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3 Tammuz 5762 - June 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Being A Loving Father To Talmidim

by HaRav Ezriel Auerbach

HaRav E. Auerbach delivered this discourse at the "Beis Vaad LeMechanchim" (Educators' Conference Hall) at the commencement of courses for principals, supervisors, and educators of seventh and eight grades.

With permission from the assembled, before I address this gathering I must confess to being neither an educator nor engaged in the field of education. Nonetheless, the mitzvah that educators engage in bears a blessing for Klal Yisroel and, as part of Klal Yisroel, I want to bless you for your efforts.

Although I never intensively studied the halochos regarding melamdim, the Shulchan Oruch Yoreh Deah (245:7) rules: "We station melamdim of children in every city. If [those living in the city] did not appoint melamdim, we destroy the city, since the world exists only because of the words of these children who study by their rav."

In paragraph 16 the Shulchan Oruch writes, "about a melamed who leaves the children or does other work while teaching them, or is negligent in his teaching, is written, `Cursed be he who does the work of Hashem negligently' (Yirmiyohu 48:10), and therefore we should only appoint a melamed who has yirah, knows how to read, and is medakdek."

It is well known that Maran HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik zt'l, together with other rabbonim, published a sizable pamphlet called Darkoh Shel Torah about children's education (I think it is a good idea to circulate this pamphlet among educators). One of the rabbonim involved in publishing this pamphlet was a godol beTorah who wrote the Sha'arei Tsion.

The pamphlet disturbed the "Enlightened Ones" who criticized it bitterly. The pamphlet tells us that one follower of the Enlightenment Movement claimed: "You cited this reference from the Rambam (the abovementioned paragraph in Shulchan Oruch) requiring melamdim to have yiras Shomayim, which was the main point of the pamphlet. But why didn't you cite what the Rambam says afterwards: `knows how to read, and is medakdek?' If so, we must teach dikduk to the children."

The author of the Sha'arei Tsion called the critic an am ho'oretz since the Rambam really means melamdim should be medakdek in their work, i.e., be meticulous in their work and to ensure that they teach their students how to understand correctly what they are learning.

If I was asked to be a melamed this paragraph in the Shulchan Oruch would frighten me.

Chinuch was always the main concern of every Jewish home throughout the ages, and Jewish parents have consistently made enormous sacrifices for it. "When Avrom heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his chanichov . . . and pursued them to Dan" (Bereishis 14:14). Rashi explains, "It is written chanicho (singular) and refers to Eliezer whom Avrom was mechanech to mitzvos.

Chinuch means the onset of doing future work by a person or kli, and so is also the meaning of chanoch lena'ar" (Mishlei 22:6, "Train a child in the way he should go").

We dare not forget this: Chinuch is the forging of man's foundations! It is general knowledge that before a foundation for a building is laid much planning about its quantity, quality, and depth is done. Even the slightest deviation in forming the correct foundation undoubtedly has grave implications for the finished building. This is the reason why so much careful planning takes place beforehand. It is for good reason that Chazal (Bovo Basra 21b) write that melamdim must be mindful not to do the work of Hashem negligently.

The Sifrei (Parshas Voeschanon, 34, Devorim 6:7) expounds: "To your children--these are your children. And you see talmidim are called sons . . . and just like talmidim are called sons, so the rav is called a father . . . "

Chazal are teaching us that for the melamed to implant within a talmid's heart love of Torah and yiras Shomayim, exemplary character traits and good manners, the talmid must be like his own son. The relationship between a talmid and a rov must be like the relationship between a son and a father.

You are not an educator; you are his father. This is the first condition of chinuch: the nefesh of the melamed must be tied firmly to his talmid--"his soul is bound up with his soul" (Bereishis 44:30), and only in that way can he execute properly his responsibility.

I am actually telling you what I read a long time ago from the eminent Torah educator, a true godol beTorah, HaRav Yitzchok Hutner zt'l, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin, in his Pachad Yitzchok. The gemora (Bovo Basra 20a) writes, "Indeed remember favorably that man, and his name is Yehoshua Ben Gamla." Tosafos (ibid., 20b, s.v. zchor) write that Yehoshua Ben Gamla was a tzaddik gomur. Without him, the gemora tells us, Klal Yisroel would have forgotten Torah.

