Youth – The Fire Of Life

Youth – The Fire Of Life

Chapter 1 What Is Youth?




Think back to the time when you first understood the sheer power of fire: It both amazed and frightened you.

When it is under control, fire betters our life in countless ways, many of which we have come to take for granted.

But when we don’t have it under control, a raging fire destroys everything in its path.

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 can become a dangerous and destructive force.

To lead a meaningful life means harnessing the fires of youth.

To do so, we must first understand the purpose of youth itself; for all G-d creates is with profound intent.

The period of youth is an odd one by nature, nestled between childhood and adulthood.

A teenager is no longer content to play like a child but doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to fully engage in adult pursuits.

Young people begin to experience many of the frustrations and yearnings of an adult, but may lack the maturity to deal with them.

Teenagers have plenty of time on their hands, yet contemporary society is far better at providing ways to waste this time than spend it productively.

Youth is one of the most precious periods in a persons life, and yet one of the most difficult.

These various tensions within young people create a unique, untamed energy, the energy of life itself.

Young people are not looking for comfort, they are seeking a meaningful cause.

They are overflowing with a mixture of adrenaline and confidence – “I want to change the way the world works” “I can change the world” young people often think.

Adults, burdened with the pressures of everyday life, may resign themselves to the world the way it is, but young people unhindered by the realities of adulthood, do not tolerate such resignation.

This often causes conflict between the two groups: Young people abhor the status quo while adults’ lives revolve around it.

So what we have here, in the most general terms, is either energy without sufficient direction or direction without sufficient energy.

Many adults simply throw up their hands, writing off youth as a rebellious period that a person outgrows.

Young people, meanwhile, often think that adults have forgotten how to appreciate the very meaning and thrill of life.

Youth are rebellious, and adults see the rebellion as an aberration, or even one step short 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 – an undiluted 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.

Depriving a young person of an outlet to release this energy can cause deep pain and anxiety.

Think about the steam that builds up in a turbine – without a safety valve, it is bound to explode sooner or later.

The worst thing we can do with a young person’s 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.

Chapter 2 What Does The Rebellion of Youth Really Mean?

Practice and Theory

Channeling the rebellion positively

The sound of youthful rebellion is the sound of youthful energy crying out, searching for guidance.


For adults, the challenge is to help turn the cry into a strong sure voice. “Yes” we must tell our young people “take that energy, do try to change the world for the better.


Don’t accept the status quo.


Don’t stand by and tolerate injustice.”

Practice and Theory

The message that we as adults must covey to young people is “each of us was put on earth to accomplish G-d’s mission by living a spiritually meaningful and productive life!”



Young people are searching for a reason that makes life meaningful.


They may not articulate is so clearly, but that is why their souls cry out.


They become seriously disillusioned with the hollowness they see in their parent’s pursuits, and they sense that without a greater purpose, life is just an unprecedented series of events.


They are busy looking around the world, trying to figure out where they fit in, what they are supposed to accomplish with their own lives.


The answer is clear, each of us was put on earth to accomplish G-d’s mission by living a spiritually meaningful and productive life, and this is the message that we as adults must covey.


Because this message is not being transmitted today, we are seeing an unprecedented level of rebellion and disillusion among our youth.


Practice and Theory

Understanding the Sixties hippies Movement


It is true, especially in this country, that youthful rebellion has led to extremes that in themselves were unhealthy.


But why did the rebellion come about in the first place?


Because young people were saying to their parents “No, we will not be happy with the creature comforts you are passing on to us. We want something deeper. We want a world with meaning and a value system. We want a G-d.”



Cherishing youthful sensibilities


The cry of youth comes from a very pure place, and the idealism of a young person, no matter how outrageous it may seem to adult sensibilities, should be cherished.


Just as the human body’s immune system will reject a foreign substance, the soul of a youth will reject the hollow spirit of falseness.


Adults must learn to listen to the cry of youth and give it a real and true answer.

Practice and Theory



Think: When was the last time you had a heart to heart talk with a younger person about the real issues of life?


A talk about our place in the world and what we are supposed to do with our life?


A talk that honestly looked at pain and failure, at joy and success.


We need to all sit down calmly with our families, with our young people and talk about life and aspiration.



What to Talk About


For communication to be effective, it must be sincere and it must be consistent; it cannot surface only in times of crises.


Instead of playing or languishing 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.


Practice and Theory

An Unbeatable Relationship


The relationship between an adult and a young person need not be an antagonistic one; by nature, in fact, it should be symbiotic.


From the young person, an adult learns to reawaken himself to the raw power of the soul, and to access that power within himself.


From the adult, a young person learns that there is no substitute for experience and the judgment it brings.



