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2 Kislev 5761 - November 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Train A Child In The Way He Should Go -- HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Responds To Some Commonly Raised Educational Issues

By Rav Tzvi Yabrov

One of the areas in which gedolei Yisroel are most often approached for guidance and advice is in matters pertaining to chinuch and to talmud Torah. While each questioner comes with his own set of circumstances and receives an answer that fits his particular situation, a majority of the questions touch on common issues which affect almost everybody. Many of these questions also arrive on Yated's editorial desk, accompanied by requests to answer or deal with them in the pages of the paper.

We asked Rav Tzvi Yabrov to prepare a number of such questions and to seek reliable answers to them. Rav Yabrov was fortunate to spend some time with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, who gave verbal replies to the queries. Rav Yabrov later submitted his written version of these replies to HaRav Kanievsky, who gave his consent for publication. Here are the questions which Rav Yabrov submitted, together with HaRav Kanievsky's replies.

Part I

Attending Weddings

Q. When one of the bochurim in a yeshiva is getting married, is every bochur who learns there obligated to attend the wedding? Does one have to go to every wedding? And if so, how long does one have to stay? What about a good friend, who will be offended if his friends do not participate in his simchoh?

A. What do you mean "obligated to attend"? Some people are careful not to give invitations to a bris miloh [because receiving an invitation to a seudas mitzvoh obliges the recipient to attend, which is not always possible] but to a wedding? . . . There is no law that one has to attend and no obligation. The only question is, whether or not the chosson will be offended, in which case it is perhaps a matter of chesed. I didn't go to all the weddings while in yeshiva, except for those of good friends: first so as not to offend them and second, because if I had gone to their simchas, they would not have come to mine.

There is a gemora in Bovo Basro (91) that says, "Rabba bar Rav Huna said in the name of Rav, `Boaz made a hundred and twenty feasts (for sixty sons and daughters) and he did not invite Mono'ach to any of them. He said, "He is a barren mule, how can he repay me? (i.e. he has no children to whose simchas he can invite me)."' " The gemora ends by telling us, "They all (all Boaz's children) died in his (their father's) lifetime."

I was once asked by an elderly man, while I was learning in the yeshiva in Petach Tikvah, what Boaz meant by "how can he repay me?" Was Boaz in need of food, of a piece of cake, that made it difficult for him to invite Mono'ach if he would not be invited in return?

I replied that the meaning was clear. Take the Chazon Ish for example. Would he be obligated to invite all the ignoramuses in the city? Why on earth should he be? Mono'ach was an am ho'oretz (Brochos 61), while Bo'az was the godol hador (Medrash Rabba Rus, 5:10). Why should Boaz have been obliged to invite Mono'ach? Were Mono'ach to have children however, to whose simchas he would have invited Boaz, the latter would have had to worry whether Mono'ach might not be offended to have invited Boaz and to have received no return invitations. Since though, Mono'ach was childless, Boaz thought that he had no obligation at all to invite him.

But Mono'ach was offended nevertheless and Boaz was punished for this by losing all his children in his lifetime. He should have considered the possibility of Mono'ach's taking offense.

The Limits of Honoring Parents

Q. How far does the mitzvoh of honoring parents extend? If there is a family simchoh for example, and a child does not want to attend because of bitul Torah. Or a bochur whose parents' standards of kashrus are lower than those which he maintains, but the parents will be offended if he doesn't eat with them? Or to take another example, a bochur whose parents use electricity on Shabbos (in Eretz Yisroel)? How should he conduct himself?

A. Certainly, where a matter of basic halochoh is concerned, the bochur cannot conduct himself in any other way and the argument that this will annoy his parents carries no weight. Take the example of electricity on Shabbos. The Chazon Ish held that halochoh utterly forbids its use. If so, even if the parents shout at him, how can it be permitted? It is forbidden for him! He should explain to his parents, with courtesy and respect, that he cannot use it because he has undertaken to keep that halochoh.

However, where it is merely a matter of stringencies, there are grounds for saying that they should not be observed where honoring parents is concerned. Here too, there may be matters which require hatoras nedorim. (HaRav Kanievsky referred us to the words of the Mesillas Yeshorim in chapter 14.)

Learning With a Weaker Bochur

Q. To what extent is one obligated to set aside time for learning with a weaker bochur, if one will thereby lose out by being unable to use the time for achieving his own lofty goals?

A. This falls into the category of, "These are the things that have no limit . . . and gemilus chassodim." There is a gemora in Gittin (60), which says that Rav Shimi bar Ashi came to Abaye and asked him to make a time to learn together with him. Abaye replied, "I have a time for myself," that is, I have my own set time for learning. We see that if someone already has a time arranged for learning, he is not obliged to learn with someone else. The gemora there tells us however, that Rav Shimi asked Abaye to learn with him at night when he had no other arrangement, and the gemora discusses this. At any rate, we see that if someone has a fixed arrangement, he is not obligated.

Changing Minhogim

Q. Should a Sephardi bochur who is learning in an Ashkenazi yeshiva keep the minhogim of the place he learns, or those of his family? We have heard it said in the name of one of the gedolim of the previous generation that Toras imecho (i.e. the family minhogim which one should keep) in such a case is that of the yeshiva he learns in.

A. Such a bochur must keep his own family's minhogim. However, if others will take exception to him and problems will surface, it may be better to refrain from causing friction.

