The education of the younger generation has been a
fundamental objective of the Jewish nation ever since its
inception. "That he may command his children and his
household after him." The transmission of Judaism's message
to the next generation has always been one of its central
characteristics. In fact it constitutes the very pulse of
our nation, and if something goes awry with this age-old
inter- generational process, it is a danger signal for the
whole of Klal Yisroel. The gedolim have always
been the trustees in charge of preserving the integrity of
the nation's education.
There is no truth in the current opinion that the problem of
"dropouts" (known as "noshrim" in Eretz
Yisroel) from educational institutions has only arisen
in recent years. The media's obsessive interest in this
issue is just one more example of the harm they do, even if
it is couched in terms of "concern for the Yeshiva world"
and discussed in the "chareidi" press.
I have the impression that all the irresponsible discussions
about this topic on inappropriate occasions are only meant
to soothe the public's conscience, which wants a
fundamental, effective and quiet solution to this painful
problem. People pay lip-service to the issue, without
offering any practical solution. Sometimes, you could even
be forgiven for suspecting that some people derive a certain
masochistic and perhaps financial enjoyment from discussing
these disturbing matters.
Although it must be obvious to all of us that this is not
the right forum for solving these problems, we have a duty
to point out some damaging tendencies which may magnify
those problems substantially, due to carelessness. As Chazal
put it, "Make sure not to spoil and ruin My world." I have
come today with more criticism than solutions, but my
purpose is constructive and not merely to make demagogic
Two unfortunate phenomena, which cannot be overlooked, have
reared their heads recently as a result of the "dropouts."
First, we have been witnessing the infiltration into the
chareidi home of non-Jewish values through the back door.
People with a twisted outlook have been trying to tempt us
to participate in "lectures" with "academic" titles relating
to education. The lecturers are quite unqualified for their
task. At best, these "lectures" use quasi-philosophical
material, taken haphazardly from popular non-Jewish
Often these sources are infected with old-time
apikorsus a-la "what do the rabbis know anyway, let
them stick to their religious chores." The transition from
Torah shiurim given by rabbonim and roshei yeshivos
to "lectures" by people lacking a Torah background, is a
very dangerous one, quite apart from the sheer stupidity of
In parentheses, let me say the following: someone in the
audience objected to my use of the word "stupidity" and the
implied disparagement of non-Jewish wisdom. My answer is
that my use of the word is no coincidence or slip of the
tongue, it is premeditated! Non-Jewish "haskolo"
claims that it aims to map out and describe the workings of
the soul, but a close analysis of this "scientific" method
reveals that its real aim is to limit man's responsibilities
in this world, and to find empty excuses for their
deficiencies. This attitude contradicts one of the
fundamentals of our belief, contained in the Torah: that
every person has absolute free will, as it says, "I set
before you today etc."
This is the way the Rambam puts it in the fifth chapter of
Hilchos Teshuvoh, "Every person is faced with a
choice: he can choose the good path and become righteous or
the bad path and become evil, it is up to him. Do not pay
any attention to the stupidities of non-Jewish fools, as
well as the majority of the ignorant amongst the Jews, to
the effect that Hakodosh Boruch Hu decrees on man
when he is first created whether he shall be righteous or
evil. This is not so: every person has the potential to be
righteous or evil, wise or foolish."
He goes on to berate the "inventions of foolish
astrologers." It is well-known that the Rambam was very
particular in his use of language and we must try to
understand his choice of words in this context.
We can understand the Rambam by citing the Maharam Meir
Rottenburg who was asked while in prison about the
contradiction on the one hand between the Rambam cited above
about each person having free choice whether to be a wise
man or a fool and the gemora on the other hand which
states that Hakodosh Boruch Hu decrees who is to be
wise and who foolish. His famous reply was that a person's
abilities are decreed from above, but he has the choice of
whether to stick to foolishness.
