Chinuch Means Getting Results
There are mitzvos which must be done even without us
seeing any results. This specific act is what the Torah tells
us to do, so it makes no difference whether or not something
good will come of it, the mitzvah must always be done
nonetheless. In the case of chinuch the result is also
important. One's child has to emerge educated.
Chinuch is the most fundamental issue that affects
everyone, and everyone knows it. It was so even in earlier
generations, before the Torah was given. About Avrohom Ovinu
it is written, "For I know him because he instructs his
children and his household after him and they follow Hashem's
path . . ." ( Bereishis 18:19). Avrohom Ovinu already
knew that chinuch is fundamental.
Everyone knows that chinuch takes priority over
everything else. One can't build a home without it. If one
wants to raise children properly there has to be good
chinuch in the home. The Torah obligates a father to
train his sons.
There are some mitzvos that we are commanded to do without
knowing their purpose. This is simply how the Torah instructs
us to behave. It makes no difference whether the consequences
will be good or otherwise. Our duty is always to do the
mitzvah. Chazal (brochos 10) tell us that when King
Chizkiyohu fell ill, the novi Yeshayohu came to him
and told him that he would not recover because he had not
raised a family. Chizkiyohu replied that he did not marry
because he knew that the children that he would have would
not be righteous. The novi told him, "Why do you get
involved in Divine secrets? You should have done what you are
commanded to do and Hashem will do what He wants to do!"
One of the Torah's mitzvos is to beget a family. You must
fulfill the mitzvah and as to the results — they aren't
But there are mitzvos whose fulfillment does depend on the
outcome — chinuch, for example. The posuk
(Mishlei 29:17) says, "Reprove your son and he will
give you peace and will bring delight to your soul [with his
conduct]." The gemora (Makkos 8) notes that this
applies even to a son who learns. Even though one's son is a
good student it's a mitzvah to reprove him.
Is there a mitzvah to simply scold children, even when it's
unnecessary for their education? In truth though, the mitzvah
is the chinuch. With reproof a good student can become
even better, even though he was already good. It is a mitzvah
to reprove him so that he'll improve. There's certainly no
mitzvah in telling children off for no purpose.
If a parent knows that no good will come from scolding his
son then it is forbidden. The gemora tells us that a
father who strikes his grown son transgresses the sin of
causing someone else (his son) to stumble in sin. If he knows
that his child will challenge him and there will be no
educational benefit then there's no mitzvah.
Chinuch isn't a mitzvah like begetting a family, where
one doesn't have to concern oneself with the outcome, whether
the children will be good or not. The mitzvah is the
chinuch itself, meaning that the father's handling
should result in his child emerging well trained and
Since Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave fathers the
responsibility of raising their sons, they must know that the
mitzvah is not simply to scold the child but to ensure that
there is a successful outcome. Does one have to be a
professional educator to succeed? I know that in all, perhaps
only a handful of such people exist.
The outcome of one's efforts depends upon several factors,
principally, siyata deShmaya! When all is said and
done, educating children is not easy and by no means
straightforward. If then, not everyone is an expert at it,
how can the Torah command every father to train his son? Does
every father know how to do so?
Since a father's obligation is to see that his child emerges
trained, he can either do it himself if he knows how, or if
not, he can entrust his child to someone else who does know,
or consult such a person. The Torah instructs a father to
circumcise his son and if he can't do it himself, he must
engage a mohel. So it is with chinuch —
if he can, a father should train his child and if not, he
should seek someone who can, because the purpose is that his
son should be educated.
The idea of making a center where people can seek advice on
matters pertaining to chinuch is therefore a welcome
one. Sometimes a stricter approach is necessary, sometimes
the opposite. It's impossible to have everyone rely on his
own judgment. Particularly nowadays, people are very
preoccupied with all kinds of things, with their work, with
supporting their families and with other matters that often
make them annoyed and lead them to act without the necessary
thought or reflection. The results are then the opposite of
what their children's chinuch is supposed to
People come up against all kinds of problems, all because not
every person knows how to educate children. In situations
where a parent isn't calm, they cannot make a correct
judgment about what to do. Much reflection is needed.
People must be aware that all this is fundamental and they
shouldn't think that it's easy. It's therefore very important
to know how to handle every situation. A father might treat
his son in such a way that the son doesn't feel his father's
love for him. Even though his father does love him generally,
he sometimes does certain things that the son feels are not
being done out of love but out of anger and temper . . . that
cannot lead to the desired results.
This is very difficult, because usually, when a person sees
something wrong they become angry and act out of anger.