Originally a father taught his son Torah but a boy without a father would not have been taught Torah until Yehoshua Ben Gamla enacted a takonoh to ensure appointing melamdei tinokos everywhere. We see from the gemora that this enactment was put into effect in stages. All this was a tremendous change. The Sages looked for ways to solve the problem of "a boy without a father would not have been taught Torah."

The mitzvah of, "You shall teach them diligently to your children," is understood simply: the Torah imparted this mitzvah and obligation to the father. The transmission of the Torah from one generation to the other is dependent on the fathers and also on the grandfathers, "And you shall tell your sons and your son's sons."

In the beginning our Chachomim placed melamdim in Yerushalayim because, "For out of Zion shall go forth Torah" (Yeshayoh 2:3). Tosafos (ibid.; 20a, s.v. ki) explain that in Yerushalayim children saw the avodoh in the Beis Hamikdosh, which instilled in them love for Torah and yiras Shomayim. But still a boy without a father was not sent there until Yehoshua Ben Gamla enacted his takonoh.

HaRav Hutner asks: Yehoshua Ben Gamla lived at the time of the second Beis Hamikdosh. How is it possible that until then no such situation occurred? What did a boy who did not have a father do until then?

The Rosh Yeshiva answers that this problematic situation was brought about by the yeridas hadoros, the spiritual decline over the generations. Until then, from the time of Mattan Torah, parents understood that just like a person must devote himself from morning to night to keep his body alive, to provide for his children, to find food for his family, and other vital needs, he understood that life is Torah--"For they are our life and the length of our days" (Ma'ariv). Precisely a father, because of his enormous love for his son, because of his sincere concern for his son, provided for both his material and spiritual benefit. The Torah conferred this task to a father who has abundant rachamim for his son, someone who realizes this is for his son's benefit.

This also applies to a grandfather. The Baal HaTurim writes on the posuk, "that you may tell in the ears of your son, and of your son's son" (Shemos 10:2) that one has rachmonus for one's descendants up to one's grandson. So therefore even a grandfather should tell his grandson about Mattan Torah.

Children who then studied Torah were not called tinokos shel beis rabbon but rather tinokos shel beis avohon (of their father's house). Yiras Shomayim remained on such an elevated level until the period of Yehoshua Ben Gamla. Until that time the awareness that learning Torah is "our life and the length of our days" was instilled in each person.

This was natural and simple, just like it was natural for a father to concern himself with his son's material needs. They understood their obligation and devoted their time and soul to teach their sons. The atmosphere was so spiritually healthy that even someone without a father did not have to worry about growing in yiras Shomayim since he breathed from that same blessed atmosphere.

But Yehoshua Ben Gamla began to discern a difference in Torah study between a boy whose father was alive and one whose father had passed away. If some boys drop out of Torah education, something must be done or else Torah will be, Rachmono litzlan, forgotten from Yisroel. Yehoshua Ben Gamla warned his generation that they must educate all children and the Sanhedrin enacted a takonoh to place melamdim in every city and vicinity. This was a drastic change for Klal Yisroel! A new concept was created: tinokos shel beis rabbon.

The power of Sanhedrin's takonoh changed reality! People could have asked: Since the Torah says that a father is obligated to teach his son Torah, can a father appoint a shaliach to teach his son Torah? Isn't this like putting on tefillin in which shelichus is inapplicable since a person must do it with his own body? To teach Torah, the love of a father to a son is necessary, so how can shelichus help at all?

This is what the takonoh changed, writes HaRav Hutner. Because of the yeridas hadoros, Sanhedrin searched for ways to elevate the nation in Torah study. They reached the conclusion that they must appoint melamdim for Klal Yisroel.

This takonoh was accepted in Shomayim too. Heaven furnishes the power for each melamed to fulfill his duty of acting as a shaliach. That duty includes, as the Shulchan Oruch rules, not engaging in other work when teaching the children, not leaving them and going outside, not being negligent in teaching them. To such a melamed Heaven endows a power such that when teaching his talmidim he possesses the love of a father to a son.

"To your children--these are your children." The condition the Torah demands of us so that we can transmit the Torah further, so that the talmid can receive Torah knowledge, yirah, kedushah, good manners, outstanding character traits, and anything else needed to grow into talmidei chachomim, is that each melamed must love his talmid as a father loves his son.

I studied in Slobodke Yeshiva. The mashgiach of the yeshiva was the famed tzaddik HaRav Moshe Tikochinsky. Anyone who knew him discerned his abundant yiras Shomayim.

