More insights and thoughts on various aspects of
chinuch from a veteran Torah educator.
HaRav Einfeld explained the tremendous obligation that an
educator has toward his students. He is like a paid
shomer who is constantly on duty, like Noach who had
to feed the animals in the teivah night and day. R'
Yeruchom compared it to the poles of the Oron Hakodesh in the
Mishkan: they had to constantly be in their supportive role
of the Oron, they must never be removed. He is given the
tools to teach his students properly, and is held to a high
standard of success. Furthermore, the teacher must be filled
with love for his students.
A Story and Its Source
To what degree have our leaders been careful to honor
R' Zeev Wilensky, a talmid of HaRav Boruch Ber
Lebowitz zt'l of Yeshivas Kamenetz, related the
following: His brother, HaRav Yonah zt'l, one of the
top talmidim of R' Boruch Ber, was one of the few who
understood his deep shiurim properly.
R' Yonah eventually left to study in Yeshivas Mir. R' Boruch
Ber met R' Zeev and asked him to tell his brother, R' Yonah,
to come to Kamenetz to help R' Boruch Ber write down his
shiurim and edit them, since he was the best person
for the job.
The next morning R' Zeev was told that the Rosh Yeshiva was
looking for him urgently. When he arrived, R' Boruch Ber
asked R' Zeev if he had already sent the letter to his
brother. Although surprised, R' Zeev answered that he had not
yet sent it. HaRav Boruch Ber beamed with happiness and
explained, "The truth is that I really need R' Yonah for this
matter, but if the talmidim see that I called R' Yonah
back, there would be some who would lose heart and say:
`Aren't we good enough? Why does the Rosh Yeshiva need to
bring someone from afar?' I therefore decided not to call
Although this seems like an example of the extreme piety that
characterized R' Boruch Ber, it actually stems from the Torah
itself. Everyone must behave as the Torah teaches us.
At the beginning of Bamidbar, Moshe Rabbenu was
commanded, together with the nesi'im, to count the
Jewish nation. The Torah (Bamidbar 1:16) points out:
"These were the men of distinction in the congregation." The
Alshich explains that not only were they great people, they
were the greatest in Am Yisroel, and the greatest of
the entire dor dei'ah of the midbar. In
addition they were "nesi'im of the tribes of their
fathers" (ibid.), and still more, they were "heads of
the thousands in Yisroel" (ibid.). They were the
greatest of the nation in their own merit, and the
shevotim too had accepted them as their
The Torah continues: "Moshe and Aharon took these men who
were pointed out by their names" (v. 17). The Alshich
emphasizes that despite their prominence and their status as
nesi'im, Moshe Rabbenu would not have taken them if
Hashem had not pointed them out by name. If Moshe had chosen
them himself, it is possible someone might think: "Why was I
not chosen? Why did he prefer someone else?" This is an
example of being careful not to hurt another person.
A Critic's Letter
Not long ago a book called Me'ilo Shel Shmuel was
published: it is the story of the gaon HaRav Shmuel
Aharon Yudelevitz zt'l. A few weeks after it appeared
a supervisor in the Chinuch Atzmai system wrote a letter in
which he sharply criticized a story in the book. He claimed
that this story helps our enemies and justifies the arguments
against traditional chinuch. What story bothered him
R' Shmuel studied in cheder under a melamed who
was a skilled workman and took advantage of his talent to
build a model of the Mishkan from cardboard and paper.
When the class studied the Mishkan, he would put his
creation on the table in the classroom.
One day during recess everyone went outside to play except
for R' Shmuel Aharon, who remained in class to review his
studies. When the children returned after recess the
"Mishkan" was not to be found. R' Shmuel Aharon
claimed he was concentrating on his studies just then and did
not see or hear anything, but the melamed was not
convinced that he had not taken the model himself.
He took him to the empty teacher's room, sat him down near
him and told him to read aloud in Yehoshua the story of how
Ochon took an object from the cheirem and was punished
by sekilah. The eyes of the child darkened and he
burst out crying. At that moment someone knocked on the door
and told the melamed that they had found the
"Mishkan" and it turned out that a certain child had
slipped away with it into an empty classroom. The
melamed stood up and returned with the child to the
tense class. We will quote the continuation from the book:
"The storm started. The melamed was totally enraged.
He yelled at Shmuel Aharon: `You should be utterly ashamed.
Why did you admit to something you did not do? Why did you
cry? Who were you trying to fool? -- That's enough now. We do
not have any spare time. Bring the "Mishkan" and let's
continue the shiur.'
"The melamed did not at all regret what he had done
and did not ask forgiveness from Shmuel Aharon. He unrolled
the colored material that represented the covering of the
Mishkan, gently raising the box that was the `Aron
Habris' on which were pasted two forms to represent the
keruvim. `You see?' he said to the talmidim,
`The Aron Habris exemplifies the Torah, since inside
it were the two luchos habris. The Keruvim
exemplify the rav and the talmid, their faces to each
other, to teach us about the love between them.'"
The story is 100% true, and R' Shmuel Aharon told it to his
children endless times -- but according to that critic it
should not be told. That story should be erased. No flaws
exist in our educational system, no dark shadows are to be
found there, and no melamdim exist who destroy
nefoshos and sometimes lose their Olom Haboh.
