In the first part, Rabbi Grossman discussed the fact that
the preservation of the purity of the Torah education that
our children receive is one of the linchpins of our
educational system. The slightest damage to the integrity of
Torah's transmission can harm its special qualities. To
illustrate and explain this, Rabbi Grossman cited the story
of the deeds of Rav Chiya and the steps he took to ensure
that Torah would not be forgotten. He planted flax, made
nets, caught deer, gave their meat to orphans and used their
skins to write Torah, and then went to children and taught
them Torah. Why did he undertake this extensive preparation?
The Vilna Gaon explains that it is because if any step taken
involves some prohibited deed (for example if the production
is financed by an interest-bearing loan that is prohibited)
then the objects being prepared will be tainted and the Torah
transmission will be imperfect. By seeing that the production
of the seforim would be untainted by anything
forbidden, no impure spirit would rest upon the scrolls that
the children would learn from. It was in this way that he
ensured that Torah would not be forgotten in Israel.
HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman discusses the lesson conveyed by
the Gaon in one of his shmuessen (in Yimolei Pi
Tehiloshecho, pp. 242-3). He says, "This is addressed to
everybody. It concerns both a person's building and
perfecting himself and the education of his sons or pupils.
We must be aware that if something is tainted, it affects the
degree of success in Torah." Rav Steinman also quotes from
Even Shleimoh (perek 4,5, para 3) quoting the
Gaon who writes that the earlier scholars took such care to
avoid any harmful influence that they arranged to learn among
the trees. They were worried that Hashem's Shechinah
would not rest upon a house that men had built, or that
something else might have been done without holy
Let There be a Few but Let Them be Pure
The worry and concern voiced by Torah leaders over any
harmful influence, even indirect, upon Torah education, is
readily understood in the light of the idea expressed by the
Vilna Gaon and the Maharsha. How much more dangerous are
direct attempts to wrest control of timetables, curricula,
teacher training and the like!
The purity of Torah education was preserved even in times
when only a handful of parents were agreeable to raising
their children to study only Torah. Gedolei Yisroel
saw that the promise that Torah will never be forgotten would
be fulfilled through those individuals. They did everything
in their power to ensure that those few would absorb Torah in
complete purity so that they would be able to convey it to
future generations without compromising its integrity.
This is another lesson that they derived from Rabbi Chiya.
Examining his program with a view to efficiency, one would
readily see that there was great room for improvement. If
Rabbi Chiya would have spent the time that he devoted to
preparations to teaching instead, he could have reached far
more pupils than the handful that he was able to teach after
all his hard, time-consuming work. To put it more simply, the
returns don't seem to have justified the investment.
Rabbi Chiya demonstrated that where the aim is to ensure that
Torah is not forgotten, pupils must be taught in utter
purity, even if this means that there will only be a few of
them and even if the same resources could have been used to
reach many more but not in complete purity.
Quality, Not Quantity
This is the issue underlying the debate between the chareidi
community and the National Religious sector over education.
The latter decided to work within the secular educational
establishment, through the State Religious institutions which
are completely subject to the Ministry of Education and the
Yeshiva High Schools (yeshivot tichoniyot) that mix
the holy and the mundane, in the hope of bringing Judaism and
religious education to the masses. They wanted to stop "being
insular and solely preoccupied with one's own concerns."
Their attempt at reaching a broad sector has not paid off.
They distributed resources with an eye to big numbers, while
making compromises and reductions in the quality of the
education they were providing and ultimately, they even lost
The author of Chovos Halevovos writes that every
servant of Hashem must ensure that all his actions are "free
of fakery and of confusion" (Shaar Yichud Hamaaseh, perek
6). This must be the case even if quantity has to suffer
because of quality for, as the Chovos Halevovos continues, "a
small amount that is pure is a great deal and a large amount
that is impure is a little and has no purpose."
Referring to this idea the Alter of Kelm wrote, "I will tell
you something else that means a great deal to me. I have
already written to you that although those belonging to this
house are few in number, they are many in quality."
Elsewhere he wrote, "The truth is that wherever there is
excellence in quality the amount is small, as with the
Written Torah and the Oral Torah."
"To this day, I am far from wanting to increase our size but
I do want to raise our quality . . . and thankfully, I have
found a holy source in Chovos Halevovos, where it says
that, `A small amount that is pure is a great deal.' "
"Please note that from such a huge generation as lived at the
time of the Flood, there were only eight individuals who
served with their minds: Noach and his three sons and their
wives -- eight in all. Nevertheless, they were not
discouraged and they continued their intellectual service
gladly and willingly. Ultimately, they attained massive
proportions because the whole world was founded upon them . .
. " (quotations from Sefer Hazikoron Beis Kelm,
chapter entitled Rabbim Be'eichus).
Protecting the Meager Remnant
Making the same point, HaRav Shach zt'l cites Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai's statement: "I have seen people who
elevate themselves spiritually and they are few in number. If
there are a thousand of them, my son and I are among them; if
there are a hundred, my son and I are among them. If there
are two, they are my son and I." Even if the entire world
deteriorates leaving only two such individuals, they must
maintain their level and ignore the influence of the crushing
majority opposing them. In this respect they must be like
Avrohom Ovinu, who was called ho'ivri because he stood
on one side, alone in his faith, opposed by the rest of the
Rav Shach mentions this idea in several letters. Advising
someone against leaving yeshiva, he writes that "we maintain
the approach of our ancestors, guarding the flask that
contains a small amount that was prepared in holiness and
purity, rather than the large flask that was not prepared
with correct intentions" (letter dated the seventh of Tammuz
5749, Michtovim Umaamorim vol. IV).
"How the heart aches to see the trampling of that which is
holy by an individual [Editor's Note: Rabbi
Steinsaltz] who has been inspired by the yetzer hora
to pretend to have wisdom and write a commentary to the
gemora called The Elucidated and Vowelled
Talmud, incorporating various explanations that are meant
to make gemora study easier. Actually, such learning
removes every trace of holiness and faith. It renders
Shas a book of laws, like the gentiles' learning
R'l. It is clear that this approach will cause Torah
to be forgotten, chas vesholom. Nobody should argue
that this way [by gemora being difficult] there will
be fewer who learn, because our duty is to preserve the cruse
of pure oil in its purity, not to add that which is impure. A
little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness" (letter dated
erev Shabbos kodesh Pinchos 5749, ibid.)
End of Part II