I heard that the Chazon Ish was asked about a Sephardi bochur whose parents were not observant and who was brought back to Yiddishkeit by Ashkenazim. The Chazon Ish said that since his parents did not observe Torah and mitzvos, there was no Toras imecho on the part of his family for him to follow, and the Toras imecho was that of those who had brought him to teshuvah. He could therefore pray according to nusach Ashkenaz (he did not say that he was obligated to do so). That I can understand. However, where a bochur's parents have raised him to Torah and mitzvos, and he is currently learning and living in yeshiva, I don't know whether he is allowed to change his family's minhogim.

Chol Hamoed Outings

Q. How far should one put learning aside in order to go on trips and outings with the children on chol hamoed?

A. There is no fixed amount in all such matters. It all depends on what is necessary. I remember that Father used to take us for a walk on Shabbos between the time of shekiyoh and nightfall because during this time it was dark and it was impossible to learn. He would take us to Har Sholom and on the way he would tell us stories about tzaddikim to implant yiras Shomayim in us. By the time we returned, it was time for ma'ariv.

(Note: In a written reply on another occasion, Rabbenu's response to this question was, "As little as possible.")

A Grandfather's Obligation

Q. Does a grandfather have an obligation to educate his grandchild because of the principle that "grandchildren are like children"? (I was shown that in Teshuvos Maharsham, vol. 8, siman 33, the question of whether a grandfather can make the blessing boruch shepetorani at his grandson's bar mitzva is discussed.)

A. A grandfather is commanded to learn Torah with his sons and with his grandsons. This is an explicit halochoh in Shulchon Oruch (Yoreh Dei'oh siman 265:3): "Just as a person is commanded to learn with his son, he is also commanded to learn with his grandson, as the posuk says, `You shall make them known to your sons and to your grandsons . . . ' However, one is commanded to give preference to a son's learning over a grandson's." This halochoh is stated with regard to talmud Torah. We are not told that it also applies to training a grandchild in other mitzvos. However, neither are we told that it does not.

Mussar For Children

Q. Which works of mussar are suitable for learning with children? For how long each day? And from which age should one start?

A. Father used to say that one should study simple works of mussar with them, such as Orchos Tzaddikim, for even five minutes a day, from the age of seven, and that in time they would absorb the lessons.

Inculcating Love of Torah

Q. How can one lead a child to love Torah and to love learning Torah?

A. In our family, Father zt'l used to do this by telling stories of gedolim and tzaddikim. This put yiras Shomayim into us. He chose which stories to tell us . . .

Praising Gifted Pupils

Q. Should one praise and extol gifted students in front of the class, or should one fear that this will have an adverse effect upon the weaker and the average students who will be harmed by it?

A. This is an old question. It all depends on the situation. It is sometimes necessary to praise a student who knows the material that is being learned, first in order to encourage him and second, so that other students should want to do the same. However, judgment needs to be exercised as to when and how to do this. It is hard to give general rules.

When a child arrives home with excellent grades, he should be given some encouragement, but it should not be overdone.

Hitting Children

Q. Should one refrain from hitting children and students in our times? Are there exceptional circumstances in which corporal punishment can, or should be, administered?

A. Sometimes it is necessary to hit and, "He who spares the rod, hates his child" (Mishlei 13:). When a child does something really wrong, he should certainly be beaten. However, the father should act prudently and only hit once in a long while. If a child is beaten every day, the exercise loses its whole value.

In the Medrash Rabba (at the beginning of parshas Shemos), we find something written that we could not say ourselves, had Chazal not actually said it: "What is the meaning of the posuk `He who spares the rod, hates his child'? It comes to teach you that whoever withholds a beating from his son, ultimately the son falls in with bad company and the father hates him. Thus we find with Yishmoel, who had yearning for his father yet Avrohom Ovinu did not discipline him and he fell into bad company, and then Avrohom Ovinu hated him and sent him out of his house empty-handed . . .

"Whoever makes his son suffer, the son loves his father more and honors him and loves him even more. We find that Avrohom reproved Yitzchok and taught him Torah and guided him in his ways . . . In the same way, Yitzchok would meet Yaakov with reproof . . . and Yaakov Ovinu also reproved his sons and disciplined them and taught them his ways."

These are strong words, telling us why one son developed into a Yishmoel and the other into a Yitzchok, an explanation which, had Chazal not given it, we would not be able to give.

The medrash there continues, "Dovid acted the same way with Adoniyohu. He didn't discipline him with suffering nor did he become angry with him. Therefore he fell into bad company, as the posuk (Melochim I 1:6) says, "And his father had never reproved him at all, saying `Why are you doing this?' "

Apparently, the reason why Dovid never rebuked him is that he seemed to be behaving properly and there was nothing for which to rebuke him. However, Chazal say (Makkos 8), "Even though he learns, it is a mitzvoh to hit him, as the posuk (Mishlei 29:17) says, `Make your son suffer and he will give you peace.' " This is what was missing. Dovid should have reproved him, even if he was acting correctly. He should have said to him, `Why are you doing this?' finding some pretext for saying that he wasn't acting correctly, so as to get him used to receiving reproof! (We wrote about this in Taama Dekro, on the haftorah of parshas Chayei Soroh.)

(Note: In a written question I asked Rabbenu about the quote in Toldos Yaakov pg.235, from his father zt'l, who said that a child should be hit for refusing to make a brochoh, chas vesholom, or for hitting a friend with excessive cruelty. The Steipler is also said there to have been careful to hit for lying. The question was, whether this is the preferred course even in a case where the parents' experience is that guiding their child in a loving way will have more educational benefit than hitting him. HaRav Kanievsky replied in writing, "It all depends on the circumstances.")

End of Part I

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