Chinuch that is given in an atmosphere of anger cannot
succeed. It's extremely difficult for a person to be calm and
tranquil in such situations. Great wisdom and tremendous
siyata deShmaya are therefore needed for
chinuch to yield successful results.
It is very good for parents to consult whoever they can, at
least to gain understanding and seek advice about what to do.
Through this, may Hakodosh Boruch Hu help us and may
we see the fulfillment of the posuk, "And all your
children will be learned in [the ways of] Hashem and your
sons will have much peace."
It's Not Enough to Call a Child Shmuel for Him to Become a
Shmuel — "I'll Bring Him to Hashem's House and He'll
Dwell There Forever" Must Also Be Fulfilled!
All parents have to know that if they want their children to
become genuine bnei Torah they must take steps to see
that right from the beginning, their entire education is
directed towards the goal of "and he will dwell there
forever" (Shmuel I, 1:22). Their child should be
someone who is brought "to Hashem's House and will dwell
The Yalkut Shimoni (Shmuel I, on posuk 1:23,
"But may Hashem fulfill the word about the lad") comments
that a Heavenly voice would go forth every day and spread
[lit. exploded] throughout the world saying, "A certain
tzaddik will arise in the future and his name is
Shmuel." Every woman who gave birth to a son would name him
Shmuel. Once they saw how the child behaved they would say,
"This is not [that] Shmuel." (It's unlikely that this is that
great tzaddik, whose arrival had to be announced
When Shmuel was born and his behavior was noted people said,
"We think that this is he." (They understood that this was
the tzaddik whom Heaven had announced.)
The problem here is that making an announcement that a
tzaddik is going to be born is without parallel. Every
generation has its righteous individuals. In all generations
there have been tremendously great tzaddikim and
prophets. Each generation has its own dynamics. Why all of a
sudden was there a need for such an announcement? And by a
Heavenly voice that Chazal tell us "spread throughout the
world," no less, not an ordinary one that ordinary folk can
merit hearing but one that "exploded" like a bomb! Everybody
heard that a tzaddik would be born who would be called
Shmuel and that he'd be that tzaddik.
What was Heaven trying to achieve here? Just to provide the
information that there'd be a tzaddik called Shmuel?
Fine — when he came along then people would know about
him. Why was it important to relate this in advance?
Apparently the intention was that everyone should strive to
have a son as righteous as Shmuel. Everyone had a chance to
merit it being his son. Otherwise, why make such an
"explosive" announcement for everyone to hear that a
tzaddik would be born?
What were people supposed to do about it? Some thought that
they would name their son Shmuel and that would be enough.
With the name Shmuel surely he could be that
But it doesn't work like that! The mere name Shmuel is no
help at all! The child has to be trained in a superlative way
that will produce a tzaddik like Shmuel. Had numerous
mothers raised their sons in a way that could produce such a
tzaddik, there might possibly have been a number of
tzaddikim like Shmuel. But in the event, nobody else
merited it, only Channah.
What did Channah and Elkanah in fact do to merit raising a
Shmuel? The posuk tells us that Channah pledged that
once her son was weaned she'd bring him to Hashem's House and
he'd dwell there forever. In other words, from the very
outset, all Shmuel's training was based upon him spending his
life dwelling "in Hashem's House forever," living a life of
holiness and purity there.
Nowadays there is no Beis Hamikdosh, but the
opportunity exists for youngsters to grow tremendously. Every
parent must know that if he wants his sons to be genuine
bnei Torah, measures have to be taken and he must
ensure that right from the beginning his son's education is
directed towards the goal of his dwelling "in Hashem's House
forever." He should deliver his son "to Hashem's House" and
his son's entire life should be centered upon Torah and
yiras Shomayim. Then, he will eventually merit his
sons growing into talmidei chachomim, tzaddikim and
yirei Shomayim. Otherwise . . ..
We Can't Let A Single Bochur Go
Every bochur in yeshiva, every neshomoh that
arrives in yeshiva, is the cream of Klal Yisroel's
youth. These are literally Klal Yisroel's precious
jewels . . . People must be aware that this is to be charged
with caring for gold — the most valuable gold that
exists in the world. Every Jewish soul! Each and every one is
a precious treasure that must be guarded carefully!
