Rav Tzvi Yabrov prepared a number of questions in matters
pertaining to chinuch and to talmud Torah that
touch on common issues which affect almost everybody and
presented them to 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
The first part dealt with various issues, among them
honoring parents, learning with weaker friends, hitting
children, learning mussar with young children and
Depth Vs. Clarity
Q. When a child gets swept too far into lomdus
and neglects his understanding of the plain meaning of the
gemora, should he be set back on course, despite the
possibility of his losing the enjoyment of learning?
A. One mustn't take away a child's enjoyment in
learning but one does have to learn gemora, Rashi and
Tosafos with him and make sure that he understands
their plain meaning.
When I travelled to yeshiva, my father zt'l said to
me, "Macht nisht kein Teireh. Fri'er, veis Shas!
First know Shas, and then make chiddushim!"
Complaints about the Rebbe
Q. When a child comes home complaining about his
melamed in cheder, and his argument seems
justified, should he be supported, even though this erodes
the status of the melamed, or is it permissible to
"interpret" the situation?
A. This is an old question and it seems that there is
no choice but to reconcile the child to the melamed's
behavior, even though the child seems to be correct. It
might not be possible to justify the teacher entirely, but
one should speak to the child in a way that does not detract
from the melamed's position of authority. One should
explain to the child that the melamed's opinion is
such and such and that he is doing this for the child's
benefit, or for the benefit of other talmidim . . .
Also, when the father has a difference of opinion with the
melamed in the cheder or with the maggid
shiur in yeshiva, he has to use his common sense when
speaking to his son and explain that it seems that one can't
say such and such, [rather than flatly stating that the
teacher is wrong], so that his son does not lose his esteem
for the teacher.
When Father and Son are of Different Opinions
Q. A boy wants to go and learn somewhere that his
parents feel is not suitable for him. Should he get into a
fight with them about it? Can one rely on the boy's
judgment? Does the answer depend on what the boy's reasons
are and his father's reasons for disagreeing?
A. The Shulchan Oruch (Yore Dei'ah siman
240:25), rules that if a son wants to learn in a
particular place and his father does not agree, the son does
not have to listen to his father. However, this naturally
only applies when the son is right.
If a young boy doesn't listen to his father, he should be
taken to a great man who will explain things to him. He
shouldn't be allowed to do what he wants. If he is already a
grown up bochur and he understands, it is difficult
to put pressure on him. I once commented: why is it that the
Torah says that a father can annul his daughter's vows but
not those of his son? Because a son who learns Torah
sometimes understands things better than his father, while a
daughter will do whatever she's told.
Q. When one sees a boy who is immersing himself too
deeply in learning, to the point where his health is
suffering, but there is a danger that if his parents say
something to him, he'll think that they are trying to stop
him from learning -- should something nonetheless be said,
and who should say it?
A. Something needs to be said to him, because this
kind of thing can sometimes lead to a situation where he'll
stop learning completely R'l. Things like this have
happened before. However, one should use common sense when
speaking to him. I heard from the gaon and
tzaddik HaRav Eliyohu Dushnitzer zt'l, that
the Chofetz Chaim zt'l, would enter the yeshiva at
eleven p.m. and turn off the electricity saying, "Tomorrow
is also a day!"
In general, it is not possible to lay down rules in such
matters. One needs to exercise judgment and resolve and see
that one speaks to him sensibly.
Loshon Hora About a Brother
Q. When a child tells his parents loshon hora
about a sibling, when there really is a constructive purpose
for the sake of the other child's upbringing, so that the
parents can ensure that he won't repeat the misdemeanor, is
it permissible to believe the story, or should the first
child be reprimanded for speaking loshon hora?
A. One is allowed to believe it however, one should
explain to the child that he shouldn't say such things
unless he means them to be beneficial.
I Can't Afford It
Q. When a child asks his father for something and the
father does not think that his child will benefit from it,
for either material or spiritual considerations, may the
father lie and tell his child that he has no money to buy
it, even though he really does have?
A. It is forbidden to lie, however, saying "I can't
afford it" is not lying, because he means that he hasn't got
money for this particular thing.
Q. When one is learning a sugya in
gemora, or the like with young children and one
arrives at a topic involving matters of modesty, is it
permissible to deviate from the truth, since one is clearly
doing so for the child's educational benefit?
A. One should explain it to the child briefly and if
he asks questions one should say, "When you'll be older
you'll understand." This is how Father zt'l also used
to answer when he was asked too many questions: "When you're
older you'll understand."
Supervision During Amidoh
Q. When a father is in the middle of the Shemonah
Esrei and he sees that his son is not praying properly,
and this disturbs the father's concentration, may he signal
to his son to remind him to pray? What is the din
when the son's behavior is not disturbing the father but he
wants to signal to his son for the son's benefit?
A. He may signal to his son, as long as he doesn't
interrupt his tefilloh by speaking. I once asked a
great man whether a father has to glance at his son in the
middle of his own amidoh to check how he's praying
and he responded, "Chayecho kodmin! Your own needs
Forgetting Yaaleh Veyovo
Q. If a child who is old enough to pray forgot to say
Yaaleh Veyovo in the Shemonah Esrei, on
Rosh Chodesh or on Chol Hamoed, should his
father train him to pray Shemonah Esrei again?
A. He should pray again. However, it all depends on
Things Which Promote Forgetfulness
Q. Should one be careful that a small child who does
not yet learn Torah, should not do any of the things that
are mentioned in seforim as causing a person to
forget Torah, such as putting a baby's clothes underneath
the head while sleeping etc. or perhaps, since he does not
yet learn Torah, he has nothing to forget?
