speak with a child named Yitach, who apparently had turned into a tzaddik overnight, and then convinced his entire family to become fully observant.

Inwardly I cringed, since it seemed this Yitach was some kind of a child-wonder, one of those showcase kids every school likes to flaunt whenever the opportunity presents itself. This was not what I was looking for; I wanted to touch base with average, run-of-the-mill children. But all was not lost - - a messenger swiftly returned with the news that Yitach was absent from school that day. "Perfect!" I thought. Now I would get to speak to regular kids.

Chaim Ben-Abu

I soon found myself alone in a vacated office with an enchanting ten-year-old named Chaim Ben-Abu, from Kiryat Ata. Chaim is in fifth grade and has two older sisters (neither of whom attend Torah schools); his father works in a flour mill, and his mother is unemployed but attending a computer course. In short, the Ben-Abus are a typical lower-middle-class Israeli family.

"So, how do you like school?" was the first question I asked Chaim, to which he promptly answered: "It's kef! [Kef means `fun' in slangy Hebrew.] I like learning."

That sounded promising -- Rabbi Melamed and his teaching staff obviously knew what they were doing. When I asked him what subjects he was learning, he started ticking them off on his fingers: "Gemora, Math, Torah, Yahadut -- and other things."

I decided to get down to business. "Tell me, Chaim," I asked him, "do your parents like the school as much as you do?"

The kid didn't hesitate for a second. "Sure they do, they like the school a lot."

"Really?" I prodded. "Hey, that's great, Chaim, but do you know why that is? Why do your parents like the school?"

Here Chaim bowled me over: "Well," he began in his endearing way, "they like the school because I did teshuvah here, and now they've done teshuvah too, so they're happy."

Whoa there, hold on just a second, I thought. "What was that Chaim?" I said. "Did I hear you say you did teshuvah?"

He gave me an emphatic nod. I could tell he wasn't kidding.

"Um . . . well how did it happen?" I stammered. I hadn't bargained for this, and I was completely unprepared. "I mean, what do you do now that you didn't used to do in the past? What don't you do now that you used to do in the past?"

Chaim apparently felt sorry for me and answered my stumbling attempts at a coherent question. "Well," he began patiently, "We didn't used to go to shul, and now I go to shul with my father. We used to turn on the lights and watch television on Shabbos, and now we don't turn on the lights or watch television on Shabbos any more. We didn't used to say Kiddush on Shabbos, and now we say Kiddush. Stuff like that."

That innocent, high-pitched voice and those serious, sparkling eyes were more than I could handle.

"Tell me, Chaim," I asked, my voice unsteady, "how did you do it? I mean, how did you get your parents to do teshuvah?"

He had to stop to think about that one. Finally he said: "Well, they saw that I started wearing a yarmulke all the time and that I wouldn't turn on lights or the television on Shabbos, so they said that if I'm doing teshuvah, then they're also going to do teshuvah."

At that point my objectivity as reporter / journalist left me entirely. I excused myself, stepped outside, wiped my eyes with a tissue, and gazed at the pastoral scene of the valley below the school. I took a sip of water, but the lump in my throat just wouldn't go away. I returned to the room to further try my endurance.

"How do your cousins feel about this?" I asked Chaim. "I mean, what do they say about the fact that you've `done teshuvah'?"

Chaim's round eyes turned a little moist, and after a pause he answered, "They tease me a little. They say, `Hey, Chaim, what happened to you? Did you do teshuvah or something?' and I answer them, `Yes.' Then they ask me, `What, you don't ride your bike on Shabbos, you don't turn on the television, you don't do aveiros, you don't have fun anymore?' And I tell them, `You're wrong! Keeping Shabbos is more fun than anything! [In Hebrew: zeh hachi kef.] And I also get a mitzvah in Shamayim!'"

Awestruck, I looked at Chaim through a haze of tears. I was afraid to speak, for fear that I would break down completely and frighten the poor kid.

