By Mali Resnick
Who would have imagined that television would be the topic of discussion on the month of Elul? But the topic of discussion it did become and here’s the Hashgocho behind it:
Just a few weeks ago, Mrs. Sara Junik, author of “a Needle in a Haystack,” wrote that young men and women who are meeting for shiduchim should discuss the kind of entertainment they would be willing to have in their house and the kind of hair covering they envision the mother of the household wearing. The Rebbe, Mrs. Junik wrote, opposed the wearing of Tichlach on the street.
“But you didn’t write that the Rebbe opposed television!” I pointed out to Mrs.
Junik as soon as I saw the article.
“I didn’t think it was necessary” she replied.
“But interestingly I got a letter on the same subject and now that you bring it up as well, it’s obvious that it wasn’t that obvious. I will make sure to clarify the matter in our next issue”, she said.
“And believe me I am aware that the Rebbe’s words are very harsh on the matter” she added.
“So why not print the entire portion of the Sicha?” I suggested. “Let me locate it for you”.
I didn’t have the Sicha handy but within minutes after contacting Rabbi I. Turner from Sichos in English and Rabbi Michael Seligson, I had copies of the Rebbe’s words in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, all in electronic format ready for transmission to Mrs. Junik. (The entire portion of the Sicha on the subject of TV was printed in last week’s issue with a highlight on the
Excerpt from the Tof Shin Yud Daled (1954) Sicha: “Television is an unparalleled departure from the bounds of Torah morality…. Furthermore, even if someone thinks he’ll watch only the “kosher” television programs that he feels he’s allowed to watch, how can parents guarantee that their children won’t watch other programs that the Torah explicitly forbids us to
watch?… And who can guarantee for the parents themselves? Today they’ll watch a program they feel is allowed, and tomorrow they’ll catch a glance at another program, and gradually they’ll come to feel that everything is permitted.”
If the Rebbe said this in 1954, how much more so does this apply today when the immorality of TV has increased at least ten-fold?
So how and where does Chai Elul come in?
Well, we had scheduled our bi-weekly meeting of Shura Rishona of Kollel Wives and Junior N’Shei (those women willing to adopt extra standards of Tznius to inspire and elevate the rest of the community) on Leil Chai Elul. Mrs. Rivka Kotlarsky was our speaker but unforeseen circumstances required her to cancel at the last moment.
I felt at a loss. We needed a speaker. I called this person and that person. Everyone was busy. What to do? The hour was drawing closer. I thought to myself, “Look Eibishter I don’t think I can do Chai Elul justice but since you are not helping me find a substitute I will have to assume that the Hashgocho is that You want ‘me’ to speak?”
But I could not think of a topic that I hadn’t discussed with these women before. All I had handy was the Rebbe’s television Sicha. Could I speak about television? But what’s the connection to Chai Elul? While driving to the meeting, I called Mrs. B. Landa, one of the organizers of the event, and told her about the speaker fall-out and that unless she could come up with someone I would have to substitute and all I could think of was the Rebbe’s
Sicha on TV . I was certain she would discourage me.
Instead she said, “It’s funny that you should mention TV because I was just speaking to my friend who teaches in Bais Rivka and suggested that she start a Tznius program with her 1st grade pupils and she told me
that she faces a far greater problem. She finds that she can’t teach her young pupils our basic Torah values because the images and action of television have permeated their minds.”
I was so shaken by the information. Is TV watching so prevalent in our community? Has it really become such a stumbling block to the Chinuch of our children? If so we must address the issue right here and now. That was it! Television and its spiraling negative influence was going to be the subject of our evening’s discussion!
To top it off a half an hour before the meeting another ‘coincidence’ happened. I suddenly met Rabbi G. Oberlander, Rov of Heichal Menachem in Monsey. In a last ditch effort I made an attempt to recruit him to speak for the group but when he could not I asked: “Please, at least give me some vort to say.”
“Did you read Chai Elul’s Hayom Yom?”
And he told it to me. The Rebbe writes what the Rebbe Rashab heard from the Baal Shemtov that “…a Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going of his own accord, but is being led from Above with the intention of making G-dliness known wherever he goes”. A person does not make his own decisions. Hashem leads him to where he is supposed to go in order to spread Yiddishkeit. And the Rebbe (the Besht)
repeated the Maamar again after Maariv and added, “a person should do so to the point of Mesirus Nefesh, with a Brocha and a Posuk T’hillim”
“Perfect, these then are our marching orders” I thought to myself. And with a feeling of confidence I entered the meeting. We passed out copies of the Rebbe’s Sicha in English and Mrs. Landa read it in Yiddish. As we concluded, we suddenly realized that the Rebbe spoke these words in 1954, exactly 54 years ago to the month on Rosh Chodesh Elul! And then another revelation hit us: 54 equals 3 times 18 – three times Chai (Elul)!
“That’s it,” we all agreed. “This is our mission and we have to go with Mesirus Nefesh”. Every one of the Schools in Crown Heights has their parent body sign a contract that includes a provision against TV but somehow unfortunately compliance with this precious safety measure has become lax.
Chai Elul saw the birth of two luminaries.
The Baal Shemtov and the Alter Rebbe who shed new light on the Torah. We must take the light of Chassidus that these two luminaries brought into the world and use it to extinguish the spiritually-blinding light of television. And like today’s Hayom Yom says: We must do this with Mesirus Nefesh.
We decided to send out a letter to everyone in the community reminding them of the Rebbe’s words and asking them to take on the Hachloto to enforce the Rebbe’s Bakoshas Nefesh.” The Rebbe’s words: “You should correct this problem in your city and you can start right here in New York because here this problem seriously needs correcting”.
Without exaggeration, I can say that I could not have hoped for a better meeting. The women enthusiastically all pledged to put their efforts together to bring about the triumph of the Light of Chassidus. Was television the planned topic of the evening? No. But then again, the speaker wasn’t supposed to cancel. And a substitute is usually available. And how did I “accidentally” encounter two people just shortly before the meeting who gave me such wonderful material?
So no, television isn’t usually a Chai Elul topic. But this year it was. And I think,
actually, I know! Hashgocho arranged it so. Please join the fight against television. It harms us and our children so. The Rebbe opposed it in the strongest of terms. Let’s use the light of this past Chai Elul to combat a falshe lit-up box – a getchke which should have never been allowed entry into the Rebbe’s community in the first place.
Shura Rishona has composed a letter printed below in this newspaper, addressed to parents, principals, teachers and students calling on them all to join in this campaign.
To kick off this vital initiative we are calling a special gathering during Aseres Yemei Tshuva, on Vov Tishrei, for Chizuk and commitment to eradicating this evil in our midst. We call on all of Anash and Crown Heights residents to join in this effort. In the Z’chus of this effort alone may we see the Geula before we even have to meet!
PS. The irony that I spent close to 20 years as a TV producer both in Eretz Yisroel and the USA and that I find myself in the position of “being led from Above” to take on this challenge only hit me when I completed this article.
Comments to: [email protected]