A. One should certainly avoid them because they
weaken the memory.
Helping to Solve Puzzles
Q. Children often ask their parents for help in
solving riddles, then they send off the solution and win
prizes. Are the child and the solver transgressing the
prohibition of theft? Aren't they misleading the
A. They set up the competition knowing that this
Can A Wise Man Reveal the Solution?
The Medrash Rabba (Eichoh 1:11) brings an incident
that took place when someone entered a classroom and found
the children there without their teacher. He asked them
questions and they answered them. They said to him, "Let's
make up between us that whoever asks the other a question
that he can't answer, will take his clothes from him." The
man agreed because he was relying on his wisdom.
He said to them, "You, who live here answer my question
They said, "No, you answer first because you are old." They
then asked him a riddle which he couldn't answer and
according to their agreement, they took his clothes.
The man went to their teacher, Rabbi Yochonon and said,
"Woe, Rabbi! Such bad things happen here. When a guest comes
among you, you take away his clothes!"
Rabbi Yochonon replied, "Perhaps they asked you something
which you couldn't answer?"
The man said, "Yes."
Rabbi Yochonon said, "It wouldn't be right for me to tell
them to return your clothes because you made an agreement
with them. However I will tell you what to answer them, and
then they'll give your clothes back to you." And this was
The pupils understood that the man had not found the
solution on his own and that their rebbe Rabbi
Yochonon had a hand in the matter and they applied to him
the posuk (Shofetim 14:18) said by Shimshon, "If not
for your having plowed using my calf [i.e. your having
worked on my wife to extract the answer from me], you
wouldn't have found the answer to my riddle," as if to say,
"We know that you didn't find the answer yourself and that
our teacher told you."
In his sefer, Rav Pe'olim (cheilek IV, Choshen Mishpot
siman 5), the Ben Ish Chai cites this
medrash as proof that the wise man was not wrong in
revealing the solution and he thus resolves a question that
was put to him. Our question is, How was the wise man
permitted to reveal the answer. Wasn't there a suspicion of
theft involved in his doing so?
A scholar referred me to Shofetim 14 where we find
that Shimshon at first promised thirty sheets and thirty
suits of clothing to whoever found the solution to his
riddle but in the end only gave the suits. Quoting the
Abarbanel, the Malbim writes that this was, "because he had
an argument [that they did not deserve anything because his
wife had told them the answer] so he gave just half, like
money of doubtful ownership."
Q. What was Shimshon's doubt?
A. Whether the original agreement had included this
way of finding the answer.
Q. And what about the proof from the
A. There he did it to prevent chilul
He Didn't Know
When our teacher mentioned the elderly man in Yeshivas
Lomzha in Petach Tikva who asked him about Boaz's not
inviting Mono'ach to his simchas, he recalled another
question that he was asked while they learned there.
The gemora (Avoda Zora 39), relates that a certain
question was asked of one of the amoroim and "he
didn't know." The question was then put to a different
amora who gave an answer. What is the purpose of the
gemora telling us that the first amora didn't
have an answer? Is the gemora, chas vesholom, merely
reporting something detrimental about the first
I replied that the meaning of the gemora is as
follows. When someone has a doubt in halochoh as to
how he should act in a certain situation, it may be that
there are not two options at all and that he's groping in
the dark simply because of his lack of knowledge. If he
brings his question to a great man however, and his response
is, "I don't know," or, "I have no answer," the entire
question takes on new meaning. Now there really are two
The gemora is telling us that when the question was
put to the first amora and he didn't know, it became
clear that there really were two sides to the question.
I later found a Tosafos (Yoma 47, beginning "Hodor
poshtoh") referring to a gemora which says, "They
later resolved that [the status of the ketores in
between the fingers of the Cohen Godol] is in doubt."
Tosafos ask what there was to resolve, for as soon as
the question was asked to begin with, there was a doubt.
"The answer can perhaps be given that originally there was a
thought to resolve the doubt one way or the other but then
it was resolved that the matter would remain in doubt!" It
would remain a question which nobody could resolve.
Our teacher then mentioned another question that was asked
by another elder who learned in Yeshivas Lomzha. The
gemora (Nedorim 66) brings the following story. "A
man took a vow preventing his wife from having any benefit
from him unless she gave the food she had cooked to Rabbi
Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon to taste. Rabbi Yehuda tasted it,
reasoning that if Hashem's Name can be erased in water [in
the preparation of the water for a sotoh to drink] in
order to restore domestic harmony, he should certainly agree
to do what the woman asked of him for the same end. Rabbi
Shimon would not taste it. He said, "Let all the widow's
sons die rather than Shimon moving from his place." The Ran
explains, "He cursed the husband with dying, leaving his
wife a widow and he also cursed the man's sons, who would be
known as the widow's sons after their father dies, that they
too should die."
At first glance, Rabbi Shimon's view and the barrage of
curse which he leveled at the husband and sons seems to be
I wanted to explain that in fact, it is Rabbi Yehuda's
reasoning which needs to be understood. If a husband makes a
vow that his wife will have no benefit from him unless the
Chazon Ish walks the streets wearing unbecoming clothing,
this would result in a dreadful disgrace of Torah's honor.
To tell his wife that she could not benefit from him unless
she gave her food to a great man to taste was also a
disgrace of the Torah's honor. This was what incensed Rabbi
Shimon. Rabbi Yehuda, on the other hand, went beyond what