By Rabbi Shea Hecht for COLlive.com
“Wow! It’s so amazing,” he said, almost breathlessly. It’s true that the sight of hundreds of shluchim davening outside the Rebbe’s room can be awe-inspiring. This akward man in an ill-fitting yarmulke hung onto his shliach’s coat sleeve in a crush of beards and black hats. “All these rabbis dedicate their lives to educating someone else’s children…”
I overheard this gentleman’s innocent comment, and found something immediately disturbing. For all of the good, and all the kedusha that shlichus brings into the world, are we giving our blood, sweat and tears to reach and educate “someone else’s” child while neglecting the education of our own children?
Certainly, there is an invaluable element of chinuch that our children gain from our “shlichus” outlook. The obligations we have towards our fellow Jew and our special mission to illuminate the darkness of this world is unique to Lubavitch and cannot be handed down to the next generation without an emphasis on the Rebbe’s shlichus.
At the same time, it’s also true that one cannot observe the sheer magnitude of today’s shlichus industry without wondering who’s paying for it all. As more and more of our children wind up being shut out of our own yeshivas, it’s starting to seem that the answer to that question may be “us.”
I am personally aware of too many of our children that are forced into the workplace or–worse–onto the street because their families cannot afford to pay their tuition. And what can we expect from a parent who has three, four, five or more kids who are of beis midrash/sem age? Anyone who picks up the newspaper classifieds will see that even the salary of a “credentialed” professional would be hard pressed to handle a modest tuition load. Honestly, I have always been mystified when a menahel is uncompromising in demanding tuition that he himself would be unable to afford!
By most accounts, shlichus is a billion-dollar industry–perhaps more. We keep purchasing another property, opening another Beis Chabad, another camp, another kindergarten… all in the name of educating “someone else’s” kid. But what would happen if we invested just a fraction of that time, money and gezundt on “outreach” to the children and families from our own community? Those of us who struggle to both raise chassidishe children and maintain a shred of sanity might be singing another tune today.
As for now, we must acknowledge that we have placed our emphasis on educating “someone else’s” children, perhaps at the expense of our own.