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29 Sivan 5765 - July 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Proper Torah Chinuch

by HaRav Shimon Moshe Diskin

Part I

The kushya is well known: The gemora tells us that after the Maccabees defeated the Romans they found a jug of olive oil that was tohor in the Beis Hamikdosh that bore the seal of the Cohen Godol. Although that amount of olive oil was barely enough to burn one day, it miraculously burned for eight days, until new tohor olive oil was produced. But why was the miracle at all needed? The halocho is that tumah is permitted when a mitzvah of the tzibbur is concerned, and since all of Klal Yisroel needed the Menorah of the Beis Hamikdash, the Cohanim could have used even oil that was tomei.

Some of the later geonim resolved this famous question by arguing that although tumah is usually permitted for a tzibbur's needs, when the chinuch of the menorah is involved, the process of making it fit to be used in the Beis Hamikdosh for the avodoh, we can use only pure olive oil. Oil that is permitted merely because of a heter is unacceptable in such a case.

We understand from this that the chinuch of the klei kodesh of the Beis Hamikdash must be performed in an exemplary way.

The same is true with the chinuch of children. Although, when it is absolutely necessary in some extreme situations certain imperfections can be overlooked, when dealing with chinuch, Torah education, and especially a child's beginning steps, this is inconceivable. Chinuch must be al taharas hakodesh, without any compromises of bedi'eved because of current pressures. Only lechatchiloh is acceptable in chinuch.

Responsibility of Educators

Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 22:9) comment, "The voice of your brother's blood, that cries to me from the ground" (Bereishis 4:10), includes "his blood and that of his unborn children." By killing Hevel, Kayin was held culpable for the loss of all future generations. He destroyed an entire world.

In educating children too, parents and teachers have a special responsibility. Based on the way we teach a child Torah, yiras Shomayim, and middos, the chain of chinuch continues into the coming generations. A youngster's spiritual character is formed during his early years, and all that happens subsequently is dependent upon the solidity of this foundation.

It is told that in his youth someone who later became an eminent Torah activist visited the Chofetz Chaim. After the customary greetings, the Chofetz Chaim asked the visitor whether he was a Cohen. After the young boy answered in the negative, the Chofetz Chaim again asked him whether he was a Levi. He answered that he was not a Levi either.

Afterwards the Chofetz Chaim asked him, "Do you know why you are neither a Cohen nor a Levi?"

The guest was completely confused by this strange question, but since the Chofetz Chaim persisted in asking him, he answered that it was because his father was not a Cohen or Levi. The Chofetz Chaim continued asking: "And why was your father not a Cohen or a Levi?" The boy attempted to answer and said that was because his grandfather was not a Cohen or Levi.

At this the Chofetz Chaim asked him the same about his grandfather, and so on — until the Chofetz Chaim finally said: "I'll explain to you why you are not a Cohen or a Levi. It is because more than three thousand years ago, when Moshe stood up and cried out, `Whoever is for Hashem come to me,' your ancestors did not respond to his cry." Those who responded to the cry of, "Whoever is for Hashem come to me," merited a reward for themselves and for all their descendants thereafter: kehunah and leviyah.

We learn from this anecdote how much a person must be concerned with his own spiritual makeup and performance. An individual's character determines the circumstances of all his future generations. A father, who is obligated in chinuch, must realize that he is not only educating his children — he is also educating a whole line of later descendants. A whole world is in his hands.

Responsibility of Chinuch

First of all, a parent must understand that he is obligated to give his children chinuch. It is not a privilege; it is an obligation, a solemn duty.

A father is forbidden to educate his son in a way aimed at just making himself feel comfortable in his son's company. Sometimes parents fear that perhaps the son will advance so much in avodas Hashem that the father-son relationship will weaken and they will not have much in common. I do not deny that such an occurrence is painful, but a father is absolutely prohibited from thwarting a son from perfecting himself in avodoh because of such a consideration. He dare not obstruct his son's progress in this direction for the sake of his personal comfort.

He must recognize that he possesses a precious pikodon from Hashem, that a pure neshomoh was handed to him. A father must protect this neshomoh like a priceless pikodon given to him by a king, and meticulously fulfill his responsibility to guard it.

Let us envisage this in a more tangible fashion: If the son of a line of notable tzaddikim was put in one's custody, what extensive pains would he take in his education? He would constantly picture the great tzaddikim standing in front of him and doubtless he would do his best to educate the boy strictly according to their wishes.

How much more so must we be careful to concern ourself with the welfare of that Jewish neshomoh that is a pikodon to us from Hashem. Naturally we must take into account the prevailing environment. Even an exceptional chinuch, one that is pure and unsullied, can cause undesirable results when it is not suitable for its environment. We must also think of ways to expand the child's chinuch, but also keep in mind that we should not approach too near the risky border of overburdening him.

Keep Us From Mistakes!

There are parents who picture their children as a completion of themselves (and actually the Sefer Hachinuch, when discussing the mitzvos of inheritance, writes in such a way) and try to gain through their children what they themselves lacked in life. This view is in itself blessed, but it must be directed into the proper channel. Without directing this urge in the right way the child's chinuch will be flawed. This desire is in reality rooted in egotism: the parent feels that he himself is gaining what he missed, by way of giving it to his children. I do not discredit such a motivation, as long as it does not harm the child.

There are even conditions that, although they do not openly harm a child they do in fact interfere with his growth. A child who has become accustomed to a high standard of living will have difficulties if later when he is on his own, he must lower himself to a simpler standard. Living at a high standard does not necessarily harm a child, but it may thus later interfere with his growth. Also, it is well known that a person's length of life in Olam Hazeh is fixed, and if a person takes too much away from this time for his physical needs it will decrease his spiritual attainments.

On the other hand, when parents want to allot their children the means with which to grow in Torah and yiras Shomayim, and their children's nature is directed towards that aim, they will be blessed for that.

I must caution the public about another matter in which some parents fail. These parents feel that their children are like themselves, as they were when young. In their children's chinuch they reuse the techniques through which they themselves were educated and shaped. They do this under the assumption that if that way worked for them, it is suitable for their children as well. This may be a terrible mistake! Chinuch and the war against the yetzer must be tailor-shaped to the circumstances and spirit of the times, all of which change very rapidly nowadays.

The Chazon Ish compared a similar idea to a case of a general who succeeded by using an extraordinary military tactic in placing his cavalry forces in a certain array that was very successful in defeating the enemy. Later the ways of war changed. Instead of cavalry, motor vehicles began to be used extensively. However that general, when asked to lead the army again in another war, placed his horse-mounted cavalry in the same manner as had proved successful once before. The bitter results can be easily imagined.

The same is true in the war against the yetzer. Every now and then the tactics against it must be refreshed and changed. The yetzer hora too does not use only its older tactics. It constantly adapts them according to the power it has at the time.

End of Part I

HaRav Shimon Moshe Diskin zt'l was a rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Kol Torah in Yerushalayim. His yahrtzeit is 16 Tammuz.

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