Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Cheshvan 5768 - November 1, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Reach For The Stars And You Won't Get Stuck In The Mud

By Rabbi N.Z. Grossman

The Unremitting Campaign

The campaign against Torah schools, yeshivas and kollelim takes various forms. The individuals who are behind the unceasing harassment, whether they belong to the government, the academic world or the legal system, are quite open in discussing their aims. They cannot bear witnessing the blossoming of the Torah world and seeing how thousands of families devote their lives to Torah.

Officially, they maintain that they are prepared to acknowledge the existence of the chareidi community, except for the clique of scholars. They cannot countenance the bombardment of every tender child with the message that he is expected to grow up into a Torah scholar, rooted in Torah study, with girls being taught to aspire to have husbands who are Torah scholars and build Torah homes. "There exist chareidi Jews who are not avreichim," they persistently tell us. "Why can't you educate your youngsters to take them as role models?"

This desperation to stifle the ambition to achieve Torah greatness has long been driving the campaign. Officials of the Treasury and the Ministry of Education, researchers at academic institutes and newspaper reporters all see it as their main duty to trumpet that message that a chareidi Jew does not have to dedicate his entire day to Torah study. Six years ago, Ha'aretz, which calls itself, "the newspaper for people who think," sent a photographer on a special trip to America to bring back a gallery of photographs of young chareidim occupied in different types of work, in order to "prove" that it's both possible and realistic.

We can't deal with the entire phenomenon here, so we'll cite just one idea that recent Torah leaders have expressed and its practical application.

Like Efraim and Menasheh

"Yisroel will bless through you [i.e. using you as an example] saying, `May Hashem make you like Efraim and like Menasheh' and he put Efraim before Menasheh" (Bereishis 48:20). The Targum Yonoson writes on this posuk, " `Yisroel will bless through you' — on the day of milah." Why is this blessing particularly relevant to the child's milah and after distinguishing Efraim and mentioning him first, what did Yaakov Ovinu add by mentioning Menasheh as well?"

The Ksav Sofer zy'a, explains that it is clear from several sources that Efraim's virtue was his greatness in Torah. It was Efraim who studied Torah with Yaakov, while Menasheh, while pious, was occupied with running his father's household. Efraim and Menasheh, says the Ksav Sofer, were like Yissochor and Zevulun. While Klal Yisroel needs both these types at all times, he points out that when we educate our children, the example that we hold up for them to emulate is the highest one, that of being a Yissochor or an Efraim.

The reason for this is simple. Whoever doesn't succeed at becoming a Yissochor can still be a Zevulun, a sincerely G-d- fearing Jew who earns a living and keeps fixed hours for Torah study. However, if we train our youngsters to aim for the path of Zevulun, they will never develop into Yissochors.

On the day of a child's bris, at the very beginning of his life as a Jew, we remind both him and ourselves that we expect the maximum from him. We want to see him grow exclusively in the tent of Torah like Yissochor and Efraim. Only if he tries this way first and in the fullness of time sees that he can't fulfill that sublime mission, should he be like Zevulun and Menasheh. Our first aspiration though, is to see him become Yissochor and Efraim. This wish can only be expressed at the very outset of a child's path in serving Hashem.

Responsibility for All Time

Rav Chaim Brisker zt'l makes the same point in a letter he wrote about how Klal Yisroel traditionally educates its youth. He stresses that every child should be taught Torah exclusively and trained to remain within the daled amos of halochoh. Reb Chaim warns that educating a child to mediocrity can pose a risk to his remaining a G-d-fearing Jew in later life. Only by striving to achieve the maximum can we be assured that in the event of its not being attained, the minimum required from a sincerely religious Jew will still be retained.

Reb Chaim's comments are brief. His talmid HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt'l, expanded and elucidated them in Bircas Shmuel (Kiddushin siman 27, in his well known "Teshuvoh to a certain Rav in Germany Concerning Torah Study"). "Please look at what my master and teacher, the true gaon and man of piety . . . Rav Chaim . . . writes in his article Torah's Path, against the wicked ones with their "methods." Fiery words will be found issuing from [his] lips [namely] that anyone who is niggardly with his son's Torah study and satisfies himself with the fact that he teaches him according to his own spurious ideas, is removing future generations from Hashem yisborach. Ultimately, either his family or the following generation will be Reformers.