Sadly, in recent years, alongside the increase of Torah
study, boruch Hashem, the increase in numbers of
yeshivos and chadorim and the swelling of the ranks of
Torah students, boruch Hashem, there has also been an
heightened need for strengthening yiras Shomayim. I
don't mean to say that Torah doesn't need strengthening. It
does as well. But yiras Shomayim is in dire need of
We see that even though, boruch Hashem, there are
those who learn Torah, there are sometimes very distressing
instances of bochurim deteriorating in yiras
Shomayim. Although the yeshivos usually hold their own
and engage in all sorts of schemes to benefit the students,
we must be aware that it is simply impossible for us to give
up on a single Yiddishe bochur who can grow into a
talmid chochom, or an upright Jew. We can't let a
single bochur go. We must work on every single one.
It often happens that people mistakenly think that a good
student doesn't need supervision — that he's already
making his own way ahead. He learns, he arrives for
davening — he's okay! Then suddenly we see that
there's a crisis!
The truth is otherwise. We don't only need to look out for
the bochurim who are known as being weaker. A good
bochur also needs supervision — and it needs to
We can't let a single bochur go and we also can't give
up hope on a single bochur. We have to work very hard.
I don't mean to say choliloh vechas that this is not
being done. Every rosh yeshiva, every mashgiach and
every maggid shiur certainly makes an effort. But
there is a need for encouragement with everything. The more
we ourselves are encouraged the greater our ability will be
to rescue nefoshos.
Every yeshiva bochur, every neshomoh that
arrives in yeshiva, represents the cream of Klal
Yisroel's youth. These are literally Klal
Yisroel's precious jewels. Sadly, the vast majority of
Klal Yisroel . . .
How many bnei Torah are there left? Proportionally,
very few and these few must be guarded vigilantly! The
necessary degree of protection is so great that it can't even
be imagined. Everyone needs strengthening in this respect.
The gemora (Bovo Kama 62) says that if someone was
given a bag of money to look after and was told that it
contained silver when it really contained gold, if it was
stolen he can argue that he undertook to guard silver, and
not gold. A certain gaon once commented that if a
person is given ten thousand dollars to look after he'll be
very careful with it but if he knew that there was really a
hundred thousand dollars there he'd look after it
differently. Even though the lower sum also needs to be well
guarded, he'll take much greater care in looking after a
We have to know the value of a neshomoh, the treasure
that lies within each and every Yid ! If someone
doesn't understand this properly and thinks, "One
bochur, well, it's not terrible," it means that he's
not taking proper care. He has to know that he's been
entrusted with gold — the most precious gold that
exists in the world. Every Jewish soul, each one is a
precious treasure that needs to be very well guarded!
We Must Fight with All Our Strength Against the Attempts
to Intervene in Chinuch
Everyone knows how important chinuch is. It has always
been fundamental, not only in our generation but in every
generation. The posuk says about Avrohom Ovinu, "For I
know him, because he instructs his children and his household
after him [telling them] to follow the path of Hashem,
practicing fairness and justice so that Hashem will bring
what He has promised him upon Avrohom" (Bereishis
18:19). The Torah tells us that the main reason that
Hashem loves Avrohom Ovinu ("I know him" is an expression of
love) is because he instructs his children and household
after him to follow the path of Hashem.
There are other things that could have been said about
Avrohom Ovinu, for example, that he sacrificed himself to
oppose avodoh zora, even allowing himself to be cast
into a fiery furnace to demonstrate his faith. He was
unconcerned and he sacrificed himself. Yet the Torah
particularly stresses the fact that he trained his children
and his household to practice fairness and justice. This is
how the Torah praises Avrohom Ovinu.
In fact, some ask that while it is written that Avrohom Ovinu
influenced many people to adhere to serving Hashem, bringing
them close to the Shechinah by instructing them to
abandon the worship of their idols and all other vanities,
nothing has remained from all these people!
The answer is that since they did not train their own
offspring like Avrohom trained his, they had no continuity.
Even though they elevated themselves, there was no
continuation and nothing has remained.
Only Avrohom Ovinu knew the secret — that the main
thing is to train one's family. Therefore, "he educated his
children and his household after him to follow the path of
Hashem" and he has thus been perpetuated. Every generation,
until our own day, has a tradition and a connection going
back to Avrohom Ovinu and his path of practicing fairness and
justice that he implanted in his descendants.
Chinuch is thus first and foremost. Until now, Klal
Yisroel has indeed guarded chinuch like the apple
of its eye but sadly, there has recently been a breach
whereby they want to have a say in our chinuch as
well. Even though they have realized long ago that their own
chinuch is useless, they still want to be able to tell
us how to educate. We must certainly fight against this with
all our strength but our main point concerns the things that
are up to us. As to what concerns them, we certainly have
nothing to do with them . . .
