Teaching Responsibility

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9 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    My observation, and it is meant as mussar primarily to me (and blogging), is that it is rarely taking time from studying / learning as much as not wasting time. As the Rav ztl once jokingly said, “ehr battelt vie a rosh yeshiva.” It is more a question of reducing the batalle not allocating between worthy demands on our time. i would also argue that broader exposure is intellectually beneficial; without it we produce weaker leaders and weaker RY.

  2. Ori says:

    What is the purpose of Yeshiva? Is it primarily academic (teach as much Torah as possible), or primarily character building (make the best Jews possible)?

  3. tzippi says:

    To answer Ori, this is all theoretical.
    Ideally the learning should be done at home, from parent to child. As that is not practical, the school, in partnership with the parents, takes over.

    It is presumed that the foundation for character building can and should still come from the family, and is a prerequisite for learning, as the mishna in Avot states, im ain derech eretz ain Torah. (Yes, derech eretz is a loaded term, but let’s understand it as simple good character.)

    It is understood in a yeshiva or day school that part of the partnership is character building. We don’t do situational ethics. Incidentally, as far as ethics goes, the 613 mitzvos, which can be categorized in many ways, contain mitzvos between man and G-d, and between man and his fellow man. This has to be taught. And – here’s yet another fundamental principle – mitzvos are made to be done, not just learned in a sterile academic way.

    So you can see why it is difficult to say that an institute of Jewish learning is one or the other. Even at the post high school yeshiva level, one of the most important faculty members is the mashgiach, who supervises ethics and morale (maybe not the best way to present the job description, but accurate, I think).

    Don’t know if this answers your question. I don’t know how much it answers the issues addressed in the article.

  4. LR says:

    Torah, avodah, gemilus chasadim. You need a combination or the world cannot stand. I have no idea where the line is, of what ratio is best, but maybe that should be decided on an individual level anyway.

    I don’t know what exists in yeshivos, but I can speak from the girls’ perspective on chesed programming- I’ve found chesed to be encouraged in speeches, but very little practical framework exists to help girls find meaningful volunteer work. Babysitting for a family is fine, but it’s not for everyone.

    You have to be either very well-connected and have family who help you get into serious chesed organizations, or have a lot of initiative and persistence, that most teenage girls don’t really have or know how to use properly. As a result they end up in positions they don’t enjoy and don’t continue looking to do chesed outside of school. More of an effort needs to be made to teach students how to find worthwhile things to do, rather than just talking about the importance of chesed in a general way. Some kind of volunteer organizing group?

  5. Myron Chaitovsky says:

    Rav Mordechai kamenetsky has told this story about Rabbi Moshe Sherer:

    Rabbi Shimshon Zelig Fortman was the Rav of Congregation Knesseth Israel in Far Rockaway during the 1940s. During that period, the naysayers had all but discounted any chance of a rebirth of Orthodox Jewry. They had hardly a voice in Washington, they were disorganized and fragmented, and the destruction of European Jewry was almost the last nail in the alleged coffin of traditional Torah Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Fortman had a young son-in-law, Moshe, who had studied in Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore. He would tell his father in-law how he saw a future for Orthodox Jewry that was filled with honor and power. Their representatives would have direct access to Congress, the Senate, and even the President of the United States. They would influence legislation with their values and fill stadiums and coliseums with Torah assemblies and prayer gatherings!

    Rabbi Fortman was very concerned about his young son-in-law’s ivory-towered dreams. He felt that he the dreams distracted him and he would never accomplish anything. Rabbi Yosef Kahanamen, the Ponovezer Rav had recently come to America to raise funds for his Yeshiva in Israel and was staying by Rabbi Fortman in Far Rockaway. Surely, Rabbi Fortman thought, Rabbi Kahanamen would terminate Moshe’s fantasies and teach him about the realities of accomplishment.

    Moshe and Rabbi Kahanamen met for nearly an hour. The Rav listened intently and then told young Moshe, “Dream my son. Continue to dream. In fact you can continue to dream as long as you live. But remember one thing. Never fall asleep.”

  6. DG says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    I would like to draw your attention to one bright spot on the yeshiva landscape you did not mention, though I have been in painful agreement with your post for a long time – and I will add a comment on that as well.
    The community kollel movement – specifically those kollelim associated with Torah UMesorah – is made up of both roshei kollel and avreichim who carry the spirit you describe. I spent eight years in one such kollel and have had the opportunity to work closely with more than a dozen (maybe even two dozen) others.
    From the motivation to move out of town, to embracing a degree of achrayus they could never EVER have anticipated, to an ongoing commitment to raise the ramah of Torah throughout all corners of their communities one individual, one family at a time, these chalutzim exemplify the value you write about.
    The question is: Where did they get this from and is that source still available? In my own case, I got it from R’ Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l – and here is the most important point: I don’t really recall him getting up in yeshiva and routinely teaching about how central the midah of achrayus is [I did hear him once on a recording identify achrayus as absolutely THE core, ikar midah of the adam hashalem (though these are my own words) but this was much later].
    I learned this midah from him because he so obviously lived it and that came through in everything he did. My comment, therefore, is that the only way to teach achrayus is to exemplify it and I imagine most of those who moved out to a community kollel were similarly inspired.
    The yehivos used to openly lead the future of klal yisrael, even as in your experience where they’d rely on the serendipity provided by the Hashgacha HaElyona to bring out the best in their talmidim outside of seder. Today, yeshivos seem to be overwhelmed with keeping their yeshivos and talmidim going and, if I may wonder, the same seems to be true about the leadership in klal yisrael.
    There is less leading into the future than there used to be, apparently due to the enormous burden of maintaining a klal yisrael with so many immediate and urgent needs. This is all reminiscent of the atzas hayetzer described in Biur HaZehirus in Mesilas Yesharim: Tichbad HaAvoda so there is no opportunity for the kind of higher-level thinking needed to rise up and make a difference.
    There is more to say but this comment has already drifted far enough.
    Rak Chazak VeEmatz!

  7. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    Ori asked:

    What is the purpose of Yeshiva? Is it primarily academic (teach as much Torah as possible), or primarily character building (make the best Jews possible)?

    –See the Sforno on “eikev asher shama Avraham b’koli” — he criticizes Isaac for not doing the outreach of his father Abraham; “but Jacob was in the yeshiva, which was certainly there not just to study, but to teach all those who came seeking …”

    My own rosh yeshiva (with whom I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye about college) quoted from R’ Chaim Volozhiner that of the two wooden structures in the Chumash, Noah’s Ark is designed to shelter its inhabitants from the dangers outside; the Mishkan is designed to radiate spirituality TO the outside. “And our yeshiva is a teiva, ’cause it’s a mabul out there!”, added the contemporary r”y.

  8. Ori says:

    How did the Rosh Yeshiva expect the flood to ever be over if the people who are most touched by G-d’s teaching are hiding in an ark?

    Working alongside people is a good way to influence them. Another is to help them. Waiting for them to come to Yeshiva is expounding Halacha to the Levites (= preaching to the choir, in Jewish terms).

  9. Ori says:

    LR: You have to be either very well-connected and have family who help you get into serious chesed organizations, or have a lot of initiative and persistence, that most teenage girls don’t really have or know how to use properly.

    Ori: Why? If you went to the local Beit Yaakov as a representative of an safe organization that needs help, will they encourage their students to help?

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