In the wake of an article I once wrote about the parental
responsibility of taking an interest in their children's
study in yeshivos ketanos and gedolos, I
received many supportive letters thanking me for discussing
this topic in public. I was also requested to continue
emphasizing this subject since it directly concerns the
benefit our precious children derive from their institutions
A prominent gemora teacher with extensive experience
stressed that he and other teachers have noticed that after
a father has inquired about his son, their attitude to this
student naturally changes. Perhaps academically it would be
possible to argue whether this should be the case but no one
disagrees that fact is fact. Parental interaction with the
rosh yeshiva, the maggid shiur, the
rebbe, and the teacher definitely generates more
attention to the student and his educators will put more
effort into finding the correct way to help him.
There are many fathers who are moseir nefesh
personally to interest themselves in their sons'
achievements. One father from Monsey, New York, called up
his son's yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel each and every week to
ask about his progress. Another father traveled regularly
for quite a distance every Thursday afternoon to study with
his son until late at night to tangibly estimate his son's
weekly achievements. A third father, despite his physical
difficulties, would often travel to the different yeshivos
where his sons studied. There are indeed fathers who should
be commended for the effort they are putting into their
children's chinuch and surely these efforts will,
with Hashem's help, bear fruit.
Unfortunately there is another side to the coin. My heart
aches and I have difficulty in writing about the total
indifference we see from some parents. Of necessity to
illustrate this unfavorable situation I will cite some
painful examples. Perhaps publicly addressing this issue
will effect a radical change by some parents and encourage
them to strengthen the ties with their children's educators.
Close contact with the ram of the yeshivos
ketanos is of paramount importance.
One ram from a prestigious yeshiva told me about a
menahel ruchani who meets frequently with the father
of a boy studying in his yeshiva about other matters.
Nevertheless not even once, in all the years, did the father
ever initiate a conversation with him about his son's study,
yiras Shomayim, or tefilloh.
Another ram told me that of the forty talmidim
studying in his shiur there are perhaps two parents
who spoke to him during the year about their son's
If concerning a boy's growth in iyun there is little
parental intervention, there is an almost total disinterest
in their son's attaining a comprehensive knowledge of
gemora in the afternoon or evening bekiyus
study. The ramim of bekiyus complain bitterly
that their shiur is considered by the parents of
secondary importance since it is not iyun. They are
deeply hurt by this unfair (and incorrect) attitude. Their
sons study bekiyus for several hours every afternoon
and it is a shame that they are not helped to advance as far
as they could.
In brief, it is possible that a boy can enter a yeshiva
ketanoh, then a yeshiva gedoloh, and until he is
a chosson under the chuppah the father will
not be even remotely aware of his son's standing in Torah or
It disturbs me terribly to touch on another sensitive point
but again the urgency of it forces me to do so. On my
occasional trips to Yerushalayim I visit a yeshiva for drop-
outs from all sorts of regular yeshivos. The Rosh Yeshiva
shlita, who has a sympathetic heart for these boys,
works with extraordinary mesirus nefesh trying his
best to enable them to return to mainstream yeshivos. With
real pain I am writing these lines. Many of these boys greet
me when I visit the yeshivos since they are acquainted with
me from the time they studied in cheders, Chinuch
Atzmai, or schools where I tested them.
Believe me, dear readers, I would never have thought that
these particular boys would find themselves in such a
terrible educational plight. Who knows . . . perhaps if the
parents would have taken a little more interest in what
their sons are doing, if they would have asked about their
progress and would have thought of ways to help them, they
would not have had to come to such a yeshiva in the first
This yeshiva for dropouts has recently moved to a new, more
spacious building. The previous building was far too small
to accommodate all the boys studying there. I think that
this particular yeshiva's accelerated development speaks for
In relation to this subject I must point out that there is a
certain laxity on the side of parents to study with their
children on Shabbos when the father and son are together for
many hours. Usually on erev Shabbos the educator
sends a written report with each talmid every week as
to how much progress his class has made during the week.
Each Sunday a special teacher, a bochein, enters the
classes and tests the students' progress. The class's
teacher expects and happily hopes that on Shabbos each
father will study and review with his son what they have
studied the whole week so that they answer correctly the
questions on the Sunday test. How distressing it is when the
teacher sees that a number of his students have not reviewed
the material with their fathers and are not ready for the
test. With no choice the teacher postpones the test until
Monday and takes time from the class to review last week's
studies with them.
I do not suspect these fathers of wasting time on Shabbos.
Surely each father has his own gemora to study,
either what he studies in his kollel or in a Daf
Hayomi program, but they must remember that they are
also obliged in "You shall teach your sons," which is a
mitzvas aseih of the Torah.
Parenthetically, I want to point out that studying with
children on Shabbos should not be a dry, superficial study.
It should be done while critically analyzing the
gemora, in a thorough manner while adding a fine
reasoning, a nice chidush, something that will
stimulate the child and encourage him to put more effort
into his study.
Sometimes children do not want to study with their fathers
even though they are capable of doing so. This happens
usually when the children are a little older. The obvious
question is why does this happen? The father, of course,
because of his son's reluctance to study with him, must
arrange for someone else. Needless to say this arrangement
can be quite costly.
The reason is simple. It all depends how the father studied
with his son over the years. There are fathers who, ever
since the child started cheder and Chumash
Bereishis, showed a strong desire to study with them.
The father would sit calmly down with his son opposite him
and review, stage after stage, what his son studied during
the week. He patiently explained the Chumash to his
son who was pleased and actually enjoyed this study. It was
an experience he would eagerly look forward to each week. As
the son grows older and is in higher classes, it will be
natural that the son will want his father to continue
studying with him and helping him.
Again we are not referring to a tedious, grueling study,
with a young child just starting Chumash, but rather
of one full of simchah and accomplished in an
engaging way. The child's interest must be keened with an
interesting peirush and with intriguing questions so
that he will cherish this time with his father.
What happens when all these elements are missing, and a
father does not start studying with his son in the way
described above? Eventually the child reaches higher classes
and he studies deeper material, the amount of time to be put
into studying with his father increases, and he needs his
father's help much more. The son, however, refuses to study
with his father. He misses the pleasure and love that should
accompany this study. Actually he is not accustomed to
studying with his father in a pleasant and fatherly manner
but feels as if he is being pressured by a drill sergeant. A
crisis of insufficient parental connection occurs during
these fateful years.
I want to touch on another major point: utilizing the time a
yeshiva student stays at home, be it evenings, on Shabbos,
or during bein hazmanim. During this time the father
has a golden opportunity to evaluate his son's progress. It
is surely worthwhile for the father to be somewhat
acquainted with the gemora his son is studying in the
yeshiva, or at least the dapim his son is studying,
so he can discuss difficulties in the gemora with him
and hear what his Rosh Yeshiva was mechadeish in the
shiur. The main gain in that is his son's seeing that
his father has taken a serious and compassionate interest in
his studies. As a result the son will accept the
mussar and advice his father offers. Understandably
since the father is well acquainted with his son's condition
he will seek advice from the roshei yeshiva when
there is a special need for specific help.
This refers also to Shabbos and yom tov meals. It is
rewarding to request of his sons studying in yeshivos to
repeat some commentary or original explanation of the
parshah or the particular yom tov that they
are celebrating. Knowing that their father expects this from
them the sons will prepare some vort on the yom
tov or its halochos before coming home. In this
way the atmosphere in his home with the precious children
who have returned from the yeshivos is filled with
satisfaction. The father discusses the sugyos studied
in the yeshiva with his sons, the specific halochos
of that chag, the parshas hashavua, and in
that way too the bond between the father and son is
strengthened each time.