The Torah Educator Holds the Key to the Jewish People's
When learning with talmidim, it happens to everyone
that one often forgets just what one is dealing with. The
mechanech doesn't realize that he has the foundation
of Klal Yisroel's coming generation with him. Children
are usually somewhat annoying, so the mechanech often
gets angry and yells. He can sometimes even say things that
are extremely hurtful! He forgets that he is holding Klal
Yisroel's "diamond" in his hand! All of Klal
Yisroel depends upon them. If he harms a soul, it can
sometimes take years for the hurt to heal!
Everyone certainly tries to do his job faithfully and to do
as much as he can, but a person is still human. He is
sometimes preoccupied (by all sorts of things) and he'll
forget what he's dealing with. The result is that he treats
chinuch as though it's a job like any other and
forgets that while teaching, he's not involved in ordinary
work but is working with neshomos, that can have
consequences for several generations! Doing the job well can
sometimes result in the emergence of souls that will later
illuminate the world, while on the other hand, the reverse
can inflict a wound that damages the soul.
A person must therefore always bear this uppermost in his
mind. Besides thinking about the actual subject matter that
he's teaching, he must think about the fact that he has "men"
in front of him. We're not talking here about some other job,
like repairing worldly goods. The talmidim before him
are the future of Klal Yisroel.
One should bear this in mind continually, as far as possible
and one should take great care, in the knowledge that Klal
Yisroel's future depends on this! The responsibility that
rests upon each individual is unimaginable.
(At a general meeting of mechanchim of Chinuch
The Importance of Children's Teachers
The world judges someone with a high-paying job as being
more important. This is precisely the reverse of the Torah
I once heard that the Chofetz Chaim demonstrated that the way
people think does not follow Torah ideas or a Torah outlook.
If a child damages someone, an ordinary person is of the
opinion that the father has to pay. Your child did damage!
If however a person's animal — his cat for example
— causes damage people think that he's not liable.
Torah law is exactly the opposite! If a cat causes damage its
owner has to pay, while if one's child caused damage his
father is not liable! This shows that the way people think is
opposed to the Torah outlook.
So it is with the status of teachers and educators. We see
from Chazal that a children's teacher is a very distinguished
position indeed. The gemora (Bovo Basra 8) says that
the posuk's words, "And those who provide merit for
the public are like stars forever" (Doniel 12:3),
refer to children's teachers. Chazal thus considered this a
very important charge.
In the eyes of the world at large however, someone who has a
job where he earns a lot of money has a higher status than a
teacher, because on the whole teachers are not wealthy and
have difficulty in making ends meet. This way of viewing
things is diametrically opposed to the Torah's outlook!
A person must learn to ignore the worldly outlook, because
this world is not the important one. The important world is
Olom Habo and all that matters there is what is
important to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. In Hashem's eyes,
those who teach Yiddishe kinder are extremely
A Melamed Should Learn a Little Mussar Before Going in to
Teach his Shiur
Children can gauge whether or not their teacher's words
are genuine. If what he says doesn't come from his heart, not
only is it ineffectual, it's harmful!
People should be aware that in education, everything hinges
upon the personality of the mechanech. Someone might
be a gifted speaker and talk about yiras Shomayim and
everything else that's important, but if the things he says
are not a reflection of his inner essence, if he himself is
at fault and the things he says are not in his own heart, in
other words, if he's not at the level that he's speaking
about and is only speaking this way because this is what one
needs to speak about — such talk has absolutely no
effect whatsoever! Students will not grow or develop from
If we want children to grow up to sincerely fear Hashem, to
be talmidei chachomim and to love Hashem, and to have
fine character traits, the person teaching them must also be
a somewhat higher type. It's impossible for him to be a low
character, possessing bad traits himself but speaking like a
tzaddik. Such talk will not help and will have no
influence at all. It is of prime importance to ensure that
the teacher's own personality is in order.
In Ohel Yaakov, the Dubno Maggid zt'l writes,
"When I was in Vilna with my teacher, namely rabbenu,
the pious gaon Rabbenu Eliyahu of Vilna zy'a, I
asked him what triggers spiritual effect and how a
tzaddik can bring his own fear of Heaven to have an
influence on his contemporaries.
"He replied with a parable of a large vessel that is
surrounded by small ones. You are standing and pouring into
the large vessel without stop. Like it or not, when the large
vessel becomes full and overflows, what flows out of it will
reach the smaller vessels around it. Before it itself is full
however, nothing at all will reach the adjacent vessels."
