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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.