Recent attempts by Israeli government bodies to interfere
with chareidi education have aroused renewed concern in our
community, as reported in our paper some weeks ago. Led by
HaRav Eliashiv, gedolei Yisroel stated that any
changes to Torah education must be resisted and fought with
determination. The preservation of the purity of the Torah
education that our children receive is one of the linchpins
of our educational system.
Torah is transmitted totally differently from any other
discipline. When a father dedicates his son to Torah, he does
not do so in the hope that his son will emerge years later as
a professor of Talmud; he hopes for much more than that. He
wants Torah to build his son's character and shape his
outlook on life. He is laying the foundations for his son's
future fulfillment of his spiritual mission in life.
The slightest damage to the integrity of Torah's transmission
can harm its special qualities -- its supreme importance,
equaling all other mitzvos and its unique role as protection
against the yetzer hora. The degree to which we must
guard against the slightest negative influence on the Torah
education that our children receive is shown by the way in
which the geonim of past generations elucidated the
following piece of Gemora.
Rabbi Chiya's Sublime Level
The Gemora (Bava Metzia 85) relates that Resh Lokish
used to mark the caves where Torah scholars were buried, but
was utterly unable to find Rabbi Chiya's cave. This dismayed
him greatly and he said, "Ribono Shel Olom, haven't I
debated Torah as prolifically as he did?"
A Heavenly voice told him, "You debated Torah as much as he
did but you didn't disseminate Torah to the extent that he
In his Chiddushim al Ho'agados, the Maharal writes,
"The fact that the cave was concealed from Resh Lokish
indicated that Rabbi Chiya had qualities of mind; intellect
is something which is separate from people, especially the
attribute of pilpul, whereby new knowledge is deduced
from that which exists.
"They told Resh Lokish that he hadn't disseminated Torah to
the same extent as Rabbi Chiya; spreading Torah signifies an
even more sublime intellect than pilpul. It is known
that one who bestows Torah upon his friend will have a place
in the Heavenly Academy, which is not the case with someone
who learns by himself, for that is the attribute of a person
who receives; Rabbi Chiya's cave was therefore concealed from
Disseminating Torah exceeds all other virtues; we pray daily
to merit the opportunity "to learn and to teach"
(Shacharis, Ahavoh Rabboh). Rabbi Chiya's Torah
dissemination was of an order that we cannot comprehend. He
arranged the Tosefta and taught numerous disciples.
Yet Chazal chose one particular example through which to
demonstrate the sublime nature of his deeds.
Rabbi Chiya declared that he worked to ensure that Torah
would not be forgotten, and he described the lengthy process
by which he did so. He sowed flax and made nets and traps
from the fibers. He used these to trap deer, whose meat he
distributed to orphans and whose skins he made into
parchment. He wrote out the five Chumashim and the six
orders of Mishnah and then went to places where there
were no teachers for the young children. He taught each
Chumash to one of five children and each seder
of Mishnah to one of six and told them that in his
absence they should teach what they had learned to each
other. Rebbi said, "How great are Rabbi Chiya's deeds!"
The Causes of Obstacles
The obvious question is why did Rabbi Chiya devote so much
time and effort to preparation before he actually began
teaching his young pupils? He could have purchased scrolls
that were already written, or blank parchments and given them
to a scribe to write on.
The Vilna Gaon extracted a lesson from Rabbi Chiya's practice
that applies to all methods of transmitting Torah. The
following version of this idea (of which several are cited in
Peninim Mishulchan HaGra by Rabbi Dov Eliach) appears
in the introduction to Toldos Yitzchok vol. I, on
Sefer Yetziroh by Rav Y. Cahana zt'l, a
talmid of Rav Yitzchok Isaac Chover zt'l.
"When Hashem's Aron, our teacher the Gaon z'l,
was taken, it was announced everywhere that he should not be
eulogized by anyone who wanted to do so -- at the very least
it should be only by people who had heard some Torah idea
from him. A certain godol said in his hesped,
`I heard a wonderful idea from his holy lips about . . .
Rabbi Chiya . . . Why did he go to all that trouble and why
was he praised to such an extent?
"`He z'l, said that Rabbi Chiya conveyed a lesson to
the people about how to go about teaching Torah or
[fulfilling] mitzvos. A person should ensure that the
yetzer hora doesn't anticipate him with regard to what
he intends to teach or to do, preventing him from doing it
properly or causing him to forget the Torah or, with a young
child starting to learn, making it difficult for him to
accept the yoke of Torah.
For example, if a person buys parchment to write Torah on, or
to teach a child from, it may be that the merchants lend
money for the paper which the [scribe] pays for with
interest, or some other forbidden business practice. Then, an
impure spirit comes to rest on the paper because of that
forbidden act. The writing can also involve prohibitions,
like doing work on Shabbos etc. Further [impurity] thus comes
to rest upon the volume that the child learns from,
preventing him from studying successfully, or causing
forgetfulness to overcome him, which happens because of the
sitra acharo, as is known.'
"`Rabbi Chiya referred to this when he said he would ensure
that Torah would not be forgotten. 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. Moreover, he
first imparted holiness to them through the mitzvos that were
done with them, giving the meat of the deer that he hunted
for the parchment to orphans. The holiness of the mitzva
attached itself to the preparation of the parchment for the
sefer. This is why Chazal praised Rabbi Chiya's deeds -
- because they would greatly assist the children in their
learning and prevent them -- and the Jewish nation -- from
forgetting Torah.' "
The Purest of Intentions
Rabbi Eliach quotes from handwritten notes by the Gaon's
talmidim (collected in Knesses Yisroel): "Our
teacher z'l said that the reason why our Torah is not
as successful as it was in their days is because our Torah
has an unstable foundation. The father wants his son to
become a scholar, while the teacher wants the money. Had
Rabbi Chiya gone to purchase ready-made parchment from a
scribe there would have been impure motivation involved. That
is why he did everything himself, hunting, tanning, making
the parchment, writing and teaching, so that there should be
no other interest involved and the foundation would be one of
The Maharsha (on Bava Metzia 85) explains this
Gemora along the same lines. He writes, "Everything
undertaken for Torah is for Heaven's sake, without any other
impure motivation or intention being involved. Had he bought
an animal for its skin, impure motivation would have been
involved because of the seller's intention. However, the
cultivation of the flax was carried out for the sake of Torah
and mitzvos, as he concluded, `I fed the meat to orphans . .
.' to the point where every child learned and taught, which
is the highest level of Torah. Thereby, Torah would not be
forgotten by Yisroel."
End of Part I