Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5763 - October 9, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Principles of the Teaching Profession: Let Us Create Worlds!

by HaRav Tzvi Shraga Grossbard, zt"l

"Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem" (Bereishis 6:8).

The Seforno (ibid.) comments that Noach's finding favor in Hashem's eyes, "is what saved his sons and daughters. He himself [i.e., his own zechus] was incapable of saving them but his finding favor in Hashem's eyes helped them. This is as the posuk writes: `Though these three men [referring to Noach, Doniel and Iyov -- see v. 14] were in it, as I live, says Hashem Elokim, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they alone shall be saved' (Yechezkel 14:16). [Their inability to save others] is because they did not teach those living in their times to recognize Hashem as Avrohom, Moshe, Shmuel, and those like them, did. It is as Chazal (Pesochim 87a) write that `Eilom [Doniel -- see Rashi, s.v. zu Eilom, and also Noach and Iyov] were zocheh to study but were not zocheh to teach.' Likewise Noach, although he rebuked [his generation] about their corrupt social behavior, he did not teach them to acknowledge Hashem's existence and walk in His ways. Although Noach was a complete tzaddik in what he thought and did, a tzaddik who perfects only himself can only save himself. If, on the other hand, someone perfects others too, he is capable of saving others. In such a case there is hope he will inspire them to do teshuvoh . . ."

"If tzadikim wish, they can create a world, as is written: `But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your Elokim' (Yeshaya 59:2)." Rashi (ibid.) explains: "If there were not any iniquities there would not be any separation." Without any aveiros people are similar to Hashem and can even create worlds!

Chazal have revealed to us a great secret that defines a Jew's duty in life. It might seem that man should mainly concern himself about how much he can accomplish in life, himself -- how much Torah he studies and how many mitzvos he does.

Chazal, however, have shown us man's real duty: Man must be a creator. He must be something like his Creator. Man must endeavor to reach this level and to draw up plans to help himself be like that. Without any aveiros separating him from Hashem he can create - - and this is his goal in life. For this goal man was created!

Although the zenith of being a creator is creating worlds similar to Hashem, that is its highest level. On the way up to that lofty summit there are infinite intermediate levels. Man's foremost task is to attain the essential kinyan in being a "creator" -- he should be someone who creates.

Now let us think into this a little. Is there a better field of activity for creating than education? Every educator, every teacher with his class, experiences excellent opportunities to create worlds! A teacher creates a whole world, a new being, a separate creation for every student for whom he has industriously applied himself to teach Torah and yiras Shomayim.

If a student is created through this chinuch we can logically say that the teacher is truly a creator. He is performing an ex nihilo creation -- yesh mei'ayin. Someone who is engaged in educating Jewish children not only has an enormous zechus and will be well-rewarded as Chazal have written on the posuk, "And those who turn many to righteousness are like the stars forever and ever" (Doniel 12:30 -- see Bovo Basra 8b that this posuk refers to melamdei tinokos), he essentially becomes a creator himself.

According to his capabilities he materializes the sublime goal for which he was created and adheres to Hashem's ways. Compare this with what the Chazon Ish writes in Kovetz Igros 1:76 in his letters to educators that "one must exert himself, constantly supervise what he is doing and be alert in creating a proper person and especially [in developing] a talmid."

We said a yesh mei'ayin creation. Perhaps the expression is not precise? No Jewish child is really ayin (nothing) since immediately when born a Divine spark is hidden within him. From the posuk, "But Elokim is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Tehillim 73:26) Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Yirmiyohu 272) expound that HaKodosh Boruch Hu is the heart of Yisroel. The innermost part of a Jew, the heart of a Jew's nefesh, is kevayochol HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself.

An educator's job is merely to expose the sometimes hidden and slumbering "spark" from under its external peel and elevate it from its potential stage to actual activity. He must blow in it a nishmas chaim. As a result of revealing that "spark," an elevated proper person will be created in the future. He will be a yorei Shomayim, a sholeim, a true ben Torah, and a talmid chochom.

How can this "spark" be revealed? It cannot be achieved solely by the negative -- that is, through reproach and discipline. It must be achieved mainly through inspiring students' hearts to draw nearer to the Divine radiance and genuine goodness. The negative "departing from evil" in chinuch should result from a positive "doing good" approach. The educator should continually strive to enrich his talmidim with Torah-oriented feelings and understanding. He must broaden his student's knowledge in both the Written and Oral Torah, and fertilize his thoughts with divrei Torah. The talmid's mind should be concentrated with pure and firm Torah principles so that he will be naturally attracted to what is good and sublime, just like vegetation is drawn towards the sun.

A positive chinuch, one that enriches basic Torah treasures, serves as a guarantee of an indelible, superb character.

A proof of the importance of achieving positive chinuch can be found in what we cited above from the Seforno about those who were "zocheh to study and were not zocheh to teach." Although they reprimanded the people living at their time, that was not considered "to teach." "Noach, although he rebuked [his generation] about their corrupt social behavior, did not teach them to acknowledge Hashem's existence and walk in His ways. Although he was a complete tzaddik in what he thought and what he did."

An educator is not one who only warns his talmidim to refrain from doing undesirable acts and rebukes them when they do something improper. Someone who shows his students the right path, who awakens their mind and heart until they themselves desire to cling to the Torah -- is a real educator.

