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
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
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
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
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