Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Father-Son Interaction

by HaRav Yehoshua Shklar

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 of study.

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 progress.

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 yiras Shomayim!

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 place.

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 itself.

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.

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