The perception among the fortresses of Torah study, the yeshivos and other centers of Torah study, during the previous generation was that educators should primarily devote themselves to developing in students a strong desire -- "Let her breasts satisfy you at all times" (Mishlei 5:19) -- to study Torah.

These chinuch giants would employ all sorts of educational tactics to stimulate their talmidim's wisdom in deep Torah studies. They would train them to think more profoundly, to innovate, to evaluate logical statements, and to weave intricate edifices to reconcile difficulties and identify similar schools of thought. After such training, a talmid enjoys his Torah studies immensely. The time- proven principle of the Torah disseminators was: a person once privileged to taste the sweetness of the Torah, one who truly enjoyed his studies, will never depart from it -- "and you will be always ravished with her love" (ibid.).

In relation to this subject a Chassidic leader once spoke about certain methods aimed at rectifying designated bad character traits, one middoh or another. He said that in his opinion the emphasis should be on illuminating the Jewish nefesh until its flame rises by itself and consumes any bad trait.

He offered a parable to explain this: Two knights who were disloyal to the king were put into jail and lowered into a dim pit. Inside the pit they found another prisoner, a peasant, an ignorant uncouth farmer. When the time came to feed the prisoners the jailers brought them their food. The knights used a knife and a fork to eat as they were accustomed to their whole life, while the third captive ate like a wild animal without any signs of culture. One knight decided to teach the farmer some basic manners of proper eating. However, in the utter darkness that prevailed in the pit, the farmer could not see anything. He just did not understand anything the knight taught him. That knight's efforts were totally in vain. The knight asked for the help of the other knight in teaching the farmer. He answered: "While you were fruitlessly trying to explain to him how to act and what to do, I was trying to find a way to drill a small hole so that some light would enter the pit. It is dark here and if just a spark of light would penetrate, the farmer would himself see how to use the eating utensils."

The lesson this moshol is teaching us is that there is no benefit of teaching those who walk in darkness to uproot a certain middoh or bad habit if you do not change their essence itself. It is preferable to shine a strong light on them so that they will themselves see what is ruining their behavior and will understand what they should be wary of.

This is pertinent to our educators too. We must do all that is necessary so that the brilliant glow of Torah learning will shine on the talmidim, so that the shadows of materialism and the external surroundings will withdraw from them. They will then clutch on to the Torah's eternal spring and quench their soul's thirst from it. Teachers must find ways to transform their Tanach, gemora, and dinim lessons into a lively and appealing subject, to something the talmidim can derive pleasure and delight from, so that divrei Torah will taste like honey in their mouths.

In addition, teachers must devote time and activities to instill in the youth a love for talmidei chachomim and arouse within them a desire to continue studying in yeshivos kedoshos. The concept of "since they are our lives" must be absorbed by the child. Studying in a yeshiva must be the life- dream of every child educated by them.


I therefore want to outline two "requests" for the teachers. These are genuine demands that must actually be carried out. They are desperately needed to improve the quality of our educational efforts.

1) Educators should again realize their own self-worth. They should understand they are creating worlds and have been delegated an exalted duty. The students' parents are relying on them to succeed in their children's chinuch.

We suffer from a chronic lack of good heads in our field. Why? This is caused by a teacher's low status in society.

First of all, educators consider themselves of minor importance and this sets off a reaction so that others regard them in the same way. In many cases we suffer from a listless educational effort. Why? Because of the educator's feeling of despair if he forgets that he has a pivotal task in fashioning the spiritual image of the next generation.

If there is any task that insures the eternity of Yisroel it is first and foremost the chinuch of the new generation to Torah and yiras Shomayim. How suitable it is that we remember what the Pri Megodim wrote in a letter to a melameid: "I want to tell you, my dear friend the eminent melameid, to continue in your work and do not aspire to false honor. How fortunate is someone who teaches Torah to talmidim and brings them nearer to avodas Hashem. How fortunate is someone who teaches children lesheim Shomayim."

We must institute a revolution in the status and importance of melamdim in Torah chinuch. Each educator should be proud and delighted to have such a position. He must derive great spiritual satisfaction from his work and this should be apparent in his external appearance too. It is completely justified that he should serve as a source of kinas sofrim that will increase wisdom.

2) It is definitely necessary to enhance work ethics. It is unnecessary to point out that education is essentially different from other occupations. For example, it should be remembered that teaching has relatively short on-the-job hours -- 30 hours of work in a week (221 days of work in a year) -- in comparison to other professional workers. This is because it is understood that besides the time a teacher spends in class, he needs much additional time to think and study, to enhance his pedagogic methods, to prepare for classes, to help his talmidim after school hours, and to continually look for ways to make his lessons more effective. The work of an educator never ends when the school bell rings.

Only because of this have those who arranged the schedule for children given teachers such long vacations. Teachers should use these times for educational improvement, to attend lectures and courses (al taharas hakodesh) on teaching and to put in effort and thought how to promote their students' achievements. It is extremely doubtful whether a teacher who uses this vacation time for his personal needs only, for matters unrelated to chinuch, is acting properly.

We mentioned one detail above that indeed teaches us a great deal. A person whose duty is to create worlds, as mentioned above, cannot free himself by just working "according to the book." It is essential that he feel an internal link to the profession he is working in. Chinuch should be his chief concern and only then is he fitting to receive Heavenly assistance. The demand to improve work ethics in our camp certainly has a strong basis. Let us always remember that our work must be meleches shomayim.

HaRav Tzvi Shraga Grossbard was for many years the General Director of Chinuch Atzmai

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.