For whatever reason, parents, friends, chanichim, and madrichim have told me that I am a very influential and good madrich. I usually tend to ignore their beautiful remarks in order to focus on what I am doing. Recently I have taken the time to think and reflect on what I believe makes a successful madrich.
Although there are a few things I do to try to be the best madrich I can be, the main thing that has made me the madrich I am today, has been to try to judge every chanich favourably in order to help them recognize their importance in the world and in Am Yisrael. Every other skill I have in being a madrich stems from that.
Each and every chanich is different and unique. Even though some chanichim go to the same school, synagogue, and have many similarities, they all come from different homes and backgrounds. They are all taught in different ways, speak different languages, have different hobbies and have different strengths and weaknesses. Many of them view the same things differently, some are more religious than others, some are more emotional towards different things… the list goes on and on.
In order to understand each individual chanich, I try to pick out these aspects in them. Whenever they approach me to talk, I try to give them my full attention and show them that I care for what they have to say. This way they will feel comfortable speaking to me, knowing they have someone who is always there for them. I give them the same attention and care outside of camp as well. This way, they realize that I am not simply acting for six weeks. Rather I am showing them that I truly care about them and want to be there for them, hang out with them, and joke with them forever.
Reb Shlomo Carlebach famously said: “I walk the streets of the world every day and all I see are the most precious diamonds. Some of them you may have to pick up from the gutter and clean a bit, polish a little. But once you do, my friends, oh how they shine! If you threw out a million-dollar diamond everyone would call you crazy!”
Using Reb Shlomo’s words: Every chanich is a diamond. I feel like it is my responsibility to help clean and polish them. I really try to bring out their stronger points and help them notice them and use them as best as they can. Each chanich is worth more than a million dollars. Do not throw them to waste!
In a book called “GPS for the Soul”, an easy and clear understanding of the Tanya by Nadav Cohen, there is a story of an Israeli women who walked into the Chabad Centre in India. The woman had very little knowledge about Judaism. As she walked in, she started to complain about God, Judaism, the Torah, and she claimed she did not believe in any of it. The Rabbi asked the woman if she was sure she did not believe in any of this – and she said she was positive.
“Prove it” the Rabbi said. He told her to take the Torah they had in the Chabad Centre and throw it on the floor! She could not do it. The Rabbi told her, “You just said you don’t believe in the Torah and that it’s made up. Why can’t you throw it on the floor?” The woman was at a loss for words. She had no response.
“I’m not surprised,” said the Rabbi. “You have a Godly soul just like the rest of us. It’s true that it’s been asleep for a long time, perhaps even knocked out unconscious, but when it’s pushed, it awakens and asserts its absolute refusal to do anything that could separate it from its father in heaven”.
Camp is a place where skills are pushed and developed. It is very common for kids to feel that they are being held back by their parents and teachers from doing certain activities or trying new things.
I try pushing my campers to let loose and try new things. I try removing all the barriers that hold them back in the cities. I don’t go as far as telling them to throw a Torah on the floor, chas ve’shalom, but I do try making them utilize their stronger traits once I discover them. The message of that story is clear.
Something that I constantly tell myself is that although it sometimes seems that chanichim only want to annoy us and make our job more difficult, it is not true. Yes, it is normal and healthy for kids to act up and be silly. But deep down, these kids want to be the best they can be. Their acting up is another way of saying: please help me be the best I can be.
In Hilchot Gerushin, the Rambam says that we can beat up a guy who refuses to give his wife a get because even though the get is given against his will, deep down he wants to give his wife a get. Deep down, he only wants the best for her.
So, too, I only want the best for my chanichim. As hard as it can sometimes be, that’s what is most important to me.
Rebbe Nachman talks about taking one’s traits that are not used to serve Hashem and transforming them to serve Hashem.
For example, let’s imagine that a chanich is a very good soccer player and everyone follows him and strives to be like him. He is the “cool” kid of the bunk. Whenever he tells someone to do something for him, they do it right away. Unfortunately, the things he demands, are not the best requests.
In this situation, I would try to encourage this chanich to use his skills in a positive way.
Imagine the bunk is playing a soccer game and there are a few younger kids who want to join. Everyone in the bunk says: “you guys can’t play because you are all too young. You guys aren’t even good. You won’t be able to keep up with us.”
Because this chanich has the ability to get everyone in the bunk to listen to him, I would encourage him to allow those kids to join the soccer game even if it will slow down the pace of their game. By doing this, he is including others, he is helping his bunkmates realize how important inclusion is, he is making a Kiddush Hashem, and most importantly, he is using his traits in a positive way.
Everything I mentioned above falls under the category of judging each chanich favourably, looking at their stronger points, and helping them use those strong points to the best of their abilities.
This is something I try working on every day. It is not easy but it is so rewarding. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my chanichim striving to be the best they can be. Thankfully Hashem has helped me a tremendous amount.
The more I think about what I have done for my chanichim, the more I realize how they have done so much more for me. The best part is that they have no idea.
Daniel Bordan is in Shevet Na'aleh and serves on the Hanhalla Artzit (National Executive) of Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada. He is a Rosh Eidah at Camp Moshava Ennismore this summer.