In other words, the capacity of a person's mind is beyond
his control, but it is in the hands of each of us to decide
whether to learn from others or not. Foolish people think
that a person's abilities and tendencies are fixed
absolutely in advance, without being aware that such a view
is foolish. If they were smart, they would learn from others
that everybody has free choice to choose the path of wisdom.
This point is self-explanatory for anyone with some
understanding of this topic.
Then there is another matter which we must mention. This is
the phenomenon of people not immersed in the Torah world
offering "advice" to roshei yeshivos about youngsters who
have gone off the path. From this platform I wish to make a
strenuous protest against this development, which smacks of
chutzpah and apikorsus. A person who had not
learned in yeshivos since his youth was disqualified by the
Chazon Ish from being a member of a yeshiva's administrative
staff. How then, can we permit a young man to get up in
public and hand out advice to the heads of our holy
yeshivos. This is unheard of!
The fact that people do not seem too perturbed by this,
means that we have to reiterate the principle of absolute
respect for and obedience to daas Torah. I once heard
from my late father zt"l (who was not one to preach,
except by his own personal example: his whole life was a
symbol of unquestioning obedience to daas Torah) that
when it says that a person is not allowed to get angry, this
refers not only to a situation where there is no reason to
be angry; but even to one where his anger seems totally
justified: there is still an absolute prohibition to become
Similarly, when we talk about the duty to obey daas
Torah, this does not only apply to cases where the
person himself realizes that this is daas Torah, but
also, and perhaps especially, to situations where the real
daas Torah is not the same as our way of thinking.
Even then are we obliged to listen to our gedolim!
These points should be plainly obvious, but just because
they are so well-known, they tend to be forgotten easily. To
clarify the point further, I would add the following. We are
all familiar with Chazal's phrase, "If you have toiled and
found [success], [you can] believe it." The deeper
explanation of this statement is that although on the one
hand anyone toiling in Torah is assured of success in his
studies, there is no automatic connection between the degree
of toiling and the level of success: the quantity and
quality of one's achievements in Torah is a matter of
Metzia, a kind of gift, not necessarily related to
the amount of effort that has been invested. It is clearly
impossible to predict the value of the Metzia just
based on the amount of time you have spent toiling in
If you go into it carefully, you will discover that this
point is included in Chazal's other statement that "you
cannot compare someone who has reviewed his learning a
hundred times with a person who has reviewed his learning a
hundred and one times."
Those who consider themselves bnei Torah should be
the first to realize that they are incapable of attaining
daas Torah on their own, and are obliged to set aside
their own views in favor of those of the gedolim.
Yes, I have heard those who make the impudent claim that
there is a lack of attention and warmth in the yeshivos.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry is starting to point fingers at
the administrators of Torah institutions. Let me make my
position quite clear: If these lightheaded people would be
put in charge of educating our youngsters on a day-to-day
level, they would have no more success -- not even regarding
Apart from the fallacy of the substance of their arguments,
we must not delude ourselves: these people, in their
foolishness, are attempting to attack the heart of the
Jewish world, and to damage the whole yeshiva world, all for
the sake of a small group of misguided youngsters. About
this situation, we are obliged to say, "Let Shlomo and a
thousand like him be nullified, but let not one letter of
the Torah be nullified."
We have already said that this is not an appropriate
platform for offering practical solutions, but still, I
would like to convey one important message: let us give
strength and encouragement to the roshei hayeshivos who
dedicate themselves materially and spiritually for the sake
of the dissemination of Torah amongst the Jewish people. I
am not referring to financial generosity, but primarily to
respect for and obedience to daas Torah, both of
which have been honorably displayed at this conference. Only
that way will we be successful in expanding the borders of
kedushoh, and drawing the sons' hearts closer to
their Father in Heaven, until the redeemer shall come to
Zion, when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of
Hashem, as the waters cover the sea."
HaRav Moshe Goldstein is rosh yeshiva of Shaarei Yosher
Yeshiva, Yerushalayim, a successful yeshiva for boys who
were not sucessful at other yeshivas.