The Gaon is telling us that if one wants to influence others
before he himself is filled — in other words, if he
himself is not full of spirituality, of Torah and of yiras
Shomayim — he will be unable to do so. He can only
influence others after he himself has grown and has become a
more elevated character. Only then can he affect others! If
he hasn't done so, it is all in vain!!
A person can speak and speak and speak but the children have
a better idea than he does himself of his true level.
Children can gauge whether or not their teacher's words are
genuine. If they don't come from his heart, not only are they
ineffectual, they're harmful!
If a teacher can possibly learn a little mussar by
himself before he comes to teach, it is highly recommended.
What greater gaon was there than the Chasam Sofer
ztvk'l? Yet when he taught talmidim he would
learn a little from Chovos Halevovos at the beginning
of the shiur. Although he was learning with grown
bochurim, not with children, this is also relevant to
a children's teacher because everyone individually needs to
One doesn't have to learn Chovos Halevovos; there are
other good mussar works. The point is that it should
help him be on a slightly more elevated level when he goes in
to teach. The beneficial effect he'll have on his students
depends on this.
Love is a Fundamental of Chinuch
One of the fundamentals of chinuch is to draw
talmidim closer with love. The general rule is that
the closer a talmid is drawn, the greater the
likelihood of his being attracted to Torah.
The Chazon Ish ztvk'l once told me that the Chasam
Sofer ztvk'l did not want to make any external
demonstration of the great love that he bore his
talmidim. He said that people often have grievances
against a rov but they don't dare to take any action against
the rov himself. If however they knew how much the rov loves
his talmidim they would distress the talmidim
in order to cause the rov pain! That was the extent to which
he loved his talmidim. (I later found this in the
Chasam Sofer's biography.) The Chazon Ish wanted to cite this
as an example of the great love that one should bear one's
talmidim. That way, the talmid behaves
Weave Yiras Shomayim into the Study
The most important thing for teachers to pay attention to is
to see that whatever is being learned, yiras Shomayim
is also stressed. This is a major aspect of chinuch.
While one can't dwell only upon yiras Shomayim because
ground must be covered as well (gemora, Rashi, Tosafos,
Chumash Rashi and so on), while learning, the other
material care should be taken that a little yiras
Shomayim is also highlighted.
The teachers of yesteryear would imbue the children with
yiras Shomayim. This is very sorely needed, especially
in our generation — one that is so devoid of spiritual
content. So much Heavenly mercy is needed to ensure that they
should not choliloh vechas be influenced by the
street, that it is dreadful! We must imbue the
talmidim with the ability to withstand the influence
of the street by suffusing the atmosphere with yiras
Dwell On Interpersonal Dealings
Similarly, the area of interpersonal interaction must be
addressed first because lapses in this realm damage a
person's essence. When relations with other people have been
rectified, there is a chance of improvement in one's
relationship with Hashem but when a person is not behaving
correctly towards others, he is not conducting himself
properly towards Hashem either.
Train Young Children Not To Envy Others
Chazal say, "Jealousy among scholars increases wisdom." That
only applies to the jealousy of scholars i.e. teachers, but
jealousy among talmidim usually minimizes wisdom
instead of increasing it. Jealousy of a superior student
doesn't usually lead a weaker student to try and emulate him
but instead leads him to lose heart and be upset, thinking,
"What am I worth?" and be unable to bear the pain he feels
because of the other student's superiority.
This can be somewhat offset by training children from a young
age to know that they should never measure themselves against
other students. They should understand that just it doesn't
occur to anyone to be upset that he's not as great as Moshe
Rabbenu o'h , or as the Vilna Gaon zt'l. They
should realize that each person is supposed to become what he
is supposed to become, not to be like other students.
Everyone is endowed with his own particular abilities and his
own opportunities. If people would get used to not looking at
others and instead develop according to their own strengths,
everybody would be happy and would merit attaining what is in
their power to attain!
Even though children are trained to practice kindness towards
others, this is still insufficient. Talmidim should
not only be encouraged but it should be explained to them
that each individual was created to serve his Creator with
his own strengths.
This is certainly not an easy idea to absorb. Even adults
have a hard time accepting this, how much more so youngsters.
Nonetheless, if even a little of this feeling and this
awareness penetrates — not to look at others — it
can save a person. Everyone can then grow into a talmid
chochom and a yirei Shomayim and can attain great
This doesn't only affect youngsters. It is seen everywhere,
in yeshivos and in other institutions. One student's
particular success leads to jealousy and to all kinds of
negative consequences. The greatest happiness is to be found
in not looking at what others have but by considering instead
what one's own responsibilities are.