"I have a cousin in grade 8," Chaim continued. "He turns on lights and everything on Shabbos. He doesn't care."

"Really?" I managed to say. "How do you feel when you see him doing that?"

Chaim paused, and then answered: "It makes me feel very sad." He pointed to his chest to illustrate his point.

"Aha," I stammered. "And how about your friends from school last year? How do they react to the way you've changed?"

"They make fun of me a little," he admitted. "They tease me for having done teshuvah, but I don't care. I know Hashem loves me."

At that point I gave up the struggle, and my tears flowed freely. I thanked Chaim, told him I had no doubt he would become a big tzaddik one day, and accompanied him back to his classroom.

"This kid is incredible!" I said to Rabbi Yehuda Shtrum, Chaim's teacher.

"You'd never have believed," Rabbi Shtrum whispered to me, "that the little tzaddik you see there almost didn't get accepted into this school. During last year's summer camp that Ohr Chadash sponsored for these kids, Chaim was the ringleader of a bunch of wild children. When camp ended, Rabbi Mishkin informed Chaim's mother that he could not accept him. She begged him repeatedly to reconsider and give him one last chance, and Rabbi Mishkin eventually gave in. I don't know how to explain it, but Chaim is simply not the kid he used to be."

Rabbi Shtrum exemplifies the integration of education and kiruv that makes Ohr Chadash such a special school. He began his career five years ago in Lev L'Achim as an outreach volunteer; last summer he became an enrollment worker, and now he teaches half the day at Ohr Chadash, carrying on his enrollment work in the evenings. He represents a new breed -- a teacher and kiruv worker rolled into one.

Adi Ben-Chur

I returned to my makeshift interview room, where I found Adi Ben-Chur waiting for me. Adi is a petite sixth grade girl. Like Chaim, she is from Kiryat Ata, but her family is far more affluent than Chaim's. Her father runs a large computer concern and her mother works in interior design.

"How did you end up in this school?" I asked Adi. She explained to me that a religious neighbor of hers had introduced her to Yosef Tzivion -- one of Lev L'Achim's local enrollment professionals.

"At first Tzivion tried to get me accepted into the religious school in Kiryat Binyamin, but they wouldn't take me because my mother doesn't cover her hair, so he brought me here. My mother wasn't so happy to have me switch schools, but she left the choice up to me."

"Well then, why did you decide to come here?" I asked her. Adi made a characteristic Israeli facial gesture indicating extreme distaste. "Because the secular school system -- it's just not chinuch," she said. I was surprised to hear such a conclusion from a twelve-year-old.

"And do you like it better here?" I asked her next. "What do you get here that you didn't get in your old school?"

Her rapid-fire response was quick in coming. "We didn't learn anything there -- we didn't learn about Megillas Esther, or anything else for that matter. Whenever the teacher wouldn't show up they gave us free periods, when we would just wander around the school yard; and the boys would fight all the time and pull knives on each other."

"Say what?" I interrupted her. "They fought with knives?"

I shouldn't have been surprised to hear about this phenomenon, since I myself have written extensively about escalating violence in secular schools. Yet hearing it from this defenseless young girl was appalling.

She nodded. "Sure, all the time. That's nothing special."

"How do your parents feel about your going to this school?" I asked her. Adi wrinkled her nose. "My mother was not so happy about it at first, but I made her do teshuvah, so everything is okay now."

Oh boy, here we go again. "What did you say?" I asked Adi. "You made your mother do teshuvah?"

"Yes," she answered with a bright smile.

"How did you manage that?" I queried, amazed.

"Well," she explained, "I tell her lots of stories that I learn about in school, and I keep saying to her, `If you'll do this mitzvah, I'll give you a prize,' and stuff like that."

I thought that was very funny and told her so. She just shrugged.

