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6 Teves 5759, December 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Principles of Education
by HaRav Nosson Einfeld

More insights and thoughts on various aspects of chinuch from a veteran Torah educator.

Close Supervision

It is not just a matter of added benefit for an educator and a mashgiach to supervise their charges carefully, to love each talmid sincerely, to pay attention to danger signals and to diagnose weaknesses far in advance. Someone who lacks the qualities to do all these things is totally unsuited to these professions.

The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 2:2) writes that when Moshe Rabbenu was the shepherd of his father-in-law's sheep in the desert, one lamb ran away. Moshe chased after it until it reached a field, found a spring of water, and started drinking. Moshe Rabbenu said: "I did not know you were running because you were thirsty. Now you are [surely] tired."

He put the sheep on his shoulder and carried it back. HaKodosh Boruch Hu said: "Since you have the pity needed to lead other people's sheep, so will you lead My sheep, Yisroel."

The Strikkover Rebbe zt'l delves into the meaning of this Midrash. Moshe Rabbenu apparently acted incorrectly when he ran after the lamb. How could he leave the whole flock of sheep and chase after one single lamb? Was that a responsible thing to do?

The Rebbe answers that this was exactly Moshe Rabbenu's Heavenly test. Did Moshe Rabbenu realize that a flock comprises individual lambs? There are many spiritual shepherds who consider their flock as a group or as a class lumped together; they consider a yeshiva as a monolith. They are not sufficiently and actively aware that the class consists of many talmidim, each one a whole world unto himself.

HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt'l, the son of Maran HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l, the famed Brisker Rav, told me that he once went to the Mirrer Yeshiva for the month of Elul. He went up to the room of HaRav Yeruchom HaLevi Levovitz zt'l, the yeshiva's mashgiach, a room located above the beis midrash. From its window one could see some five hundred boys studying fervently. The Mashgiach said to him: "Do you see the yeshiva talmidim? To me they are five hundred individuals."

At the wedding of a talmid of Yeshivas Mir with the granddaughter of HaRav Eliezer Shulevitz, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Lomza, the yeshiva students danced enthusiastically as usual and the simcha was tremendous. HaRav Shulevitz said to HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz: "You are a mechuton in the simcha. Chazal write that talmidim are like one's sons."

The Mashgiach grasped his prematurely white beard and said solemnly, "That is truly so. One can surely say about me that `talmidim are like one's sons.' Each talmid is another white hair."

Just as each hair is separate and has its own pore, and no two hairs grow from the same pore (Bovo Basra 16a), so each talmid is his own world. Each talmid must be individually scrutinized and educated according to the particular way that is beneficial for him, corresponding to his own talents and nature.

Personal Attention

We will be better able to understand the above principle after hearing a story told by HaRav Meshulom Dovid HaLevi shlita, another son of the Brisker Rav, who heard it from a reliable person who heard it from the actual person involved.

In Russia under the Czar's rule the mandatory draft age was twenty-one, and a soldier was required to serve for ten years. It was impossible to observe Shabbos or Yom Tov in the Russian army, and almost impossible not to eat treifos. Thus, this decree meant severing a Jew from Judaism for many years. The only way to avoid being forcibly drafted was by going to a macher, someone who knew how to bribe the doctor who examined the candidates for military service. The problem was that these machers would utilize the plight of their "clients" and demand enormous sums for their services.

There was a boy, let us call him Reuven, who was summoned to the medical examination before being drafted. He heard that in Kovna there was a macher who only took fifty rubles to free someone from the army. Although that was also a relatively large sum, a person tries to do all he can to save himself. Reuven traveled to Kovna.

In the train to Kovna he saw an old man to whom Jews were crowding from all around to greet with a sholom aleichem. Reuven asked who that person was, and someone told him that he was the famed R' Chaim of Brisk. People advised him to give the Rav sholom aleichem too, and ask him for a brocho. Reuven said to himself: "I don't need any brocho, since the macher will arrange everything, but why not give the Rav sholom aleichem?"

He went over to HaRav Chaim and gave him sholom. HaRav Chaim looked at him carefully and asked who he was, where he came from, and what was the aim of his trip. Reuven told him everything. HaRav Chaim said to him, "If you have any difficulties, come to me."

The boy shrugged his shoulders. He had the fifty rubles in his pocket and his discharge from military service was assured -- or so he thought.

