Helping Kids at Risk [#4061]

Question:

What should be a person’s attitude towards kids who have thrown off the responsibilities of Torah and mitzvos (Rachmana Litzlan)? In our community there are many boys and girls who have “gone off the derech”, and many of them even come from prominent families of G-d fearing, bnei Torah. It’s so painful for any person to see these kids. When I see them, I immediately start thinking of what I can do to help draw them closer. I have a desire to draw all of them closer to Yiddishkeit, but I don’t know exactly how. What can I do for them? Should I learn Torah as a merit for their souls? Should I speak to them warmly and with love? Should I just judge them favorably and smile at them and greet them? What can I do for them, personally, and what can we do for them, collectively??

Answer:

[FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING INVOLVED]

Not everyone can actually be involved with them. Certain personality traits and conditions are required, in order to get involved with helping them.

First of all, you need to be able to “come down to their level” [to relate to what they are going through], but without falling down with them. Many times, people who are involved with helping them end up falling in with them, and to a very low level. Well-meaning people come to help these kids with the intentions of kiruv (drawing others closer to Yiddishkeit), and in the end they themselves become distanced further from Yiddishkeit. This is because when a person talks to them, he opens his soul to another person’s world and he becomes connected to the other person’s life, and currently, the other person is involved with the worst kinds of behaviors. [Therefore, when one talks to the other person, he becomes very connected to the other’s life and all that’s going on in it, and he falls in with him.]

Also, these kids are often broken souls, not just from a spiritual viewpoint, but also from an emotional viewpoint. They are suffering emotionally, whether they are depressed, melancholy, full of despair, unstable, lacking love from their parents, etc. When one connects with the emotional suffering that these children or teenagers are going through, he will also suffer emotionally with them [to the point that it is emotionally unhealthy for him to be involved].

In other scenarios, a person will need to go to certain places to be mekareiv others, and these places are really inappropriate to be in. Sometimes a person will bring the struggling child or teenager into his house, and this can have a bad influence on his own children.

 [THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR GETTING INVOLVED]

One needs (1) A lot of understanding of the soul in order to know how to deal with these children or teenagers, and to know how he should act with them and how to speak to them. (2) One also needs to show a warm, friendly countenance towards them, (3) and he also needs to possess a good heart, (4) and to be very giving towards others, (5) and to be willing to let go of the comfort zone of his own soul.

[WHAT EVERY PERSON CAN DO]

Therefore, it is not appropriate for every person to do this. So, it would be appropriate for you to daven for them. Daven also, from the depths of your heart, for all those in Klal Yisrael who have lost their way, and for the collective salvation and rescue of the Jewish people and for each individual’s salvation and rescue – both for their spiritual needs and their material needs.

If you want to determine what you can do for these kids in terms of action, you should clarify to yourself what you can or cannot do for them, based on the aforementioned guidance, which described the boundaries of what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.

And, understandably, you also need to take into account if any of this work in helping kids will compromise on your “three main pillars”, which are: your time for Torah learning, the time you need for davening, and the time you spend on doing chessed. So you will also need to determine [after determining if you are cut out for this job in the first place] how much time you will still have and how much energy you will need to spend on each of these areas [if you want to be involved with helping kids who are struggling].