"It's the truth," she said. Then she added somewhat sheepishly: "Well, Rachel [the outreach worker assigned to her family] also helped me convince my mother to do mitzvos." Aha. Her story began to make more sense.

"What about your father?" I asked her. "Is he making some changes, too?"

Another face. I can see this is a touchy subject. "Nah, my father is not willing to cooperate with anything. The minute he even sees me coming with a siddur in my hand he runs away. I keep trying to get him to say Modeh Ani with me, but every time I do he tells me, `Sorry, not now, I'm busy . . . maybe some other time.' You know," she tells me in a confidential tone, "he didn't even go to shul on Yom Kippur. He fasted, but he didn't go to shul."

I commiserated with her and then asked her what her father does besides running a computer business.

"He loves listening to music. When he was young he was a drummer in a rock band." I begin to see the picture. But how Adi has progressed so far in such a short time is still beyond my ability to grasp.

"What do your friends from last year say about your new way of life?" I asked her. No sign of distaste in her expression this time -- just a self-satisfied smirk. "They kind of tease me for going to a religious school, but I have a feeling they're just jealous of me. They keep asking me questions about what we do here, and I'll bet they're going to end up here next year. I gave Tzivion all their names and addresses, and he's already starting to get in touch with their parents."

Dazed by everything I heard, I thanked Adi for her help and walked out to the playground. Somewhat disoriented, I felt I needed some time alone to absorb what those children had said. Amazing, I thought. Only seven months ago those kids knew next to nothing about religion, and they already consider themselves ba'alei teshuvah, intent on bringing all of their next of kin back to the fold. The only explanation I could come up with is that children are naturally more receptive to Torah than adults are, so it must be that the spiritual development that takes an adult a year to achieve can happen to a child in half that time.

Shlomi Abuchatzera

Gazing into the lush valley below the school, I suddenly felt someone's presence nearby. I looked over my shoulder, and saw a young child of about seven. He had sneaked up behind me, and he was staring at me intently. "Hello," I said, "what's your name?" Shlomi Abuchatzera introduced himself, and after some light conversation I asked him whether he liked the school. He nodded. I asked him why.

"Because we learn Torah here." Concise and to the point.

The truth is, I wasn't surprised anymore. I realized I was seeing history unfold -- the dawning of a new age in the never-ending saga of our people.

As we were leaving, I saw an enrollment worker leading a bus load of bareheaded parents and children toward the office. "New recruits for next year," explained my guide, Rabbi Zeiwald, who oversees Lev L'Achim's operations in this part of the country.

"So this summer's enrollment campaign is already under way?" I asked him.

"It's starting!"

My question now was whether the Ohr Chadash school in Rechassim was the only place where this was happening. What was going on in other new schools that had been formed to accommodate these children?


While the school in Rechassim is the educational equivalent of a five-star hotel, the one in Tzoran is more like a lonely border outpost located deep within "enemy" territory. Nestled in the agricultural heartland of the Sharon, just minutes away from the greater Tel Aviv area, this once sleepy village recently underwent a major face lift, overnight becoming a typical example of modern suburbia -- symmetrically aligned streets, rows of white stucco houses, and neat little fenced- in gardens. The majority of the town's residents -- Israeli yuppies with two cars, a dog, a cat, and 1.8 children -- identify politically with the leftist Meretz party.

A year ago, a newly observant couple who had found their way back to Torah offered their home as a base of operations for local enrollment workers. An intensive campaign resulted in over thirty young couples agreeing to enroll their children in the Torah school system. However, the only problem was that there was no such school in the vicinity. What could be done?

Enter Keren Nesivos Moshe, the special chinuch fund set up in memory of the late Agudath Israel leader Rabbi Moshe Sherer z'l. The fund's American board of directors approved the establishment of eleven new kindergartens and five elementary schools -- one of them located in Tzoran. (An equal number of school openings for the coming year has already been approved.)