Reuven arrived in Kovna and searched for the macher. Having found him he offered the fifty rubles. The macher said, surprisingly, "The good times are over, I'm afraid. The doctor has raised his price. For less than two hundred rubles there is no chance of being released from the army."

Reuven's world fell apart. He did not have more than fifty rubles in the world. He asked around to see if there was any other way out of being drafted, but everyone said that the price today was at least two hundred rubles. There was no other way to arrange a military exemption.

In his despair Reuven remembered that HaRav Chaim had told him that if he had a problem he should come to him. The boy inquired where HaRav Chaim was staying and went there. Going there, he was told that HaRav Chaim had gone to the house of the rav of Kovna, where a meeting of gedolei Torah was taking place concerning fateful matters for all of Klal Yisroel: gezeiros that the wicked kingdom planned to implement. The chachomim were contriving ways to frustrate them.

Reuven walked over to the Kovner Rav's home and knocked on the closed door. The attendant opened the door and explained that at the present time it was impossible to enter since the gedolei hador were in consultation. The boy argued: "The Brisker Rav told me to come to him."

The argument became noisy enough that the gedolim went over to see what the commotion was all about. They were told that a boy claimed that the Brisker Rav requested him to come. "Absolutely," said the Brisker Rav. He went over to Reuven, heard his story, and said, "Wait here."

He returned to the meeting and said: "Rabbosai Hageonim! I need a hundred and fifty rubles to save a boy from being drafted." They immediately made a collection and the sum was raised. Maran HaRav Chaim handed the money to the boy so he would be freed from the army, and afterwards returned to the meeting.

The flabbergasted boy was still standing at the threshold when he heard a rav ask HaRav Chaim: "Brisker Rav, please tell me. When gedolei hador meet to decide about ways to save all of Klal Yisroel, is this the proper place and time to interrupt the meeting and engage in an anonymous boy's private matter of wanting to be freed from the army?"

Maran HaRav Chaim banged on the table until the walls shook: "Dear rav! To save a Jewish boy -- this is Klal Yisroel!"

We must understand this!

As a Mother Caring For Her Baby

Perhaps an educator will claim that the yoke and responsibility involved in education is great. This is truly so. HaRav Yeruchom of the Mirrer Yeshiva said that there is an explicit halocho that states, "Someone lacking a hand is exempt from laying tefillin." Likewise someone lacking patience, love, and endless devotion should not be an educator. If about halochos concerning monetary matters the gemora (Sanhedrin 7a) writes that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will demand nefoshos from a dayan who takes money from one person not according to the halocho and gives it to another, about matters of nefoshos this is surely so. If about monetary matters the gemora (Yevomos 109b) writes, "A dayan should always picture himself as if there is a sword placed between his thighs and Gehennom lies open below him," about matters of nefoshos this is still more so.

"Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, and gave them a charge to bnei Yisroel" (Shemos 6:13). Rashi explains that "He commanded [Moshe and Aharon] to act patiently with them and tolerate them." The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 7:b) writes at greater length: "HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to them: `My children are dissenters, become angry quickly, are bothersome. You should accept them even on the understanding that they will curse and stone you.'"

The same happens in every generation. When Moshe was commanded to appoint Yehoshua to replace him, Hashem said, "Give him a charge in your sight" (Bamidbar 27:19). Rashi explains: "Command him about Yisroel. Tell him to be aware that they are bothersome, they are dissenters, and he must accept this upon himself." The Ramban writes: "[Moshe] commanded [Yehoshua] to exert himself exceptionally in their affairs."

How much does a leader need to exert himself? Moshe Rabbenu, the loyal shepherd of bnei Yisroel, said: "Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that You should say to me, `Carry them in your bosom as a nursing father carries the sucking child, to the land which You have sworn to their fathers?'" (Bamidbar 11:12). Rashi (ibid.) explains: "When did [Hashem] tell him that? `Now go lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you' (Shemos 32:34). The Torah also says, `And gave them a charge to bnei Yisroel' (Shemos 6:13)-- even on the understanding that they will stone you and curse you." The Tana Devei Eliyahu Rabbah (chap. 12) writes that a leader must be "like a father to his son, like a Rav who takes a candle to light the way before his servant, like a mother to her infant, as is written: `As a nursing father carries the sucking child.'" The Zohar (II:21) writes: "When a sheep gives birth, the shepherd takes the young lambs in his bosom so they will not become exhausted and brings them to their mother, and it pities them. So a leader of Yisroel must lead them with pity and not cruelly. Moshe said likewise: `As a nursing father carries the sucking child.'"

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