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May 18, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

A moment to save the world

By RABBI ALTER KORF Chabad Center of St. Petersburg

You can feel it in the air….The school year is almost done. Homework, tests, graduations and parties will be over soon. As the school year winds down, it’s a great time for reflection on the past year.

This past year has been particularly difficult for students and their parents, shaken by the terrible events at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It’s frightening to know that since the beginning of 2018, there have been a staggering 20 school shootings, and they have been steadily increasing year after year.

We are all asking the same question: What can we do to prevent this in the future?

Of course, many important and necessary measures are being discussed: To upgrade school security and tighten our gun laws making it more difficult for mentally disturbed people to access weapons. Yet, we are looking for more. We understand that there are less obvious – but more integral – issues that are leading kids to believe that murder is an option.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke in 1983 about the solution to this very problem. He stressed the importance of a proper education and explained that it’s not enough to study what is written in this textbook, or in another book – to become an encyclopedia of various tidbits of information. We need to focus on the most important goal of education: values, character development, and cultivating a moral conscience in our future.

The only healthy and true foundation for a child’s education is to know that G-d Himself created this world, and He is aware of and directs everything that occurs in this world. And He wants this world to be governed by righteousness, morality, kindness and justice – light, purity, and holiness; for it to be obvious that G-d dwells here.

From the youngest age, a child must be raised to begin each day by acknowledging G-d, the Supreme Being above him, Who is above and beyond every human being, Who is also a personal G-d to each individual. He is the “Eye that sees and Ear that hears” everything that the child does.

He strongly encouraged that each and every school begin the day with “A moment of silence.” It must be the start of the day, when the children are fresh and it will guide the entire day. This moment is about giving our children the space and structure in which they can turn inwards from all the noise of life and discover themselves. This is a minute in which they could connect to a Higher Power, and commit – in their own words – to having a higher day.

If a child wants to know exactly what to think about, he should ask his father and mother, and this is a time parents can share their religious views with their child. Beyond the benefit to the children, this will also awaken fathers and mothers in this country to become aware of their vital role and their principal responsibility – to raise upright, good children.

It’s true, they may use the time to say a prayer, but only if they choose to because they personally feel that it gives them strength. If instead they use the minute to think about a classmate they know could use help, or realize the impact of a comment they just made, that’s just as good – maybe better. And if they just want to breathe deeply and mentally calibrate themselves for the day ahead, that’s also fine.

This is not a new idea. It’s already being successfully done in an impoverished corner of Brooklyn at P.S. 191, the Paul Robeson School. This is where 99 percent of its roughly 300 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Some live at the homeless shelter next door. (

It is being done at the Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy in the Bronx, which is a transfer school designed to re-engage students who have dropped out or fallen behind. (

Both schools have seen “tremendous changes behavior-wise and in terms of punctuality.” They describe its academic impact, and how “it focuses the children who made their resolutions for the day and are ready to learn, and get right to work.”

Today, we need a paradigm shift in educating our future leaders. There are many things we can do to give them these values and ideals. A Moment of Silence each day is a powerful step we can take.

The critical component here is to teach our children to be a mensch not only because it’s the law, or because it’s socially acceptable, but because there is something called right and wrong, and that your actions matter. Today’s kids will understand. We just need to tell them.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. The views expressed in this guest column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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