In his column last week, Jonathan Rosenblum described the resulting uproar in Tzoran:

"Even before the opening, the school already provoked mass protest rallies and threats from local organizer Gidi Bleicher that physical force would be used, if necessary, to block the establishment of a religious school in Tzoran. Meretz saw another golden opportunity to fan the flames of religious war, and at a Shabbat-rally in mid-October Yossi Sarid called upon the citizens of Tzoran to expel the forces of darkness from their midst. When the twenty-five six- and seven-year-olds whose parents registered them for the new school arrived for the first day of classes, they were confronted by a mob of sixty chanting adults, some of whom had brought along attack dogs and tied them to the school gate."

Protests against the school were held throughout the winter, causing several parents to back out. Rabbi Tzvi Boymel, the director of the Keren's activities in Eretz Yisroel, describes the state of siege in which the school found itself: "We endured protests by Meretz supporters, threatening phone calls, damage to property, lawsuits, municipal hearings, and a seemingly endless stream of closure orders."

Rabbi Boymel ascribes the school's existence to the teachers, parents and brave little students. "They get all the credit," Rabbi Boymel says. "Their tenacity and mesiras nefesh for Torah are truly inspiring." A number of leading rabbinical figures visited the Tzoran school to encourage the students and strengthen their resolve, foremost among them the Novominsker Rebbe.

Lately things have calmed down considerably. The protests were discontinued about six weeks ago, and several new parents have already enrolled their children for the upcoming school year. Rabbi Boruch Rosenblum, a senior Keren official, divulged a most interesting tidbit: "One of the main instigators of the protests recently enrolled his own daughter in the school for next year. Ironically, he said he came to appreciate the value of the school as a result of having spent so much time in its vicinity." G-d's ways are truly wondrous.

I decided to visit the besieged Tzoran school precisely because of its special situation and status. If I found that even the battle-weary Tzoran children had made a successful adjustment to their new school, then I could safely assume that the phenomenon I had witnessed at Rechassim was happening in schools throughout the country.

On this occasion Rabbi Avraham Saada, Lev L'Achim's supervisor of the Sharon region, accompanied me. To my surprise, the moment we opened the front gate, the entire first grade stampeded toward us and jumped on Rabbi Saada with shouts of glee. "They absolutely adore him," explained Nechama Stel, one of several young teachers who commute to work from Bnei Brak. She informed me that Rabbi Saada and his staff visit students at home regularly and give the families encouragement and support.

Nitai Alon

First-grader Nitai Alon was the first child I met. Interviewing young children is no simple matter, but when we began tossing a ball back and forth, he loosened up and began to speak more freely. He was unclear about what his father and mother did for a living, but whatever it was, they did it in nearby Raanana.

Eventually he revealed to me that the school had given each child a siddur to take home. I seized the opportunity, asking him whether he ever used it. "Sure," he said, "I go to shul every day and daven Mincha."

I asked him whether he went to shul all by himself. "No," he answered, "when my father comes home from work I ask him to drive me there."

I picked up the nuance. "Does your father like going to shul?" I said, throwing him a lob.

"He always tells me he's busy or tired," Nitai answered.

"What do you do then?" I persisted.

Nitai shrugged. "I beg him to take me," he said simply.

I fumbled the ball.

Shachar Chaimov

The next child I corralled was Shachar Chaimov, a second- grader. In the course of our conversation I asked him what subjects they learned in school. "Math, Torah, English!" He supplied me with the standard list.

"And which subject do you like most?" I asked him.

"Torah," came his ready answer. I could see he meant it. When I asked him why, he launched into one of the strongest mussar shmuessen I've heard in a long time.

"Right HaKodosh Boruch Hu gave the Torah to Bnei Yisrael?" he asked, as if he were the teacher and I his student. I nodded obediently. "So why did He give it to us? So that we should read it only on Friday and Saturday?"