Teenagers should be especially eager to partner their energy with the elderly, who have lived long enough to no longer be in competition with young people.


As is written in Deuteronomy (Devarim) “Ask your father and he will tell you; Ask your grandfather and he will relate to you.”


In any case, the wisdom of an adult and the passion of a young person are an unbeatable combination.

Chapter 4 How should the energy of Youth Be Channeled?



The Soul Unites


Understanding this combination of youthful passion and adult wisdom goes a long way towards closing the so-called generational gap.


Why is there a generation gap?


Not because parents and children don’t care for each other, but because they see themselves as distinct individuals divided by materialistic boundaries, with different attitudes and interests, different social groups, different priorities.


There is no getting around the fact that a sixty year old person, perhaps on the verge of retirement, and that a twenty year old just about to embark on an adult life, have different goals.


They indeed seem to have little in common if we base our outlook on day to day materialistic activities.


What they do have in common, though, is a soul, and a soul is not affected by age.



Uniting Under A Common Banner and Cause


The key to solving the generation gap is learning to focus on a mission that will create continuity from generation to generation.


It is not a matter of finding common ground to talk about; it is about finding common ground to walk on.


Adults and young people are in exactly the same situation: We all need to temper our materialistic pursuits and worries, in order to pursue a meaningful life.


“We were put here together – you as a younger person and I as an older person – because G-d wanted me to learn from you and you from me” we must say to our youth.



Youthful rebellion is a soul seeking G-d


Never before have we witnessed such a restlessness in our youth as today.


Never before has the energy of youth, having no place to vent itself, exploded so loudly and so often.


Never before have young people been so hungry for meaning – and many of today’s adults have retained that hunger from their own youth.


To satisfy this hunger, we must first recognize that it is not material but spiritual in nature.

And that only spirituality can feed spiritual hunger.


Practice and Theory

A New Way Of Communicating


If we truly desire a serious change in our youth, we must first enact a serious change in our adult attitudes.


We need to find a new way of talking to young people.


In a relationship between an older person and a younger person, whether it is parent and child, or teacher and student, failure to communicate is always the fault of the one who knows more, not the one who knows less.


You didn’t find the right words, or perhaps you weren’t speaking from the heart.


To blame a student for failing to learn is like blaming a baby for crying – the baby is crying out of need, and that need can only be satisfied by the more knowledgeable and experienced person.


Practice and Theory

Arming Our Children With Spiritual Weapons To Fight Their and The World’s Demons


No one is questioning the intentions of parents who have trouble with their children; the problem lies in the weapons in which we arm our young people.


To fight a spiritual war they must be equipped with spiritual weapons.


Remember, no person is ever lost, everyone can be reached.


No matter how rebellious and disillusioned a young person may be, he has a soul and  connected to that individual soul, a distinct mission from G-d.


This is the first lesson young people must learn – that their lives include a higher purpose, that they must use their youthful energy for good and moral ends.



We Must Equip Our Youth With The Tools To Transform The World For Good


The fire of youth must be used not just to build careers but to build homes and communities based on love and giving.


The hope for real change in this country (USA) and throughout the world rests on youth, and today’s leaders must recognize this fact.


But we must also recognize that a young person by nature is restless and inexperienced.


So it is the responsibility and privilege of adults to provide young people with a blueprint, a spiritual guide to life – which consists of God’s wisdom and His instructions of how to best lead a meaningful life.

Practice and Theory

The Best Defense is Offence


The timing is right to launch an all out offensive against any complacency and indifference.


It is not sufficient to wait for problems to arise, because no matter how valiantly we fight, we will only be attacking the symptom of the problem, and not the cause.


The key is to take the offensive, to generate a spiritual revolution against the tide of material pursuits, to reintroduce G-d into our daily lives.



Harnessing The Power of Youth


Today’s youths should be encouraged to create a true revolution – a revolution of virtue and integrity.


They should fight not simply out of duty, but with the zeal of someone in search of a truly significant life.


In a positive way, the young should be role models of goodness – by storming the halls of vanity and selfishness.


By rebelling against injustice and hypocrisy.


By insisting that each one of us can and must make a difference.


Young people should spread this message by publishing student newspapers, by establishing charitable groups, by taking advantage of modern technology, to reach as many people as possible.


With their combination of sincerity, conviction, and energy they can influence countless hearts and minds with a message of hope and truth.


Should we extinguish the fires of youth because of their potency?




We should constantly encourage our young people: “You are our hope, our most precious natural resource.”


G-d gives us all a second chance though our offspring.


Somewhere along the way, our society convinced us that prosperity would solve all life’s problems, but we have been bluntly reminded by the rebellion of youth that we need soul more than we need money, that we need meaning more than we need success.


So we must tell 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.”

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