"When one's son achieves greatness in [knowledge of] the holy Torah he will know how to avoid transgressing the prohibitions and their detailed laws and he will sacrifice himself for this and will ensure that his son too, becomes a Torah scholar. In this way, a father inculcates all his future generations with Torah, for all time. This is the meaning of the gemora's statement that `Anyone who teaches his son and his grandson Torah, it is as though he received it at Har Sinai,' meaning, it's as though he received it and implanted it within all his future generations.

"If however, one withholds Torah from his son, my teacher and master writes there that if he has never learned, how can the son be careful about observing the laws? He will become impoverished in his knowledge. And if the son isn't careful, will he teach the grandson? The result is that future generations will drift away from Torah, from pure faith and from holiness. My master and teacher writes that the first father himself is the one who removes his future generations from Torah. Woe to him!"

The Pious Householder

He writes further that the objection may be raised that there are numerous people who engage in a trade, who do not have great Torah knowledge but are still fine people who believe in Hashem yisborach. He responds that the point about such people is that they planned to be great Torah scholars because they learned wholeheartedly in cheder. Their abilities didn't enable them to realize their wishes but the very fact that they prepared themselves for a life of Torah is the cause of their remaining righteous and faithful. This is the gist of his holy message.

"His profound words negate the ideas of those who make all kinds of plans, arguing that their sole intention is that their son should be sincerely G-d-fearing and imagining that that is enough to save them from being taken to account for the bitter sin of causing him to neglect Torah. To this, my master and teacher said that the obligation to train one's son for Torah study is merely a means of raising him to be sincerely G-d-fearing. The way to achieve this is to raise his offspring to be geonim and Torah scholars. Since he is obligated to attach his son to Torah what will all the plans achieve? Ultimately he will separate his son from Torah and the end will be that he removes his descendants from belief in Hashem as well, becoming heretics, R'l."

Reb Chaim's message could not be clearer. Unless one raises one's offspring to dedication and the pursuit of Torah greatness, there is no knowing what might become of future generations. When we see pious householders, we must realize that they only survived with their Yiddishkeit intact because in their youth they aspired to become great Torah scholars. Where there is no ambition to attain the maximum, not even the minimum will remain.

Wild Grass in Our Garden

Our leaders, past and present have taught that this message must always guide us. This was the foundation upon which they built the Torah world and the chareidi community in Eretz Yisroel, that have yielded such fine results and earned the admiration of sincerely religious Jews the world over.

Another point should be mentioned in the present connection. The secular media devote attention to the phenomenon that they call "the new chareidim." These are Yidden on the fringe of our community who define themselves as chareidim but do not refrain from practices that our leaders frown upon, that constantly eat away at the barriers separating us from those who have strayed. A close examination of the matter reveals that its roots lie in their alienation from the concept of the "ben Torah" and its substitution with the idea of "chareidi" that is open to all kinds of confused and mistaken interpretations. The truth is that even the term "chareidi" doesn't encompass this new breed but to them at least, it sounds like an acceptable and bearable identity — they would never try to invent a "new ben Torah."

These folk are typical examples of those who have left the mainstream and have inwardly distanced themselves from identifying with and raising their children to be part of the "scholarly clique." If one tries to understand why this phenomenon is widespread in several places overseas, one reaches the conclusion that in Orthodox centers abroad too, the more Torahdik the community, the harder it is to find "new chareidim." Conversely, where the atmosphere is antagonistic to the idea of Torah life and there is no esteem for avreichim who devote their lives to Torah, the wild grass of the `new chareidim' grows in profusion.

For, as Reb Chaim writes, if a Yid doesn't thoroughly imbue himself and his family with the message that our main goal and ambition is to attain greatness in Torah, who knows what might become of him and his family?

This article was originally written three years ago. Unfortunately it is still as applicable today as when it was originally written.

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