Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Seeking Solutions???

Hamodia Weekly features an advice column called Seeking Solutions by Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twersky, M.D. Readers send in their questions, usually related in some way to mental health, a field in which he is certainly quite an expert. This is from this weeks column:

Q. I have been teaching for six years and, baruch hashem, I'm doing very well. I know I'm well liked by all. I'm writing to you because, unfortunately, during my first year of teaching I was very hard on a three year old boy in my class. I'm afraid I abused him emotionally and physically. for example, I often made derogatory statements like "You're such a baby." I also hit, scratched and punished him very often. This, despite the fact that he was very good. I don't know what got into me then but now, six years later, I still can't forgive myself! I never harmed a child since. On the contrary, I'm exceptionally warm to them. I really love children!

Please help me get over this. I cry every night and can't sleep. When I see this child now and talk to him, he speaks to me normally but who know what he thinks inside? Who knows how much damage I did to him?

A. The Chozeh of Lublin once took several talmidim on a trip. The coachman was unable to control the horse and it took off, getting lost in a forest. On Friday afternoon they entered a village and went to shul. When everyone had left, the elderly shammes invited them to his home. "I don't have much to serve you" he said, "but for guests who are dressed in weekday clothes,
it will be enough. Where are you from?"

When they said Lublin, the shammes said "I hear there is a tzaddik in Lublin whom they call the Chozeh. Have you met him?" When they said yes, he said, "You have a zechus that you know Yaakov Yitzchok."

"Have you ever met Yaakov Yitzchok?" the Chozeh asked.

The shammes sighed. "Yes, Itzik'l was a bit wild. I was his melamed. He often ran away from cheder. I would punish him and beat him. One day I went to look for him and found him on the outskirts of town. He was lying on the grass with his hands streched to the sky, repeating Shema Yisrael. I realized then that he was not a usual child. I never beat him again but I am heartbroken that I beat him so many times. How can he ever forgive me"?

The Chozeh said, "I am Yaakov Yitzchok, and I forgave you many years ago."

So, my friend, you are in good company.

There was an incident with Reb Zalman of Volozin who never forgave himself for having offended someone. The Gaon of Vilna told him that a person has an obligation to do teshuvah and ask forgiveness from someone he offended. If he cannot locate the person to ask forgiveness and sincerely regrets his action, he can be sure that Hashem will put it in the other person's heart to forgive him.

Your treating children now with extra sensitivity and kindness is the way of teshuvah, of rectifying a mistake. Continuing to castigate yourself and feeling miserable will not help the child. It is appropriate that you ask mechillah and tell the child that you are sorry for having treated him that way. Inasmuch as he is still a minor, you should ask mechillah again when he turns thirteen.

This article made me sad. And then it made me mad. Very mad. Teshuvah and forgiveness are wonderful things but it does not guarantee that this rebbi will not lose it at some time in the future. Until that is addressed he has no right being a rebbi. Or a father, for that matter.

I don't have any title before my name and there are no letters after my name but I do have some common sense. That common sense tells me that someone who hit and scratched a three year old for absolutely no reason (not that there ever is a good reason), and six years later still has no idea what caused him to do it, should not be teaching children. Period. End of story.