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10 Shevat 5766 - February 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
A Letter About Torah Chinuch

By HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt'l — 23 Teves 5766, His Fifth Yahrtzeit

HaRav Gifter zt'l, was always an articulate and forceful spokesman for authentic Torah hashkofoh. Whether writing an essay or a letter, delivering a talk in the yeshiva, or an address at an Agudah convention, he always conveyed a pure Torah outlook on contemporary issues and affairs in the Jewish world, with sharpness and clarity.

His fondness for conveying lessons in the fundamentals of Jewish thought is evident in the following excerpt from a letter he wrote. "Although I have many things to attend to, among them preparations for the Yarchei Kallah in Monsey, for shiurim in halochoh and for shiurim in daas, there is one thing, by way of reply, for which I must set everything else aside. The Rambam makes the following comments in his Commentary to the Mishnah, at the end of the last mishnah in maseches Brochos. `This is not really the place for mentioning this, were it not for the fact that I intend to provide a little explanation since something relating to faith is mentioned. For conveying one of the fundamentals of our religion is more precious to me than anything else that I teach you.' "

To mark HaRav Gifter's fifth yahrtzeit we are publishing a handwritten letter that contains important principles concerning Torah education and faith in gedolei Torah.


I have been asked to give my opinion about a particular institution for girls' education in Yerushalayim, as to whether it is a worthy place for parents seeking a Torah education for girls, to send their daughters to.

1. One of the fundamentals of [Torah] education is to convey clear and lucid faith in the foundations of belief and of our religion to the pupil. This is only possible when a clear understanding of Torah's worth is conveyed to him. They must know that Torah is the life [force] of G-d's People — "for they are our lives and the length of our days." In other words, Torah contains everything necessary [to sustain our nation's life] — "turn around and around within it for everything is in it" (Ovos). Even though this constant occupation with Torah is the lot of males, who are obligated to fulfill the mitzvos of studying Torah and toiling in Torah, the Jewish daughter must also recognize that `everything is in it,' otherwise she will imagine that our holy Torah is deficient, chas vesholom.

2. It is impossible to appreciate Torah's value without appreciating the importance of the Torah sages of the generation, who are the ones who transmit Torah from Sinai to our own times. A person who recognizes the worth of Torah sages is connected to the Source of Torah, the Creator, Boruch Hu. If a person says that he appreciates Torah's worth but not the worth of its sages, his Torah springs from his own heart. This is not G-d's Torah; it is a false, spurious Torah.

3. Bearing this in mind, the type of person who is suited to be a rov, or a Torah teacher for boys or for girls, should be obvious — and how much more so the type of person suited to serve as the principal of an educational institution. If a principal has the titles, "Rabbi Dr." and was more of a "Dr." than he was a "Rabbi" even before he received his doctorate, it should be obvious that he does not possess the type of pure faith that we referred to.

4. If the principal is the type whose pen, in the guise of humility and the pursuit and love of peace, spews out views that denigrate Torah sages and their achievements, he obviously doesn't recognize the value of Torah sages and is unfit to educate Jewish daughters. It will be impossible for him to convey an appreciation of the generation's Torah sages to his students.

On an occasion that one such individual sought an audience with one of the gedolei Torah of the generation, the latter refused to receive him. As a result, the rejected principal responded by writing, " `Listen to your brethren' still appears in my Shulchan Oruch," which I view as a disgraceful slight to the honor of Torah and its scholars, that could only be perpetrated by someone tainted with heresy.

5. [Even] before I saw the comments of that godol, shlita, I was astonished by the institution's brochure, which I saw contains the heretical teachings of Bible criticism as a means of refuting heretical ideas. Can there be any doubt whatsoever that such a thing is absolutely forbidden? And how can anyone defend it by arguing that the program was formulated for the Ministry of Education [and therefore included Bible criticism to satisfy them] and not for roshei yeshiva? Is the Ministry of Education the only recipient of the brochure? It is sent to everyone who requests it, as is customary at all educational institutions. And not only those who ask for it — the institution also sends out its brochure together with other promotional literature to those who haven't requested it. It arrived in the office of the Telz Yeshiva without the yeshiva having asked for it.

6. I also saw there that Jewish daughters are taught halachos concerning agunos, mamzeirus and the like. I was amazed. Was this also formulated for the benefit of the Ministry of Education? Is one allowed to write for their sake that one's institution teaches heresy and denial? Whoever heard of such a thing from a person within whom pure faith wells up?

7. Anyone who has been educated in the ways of pure faith understands that practical lessons are supposed to be drawn from the fact that one of the generation's great Torah sages refuses to meet the institution's principal. That godol realized that after such a meeting things would be reported in his name that were never said and therefore he judged it preferable that there be no meeting. His position, which he clearly set out in writing, would thus remain firmly on record. He did not formulate his views out of irresponsibility or ignorance, or because he belongs to a Jewish party of intimidation as the principal charged — an accusation that shamefully insults Torah and its scholars.

8. Whatever the principal writes, or is said by others in the name of that godol hador, is worthless, as long as "Mar bar Rav Ashi's signature" is not affixed to it — as we know only too well.

9. Whether or not we have to accept that godol's authority is absolutely not the issue here. We find no difference of opinion among gedolei Torah on the matter. One of the gedolei hador has simply expressed his opinion of this institution, clearly enunciating his reasons. Anyone who asks whether we have to accept his authority is therefore really only asking whether we must believe him, and such a question is unbecoming for someone who has been educated in the concept of emunas chachomim.

10. I am amazed by the question you raise as to whether all the bitterness being directed at the institution and its principal might not stem from the fact that he didn't consult the Torah sages of the time when it was founded. Are gedolei Torah suspected of saying and writing untrue things because of a personal grudge against someone, chas vesholom? If so, you have undermined the entire Torah, chas vesholom. What's more, it actually is a point of principle that if a young man wishes to open an educational institution of a type of that was unknown to our forebears, he certainly ought to consult the Torah sages before putting his plans into action.

We should learn from our ancestors' example. Rav Chaim of Volozhin ztvk'l, did nothing to implement his plan to open his holy yeshiva — the "mother" of the Lithuanian yeshivos — before he'd consulted his teacher, Hashem's holy angel ztvk'l and received his consent. How much more so ought this to have been done in our case! The reason it was not done is only because our "Rabbi Dr." thinks that he is in a better position to understand our generation's needs, according to spirit of the times, than the Torah sages. This too smacks of heresy.

11. In the light of all the above it is clear how the practical question that you raised should be weighed.

12. I have set out my opinion on the questions that you put to me, on a separate sheet. I just wish to add one point here. The fact that girls who have graduated from this institution have married yeshiva students, etc., etc. means nothing. By the same token, we would never give our approval to a yeshiva where both holy and secular subjects are taught even if it turned out a student like Mar bar Rav Ashi. The truth, though, is that it's plainly impossible for a girl to graduate without some blemish that will unknowingly show itself later on in how her home is set up and how her children are educated. That we cannot discern such a blemish R'l at present is owing to the impurity of our own faith.

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