The rebellion in young people is not a crime. On the contrary:
it is the fire of the soul that refuses to conform, that is
dissatisfied with the status quo, that cries out that it wants
to change the world and is frustrated
with not knowing how.
-- The Rebbe
In the 1950s, the Rebbe recognized that there was a
prevailing ignorance among young people in many parts of this
country. He established the Lubavitch Youth Organization,
with chapters around the world, encouraging his students to
share spiritual literature and other tools of education with
the youth of other communities.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy initiated the Peace
Corps, calling on young American men and women to go and help
educate and develop underprivileged countries. The President
was convinced there would be hundreds of volunteers; there
were, of course, far more.
The call of the President echoed the call of the Rebbe:
that young people should recognize what a powerful fire is
burning within themselves, and should be encouraged to use
that fire for the good.
What is the power of the teenage years?
A young person is like fire. With direction and guidance,
he or she can change the very shape of the world. Without
direction, the fires of youth are wasted at best, while at
worst, they can become a dangerous, destructive force. To
lead a meaningful life means harnessing the fires of youth;
but first we must understand the purpose of youth itself.
The period of adolescence is nestled between childhood and
adulthood. Teenagers are no longer content to play like children
but dont yet have the knowledge and experience to be
fully engaged in adult pursuits. Youth is one of the most
precious periods of a persons life, and yet one of the
What most young people are searching for is a meaningful
cause. They are overflowing with a mixture of adrenaline and
confidence -- I want to change the way the world works,
teenagers often think. I can change the world.
Adults, burdened with the pressures of everyday life, convince
themselves that the world just is the way it is, but
young people cannot tolerate such resignation. This is the
constant conflict between the two groups: young people abhor
the status quo, while adults lives revolve around it.
Many adults simply write off the teenage years as a rebellious
period that a person must simply outlast. Young people, meanwhile,
often think that adults have forgotten how to appreciate the
very meaning and thrill of life. Youths are rebellious, and
adults see the rebellion as one step shy of a crime.
But rebellion is not the crime; the crime occurs when the
rebellion has no healthy outlet. Rebellion, in fact, can be
the healthiest thing for a human being -- a pure energy that
inspires a person to not give up easily, to refuse to tolerate
injustice, to not go along with an idea just because everyone
else is thinking it. The worst thing we can do with a young
persons spiritual or psychological energy is to bottle
it up; in fact, we must do everything we can to tap this energy,
to focus it, and channel it properly.
How is a teenagers energy best channeled?
To satisfy the needs of our teenagers in todays society,
we must first recognize that their restlessness and hunger
for meaning is not material but spiritual in nature, and that
only spirituality can feed spiritual hunger.
To fight a spiritual war, they must be equipped with spiritual
weapons. No matter how far a young person has wandered, he
has a soul and a distinct mission from G-d. This is the first
lesson that young people must learn -- that their lives include
a higher purpose, that they must use their youthful energy
for good and moral purposes.
The fire of youth must be used not just to build careers
but to build homes and communities based on love and giving.
It is the responsibility of adults to provide young people
with a blueprint, a spiritual guide to life -- which consists
of G-ds word and His instructions of how to best lead
a meaningful life
So we must say to our young men and women: You are
as alive as fire. If you complement your flame of youth with
a sense of focus and urgency, you have the power to move worlds.
When was the last time you had someone that you were able
to have a heart-to-heart talk with about the real issues of
life? A talk about your personal issues, about our place in
the world and what we are supposed to do with our lives.
A talk that honestly looked at pain and failure.
It is critical that you find someone who you can talk to,
a mentor to trust, who will appreciate your strengths and
potential and can help motivate you to achieve your dreams.
We all must sit down calmly with our families, with our young
people, and talk about our lives and aspirations.
For such communication to be effective, it must be sincere
and it must be regular; it cannot surface only in times of
crisis. Instead of only relaxing all weekend, designate an
hour or two just to speak or take a walk together. Talk about
values, about the difficult decisions that any young person
must face. Talk about G-d, about morality, about how pure
intellect is limited unless it is supported by a system of
higher values. Talk about charity, about selflessness, about
why we are here and where we are headed.
Should we extinguish the fires of youth because of their
potency? Never! We should constantly encourage our young people:
You are our hope, our most precious natural resource.
This is an excerpt from Toward a Meaningful Life
The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.