He once said that when he was young he served as a rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Mekor Chaim of Yerushalayim. It happened that HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt'l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Hebron Yeshiva, asked him to visit his yeshiva and deliver a shmuess to the yeshiva's talmidim. During the visit HaRav Tikochinsky asked him: "I serve in an extremely responsible position and I want to do it faithfully. Since pamphlets and books about pedagogy and the psychology are available today, do I need to study them to understand how to properly approach a student?"

The Hebron Rosh Yeshiva answered: If you implant in yourself a love to a talmid like a love of a father to a son, all of these methods are unnecessary and are worthless.

This is doubtless true. A melamed who has 25 or 30 talmidim should not consider each talmid as the son of so-and-so, but that he has 25-30 sons, each of whom he truly loves. During the school year he should examine himself and ensure that he is devoted to his talmidim like a father to his son. The educator should ensure that he feels that his "his soul is bound up with his soul," with the special love of a father to a son.

After doing this the melamed is similar to a father, and just like a father does not study books about how to provide for his family but rather his natural instincts, induced by devotion to his family, guide him, so also in spiritual matters. Love is all important.

I saw in Bederech Eitz Chaim, a biography about Maran HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt'l, that the Rosh Yeshiva was asked to explain what Chazal (Yevomos 62b) write, "If you studied Torah when young, study it when you are older . . . if you produced talmidim when young, produce them when older, as is written, `In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand' (Koheles 11:6)." What is the chidush of Chazal? Why should a person consider not teaching Torah when older?

It is not at all simple, answered HaRav Meltzer. In Hilchos Sanhedrin, a very elderly dayan cannot serve in the Sanhedrin because he has in him the trait of cruelty, as the Rambam writes. This does not, chas vesholom, mean that he is cruel, but in fact, in order to judge a person's life, abundant rachamim is needed. A very elderly person loses somewhat the feeling of rachamim and therefore cannot serve in Sanhedrin.

We might have said that the same is true with a melamed. Since a teacher of Torah needs the rachamim of a father to a son and without this he cannot teach, we might say that an elderly melamed must stop teaching since he is lacking somewhat in rachamim.

However, Chazal infer from the posuk that, if a person taught Torah when young that awards him the power to relate properly to his talmidim, to be as a father to a son, even when older. Furthermore, an elderly melamed has the virtue of "as talmidei chachomim grow older their wisdom increases" (Shabbos 152a). But the foundation of a melamed is to love a talmid like a son.

HaRav Hutner adds that Jews are proud that they were the first to establish schools, and non-Jews later copied us. The truth, however, is that we should be embarrassed that we at all needed to establish schools, since only the yeridas hadoros forced us to establish them.

I want to conclude with a comment and a suggestion.

Comment: What I am now saying I have learned through my experience, gained when people come to me complaining about melamdim. It is general knowledge that through illustrations we can instill knowledge. HaRav E.E. Dessler zt'l explains that the whole manner of the Haggodoh Shel Pesach is through illustration, through questions and answers, "this morror," "this matzoh," and so on. The Rambam writes that when we say avodim hoyinu we must go out in the street and say, "Like this eved."

A melamed needs to know that a child is motivated by the illustration he sees: through how his melamed acts. From morning to night, each word, each movement -- everything is absorbed by the child, with everything done by his melamed influencing him. Even when the talmid becomes older he is still under the impression of what he saw that his melamed once did.

The child pictures his melamed as being the godol hador. He is the role model that he follows. If the melamed wants to read a newspaper he should do so at home--not during recess of the cheder. Also when the melamed talks with a friend of his during recess, he should be careful with every word. The children hear every word and for them he is the godol hador and they are influenced by it. He should behave before them like he is a real tzaddik.

Suggestion: Each educator needs to study, in a shiur, the commentary of the Vilna Gaon on Mishlei. This is pedagogy of kedushah, teaching how to behave with other people, with wives, and with talmidim. He should go over it and in that way he will know things that many seforim do not teach him.

I will conclude with a brochoh, a brochoh of Klal Yisroel. Such a beis vaad- institution to clarify methods of Torah education, is a momentous matter. "Salvation lies in much counsel" (Mishlei 11:14). May HaKodosh Boruch Hu help you educate talmidim for life of Torah and yiras Shomayim.

This shmuess was sent in by one of those who heard it, and not by HaRav Auerbach.

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