Enthralled, I urged him to go on. "No, he gave it to us so that we should learn it all the time. It's also holy and it's also a mitzvah." A short pause, and then: "When I read the Torah, time goes by just like that!" He snapped his fingers for emphasis. "It's kef!"

Homeward Bound

That was enough for me -- I had no more questions for the children of Tzoran. I packed up my writing pad, camera and tape recorder, waved good-bye to everyone, and climbed into the car. Throughout the long ride to Jerusalem I marveled over the pluck of those brave little soldiers of ours.

I wended my way through the pine-studded mountain passes leading up to Jerusalem and enjoyed the familiar crisp, dry air that always precedes one's arrival to the Holy City. I had one last stop to make before I called it a day.


A survey of how newly enrolled children are faring would not be complete without a visit to a Shuvu school. This network of Torah schools for Russian-speaking children, which HaRav Avrohom Pam founded eight years ago, continues to play a crucial role in reaching out to the community of Russian immigrants living in Israel, who comprise approximately ten percent of the population (though a significant number of them are not Jewish).

Jews who grew up in the Soviet system differ greatly from their secular Israeli counterparts, and consequently, they have very different needs. Shuvu has formulated a unique curriculum that is both appealing to the Russian-speaking community and effective in imparting Torah knowledge to its children.

Rabbi Ezra Levinger, principal of Shuvu's school in the Ezras Torah neighborhood of Jerusalem, describes what he regards as the most striking distinction between Israeli and Russian- speaking children. "Unlike most secular Israeli children, who have at least heard of Avrohom Ovinu and Moshe Rabbeinu, most Russian-speaking children start out with a perfectly clean slate. With them you have to begin from zero."

There are also significant cultural differences that must be addressed. I noticed, for example, that the Russian-speaking children I chatted with during my brief visit at Shuvu expressed a profound love for math, a subject that many Israeli children find unappealing at best.

Rabbi Levinger informed me that he and his teachers are constantly confronted with situations of students progressing in mitzvah-observance at a faster pace than their parents do. "Sometimes the disparity in religious practice pushes parents to increase their own level of observance," he explained, "but it is also liable to erupt in open conflicts."

The school network runs several programs -- such as weekly shiurim for parents -- designed to prevent such religious gaps between parents and students from developing.


Rabbi Levinger called in David, an eighth-grade student in his school, to speak with me. David emigrated from the Ukraine to Israel when he was five years old. He attended public school throughout most of his grade-school years. Not long ago, his parents became dissatisfied with the level of studies offered at his school; they heard about Shuvu by word of mouth.

It had been a hard day and I hadn't the energy to beat around the bush, so I moved right in, asking David what I wanted to know: "How has your new school affected you and your parents?"

David's response was simple and direct: "We've gotten more religious lately."

I asked him how that had happened. He explained that he had changed because of his constant exposure to Torah at school.

What of his mother? "She asks me what I learned in school," he said, "and I tell her."

So it's happening here too, I thought. Rechassim, Tzoran, Jerusalem; Sephardi kids, Ashkenazi kids -- it's all the same; it's a national phenomenon. The overwhelming majority of the children who were enrolled into Torah schools last year are coming back to their roots, and they're pulling their parents along with them.

Over two thousand years ago, the prophet foresaw that "[G-d] will bring the hearts of parents back [to Him] by means of their children" (Malachi 3:24). Rashi explains that the verse means: "G-d will say to the young, `Go and speak to your parents about observing G-d's laws.'"

Since Chazal said this, it is certainly true; all the same, Jews of previous generations must have found it very difficult to envision the fulfillment of this prophecy, since it has always been the role of parents to teach Torah to their children -- not the other way around. Furthermore, we are taught that a substantial decline in spiritual devotion takes place with each passing generation. How then can it come to pass that children will influence their parents to observe G-d's laws?

Today, this prophecy is no longer difficult to understand. Anyone who wishes to witness its fulfillment can visit Eretz Yisroel and take a look at the incredible miracles happening all around.

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