Recently, a group of kiruv professionals from one organization met with Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a. This organization offers a range of kiruv programs for unobservant young men in the mornings, evenings or weekends (depending on interest). As is known, in our generation the nisyonos are difficult and bitter. The Yetzer Hara is a wise old king and cunningly places a net to ensnare the youth. Along with this, incomprehensibly, specifically in this generation, specifically those very people who succumbed to the Yetzer, are spiritually bereft, they feel emptiness, and the lack of satisfaction brought about by unfilled desires. They seek to enjoy the taste of life from the holiness of the mitzvos and the pleasantness of the Torah.
Since in general it is difficult for the youth to dedicate large amounts of time to study Torah and learn about the mitzvos, kiruv organizations seek to coin just the right language and develop strategies to attract them to spend more time in the Beis Medresh, and to utilize to the maximum, the time they invest in learning Torah.
This kiruv organization asked many questions and we’ll cite a few here:
At first they asked, each student enters the program with a different level of Yiras Shamayim, some are stronger, some are weaker. How do we teach a class that can be attended by such a diverse group? Or perhaps we should track the classes by different levels of commitment?
Rav Chaim dismissed the proposals and immediately responded, “Teach them a gemara shiur, and it’s recommended to begin with Meseches Berachos which is appropriate for all, and everyone will grow from this.”
The next question, understandably, related to the teaching methodology. Do we teach them as bnei Torah, analyzing the gemara line by line, or do we only teach them general principles, relating the contents of the gemara? To these students, the gemara is totally alien.
Answered Rav Chaim: “Teach them as a young student from the text of the gemara, word by word.”
At this stage, the conversation switched to topics of mussar. The kiruv professionals asked if it was appropriate to tell them about the punishment of Gehenim and the future suffering of chotim. Alternatively, perhaps we should just to tell them about the pleasantness of Gan Eden and the reward of those following in the way of G-d?
Rav Chaim answered: “Don’t detail either side. Just teach them the importance of avoiding evil and pursuing good deeds in general terms.” (See Rambam, Hilchos Teshuva 10:5).
This is a translation from the Hebrew that can be viewed here.