Someone who wants to warn about thorns in the vineyard, the
critic felt, helps the sitra achra, provides our
enemies with weapons, and must be censured.
That melamed did two serious sins. Of the first sin
HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt'l spoke in his old age. "I
am far removed from taking revenge, but there is one
melamed I will never forgive," he said. He told about
a melamed in his home town, Dohlinov, who warned the
children not to come late to cheder on a certain
Sunday and not to linger looking at how the Christians go in
a procession to church.
R' Yaakov hurried to cheder that day but then an
elderly woman asked him to help her carry heavy bags. He
helped her, of course, and understandably came late to
When he arrived he told the melamed how he had helped
that woman. "You are a liar," the melamed said
excitedly. "You stopped to look at the procession of avoda
zorah." And he hit him cruelly.
"I will never forgive him for that," R' Yaakov said some
eighty years after it had happened. "A melamed must
know who his talmidim are, their positive and negative
character traits. He should have known that I have never lied
in my life."
If the first melamed we spoke of had understood his
students' personalities he would have known that Shmuel
Aharon Yudelevitz was above all suspicion. The child who did
not go to play because he would always review his Torah
studies during recess is surely not a child who would
Even if there had been reason to be suspicious of Shmuel
Aharon, does that allow the melamed to do whatever he
wants? Does a suspicion justify embarrassing a child
publicly? Is the melamed allowed to tread on a
student's feelings without knowing the full truth?
A ben Torah on the day of his chuppah came
before a godol beTorah to confess a cheit that
haunted and plagued him. It disturbed his conscience and did
not allow him any rest. He was responsible, he said, for a
friend of his having stopped being an observant Jew. Now the
chosson wanted a kaporo and a tikun.
This is what happened: When he was a young child his
yetzer overcame him and he stole a friend's watch. At
home he played with the watch and his father found out about
the theft. Naturally his father insisted that he bring it
When he reached school the whole class already knew about the
theft and the melamed was about to make a thorough
search. What did the boy do? He went over to the jackets
hanging on the wall and slipped the watch into the pocket of
one of the jackets.
In short, what happened was that the watch was found in that
jacket and the owner was condemned as a thief. All the
owner's denials did not help and no one was moved by his
crying. He suffered terrible shame and mortification. The
melamed did not rest until he decreed his punishment:
The children hung a sign on his back reading "I am a thief"
and he had to walk through all the classes and show them the
Understandably that broke the child's spirit, and his friends
distanced themselves from him and mocked him. He stopped
coming to cheder, befriended corrupt children who
gladly accepted him, and stopped observing Torah and mitzvos.
"It was all because of me," the chosson sobbed. "How
can I go and build my house when I know I have ruined my
The godol heard the chosson and said: "Do not
worry. You were a small child at that time and were not
liable for what you did. Even if you had been liable, you
were not to blame for what happened to your friend. The
melamed is to be blamed. How could he punish someone
without reliable witnesses? He should have thought of the
possibility that another boy slipped the watch into that
pocket. Even if there were two kosher witnesses about the
theft, since when is there a din of misah for a
thief? And Rabbenu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:139)
writes, `The anguish of being shamed is more bitter than
death.' The melamed killed that boy twice over: he
shamed him and destroyed his spiritual world. He will never
have a kaporo."
One "educator" dreadfully degraded a father of a
talmid in front of all the talmidim in his
class. The talmidim, along with the "educator,"
The unfortunate talmid went out to the street crying
bitterly. He walked around crying in the street for some two
hours and the educator never asked him where he disappeared
in the middle of the shiur. He did not apologize and
did not ask forgiveness for his heartless behavior. The
talmid now suffers from depression because of that
disgraceful story. Surely that educator has no part in
Olam Haboh, as is the halocho with someone who
shames another person publicly.
I will conclude with another story, something that happened
to me personally. A young boy originally from a secular home
came to my yeshiva in Beer Sheva and asked to be accepted. He
was a refined boy and I was impressed with him. After
ma'ariv, however, one of the staff approached me and
said, "I think the Rosh Yeshiva should expel that boy and do
so as soon as possible. He is a chotei and a
machti who spoils others."
I asked what evil thing he had seen in the boy, and he told
me that the boy had talked with another boy next to him in
the middle of Shemoneh Esrei. "This is something
serious and we must distance boys who corrupt others."
I went over to the boy and said to him, "I want to learn
together with you bechavrusa."
The boy was walking on air after receiving such an honor. We
sat down to learn Chayei Odom, the halochos of
Shemoneh Esrei. We reached the halocho that it
is ossur to speak in the middle of Shemoneh
Esrei. The boy suddenly said: "Oi, Rebbe, I talked in the
middle of Shemoneh Esrei! Does the Rav know that this
was the first ma'ariv of my life? I will slowly adjust
and learn to act correctly."
Today he is, Boruch Hashem, an accomplished ben
Torah and has raised a splendid family. All of his
children are studying Torah. I am horrified just to think
what would have happened if I had listened to the advice
given to me to dismiss him from the yeshiva. Boruch Hashem, I
was not nichshal.