Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"They want to dictate to us what to teach and how to educate. We must fight this with all our might!"

HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman

With regard to Avrohom Ovinu it is written, "Because I know him, for he commands his sons and his household to follow him and to guard the way of Hashem." The Torah tells us that the main reason that Hashem loves Avrohom Ovinu (which is denoted by the words `because I know him') is because he commands his household to follow his example of keeping the word of Hashem.

Actually, one could say much greater things about Avrohom, for did he not sacrifice his very life in denying idolatry? And therefore was he cast into the fiery furnace. But the Torah praises him for the fact that he commands his sons and household to follow his example.

Avrohom Ovinu brought many people closer to the Shechina; he converted many people to the belief in One G-d Who created the world. If so, where are all of them? Has nothing remained? It is apparent from Chazal that even though they were converted and they did accept the yoke of the One G-d, still because they failed to educate their children in this way, as Avrohom did, and did not grasp the secret of "for he commands his sons . . . ," nothing remained of them.

They themselves became sublime and pure, but there was no continuation. Avrohom Ovinu knew that the very foundation of Jewish continuity and survival is chinuch. He therefore educated his children to follow in his footsteps and keep the ways of Hashem. Therefore did the Jewish people survive through all the generations, to this very day. We have a tradition that goes all the way back to Avrohom, to his way, his teachings, to what he implanted in us. And one of those fundamentals is training the next generation to follow one's example, to walk in one's footsteps. Indeed, throughout the ages, the Jewish people have held the value of education as primary and sacrosanct, like the apple of their eye.

Sadly, of late there has been a breach in this strong fortification, in that outsiders seek to express their views and impose their ideas upon our way of education. This is in spite of the fact that they have long since seen that their education is shallow and lacking values; it leads only to destruction. And yet they persist in intervening and dictating their views of what to teach and how to educate. But we must be on guard and fight it with all our might.


Since we have nothing in common with them, we will only talk about what applies to us. There is a primary rule said in the name of the Vilna Gaon. It is known that the Gaon had a very strong affection and admiration for the Dubno Maggid. We even have a letter that the Gaon's son once wrote to him saying that his father missed him very much and wished he would come to visit him as soon as possible. We know that the Gaon was not one to actually miss someone, but the Maggid seemed to have been an exception. He recognized in him a pious, very clever but extremely G-d-fearing person. The Maggid once asked the Gaon how one could best influence people.

The Gaon replied by way of parable, "If a person has a cup that is surrounded by smaller cups, so long as he does not fill up the larger one, it cannot begin to spill over into the others. But when the larger one is full, it can begin to fill the others. Thus, he explained, the only way you can have an impact on other people is to fill yourself up. Once you are `full' of wisdom etc., you can begin to overflow and have an influence on the lesser people around you.

This is the rule that applies to education. If one wishes to be a mechanech, he must first reach a degree of elevation himself. The more he perfects himself, the higher he reaches, the more of an impact he can have on others. If he is not a good example, a role model, his students will not respect him or seek to learn from him. The higher the level a person has reached, the more he can influence others.

In previous generations, the educators were all suffused with Torah and G-d-fear, and because they were permeated with it, they were able to influence their charges. But nowadays, we have weakened and we are not filled with Torah and yiras Shomayim, and consequently, the students lack the power of concentration. They don't pay enough attention and do not understand the material.

It should be stressed that one must learn the material very thoroughly and be prepared for all kinds of questions. These two things are of paramount importance. There are, of course, other things, but these are primary.

In addition, it is vital to pray for Heavenly assistance. It is brought in ancient works that teachers used to pray for their students. The more they prayed, the more Hashem enabled them to educate these students to duly become yirei Shomayim, Torah scholars, true servants of Hashem. Then Hashem will rejoice with us and we with Him. Then will Hashem fulfill all of His promises. But until He does, we must continue on and on, we must persevere until Moshiach comes, may it be speedily in our day.

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