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6 Cheshvan 5768 - October 18, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
The Chazon Ish on Educational Issues

Excerpts from a book by Rav Zvi Yabrov

"You cannot educate a child with lies"

Rebbetzin R. Kaufman was well-known in Bnei Brak for her devotion to children with educational problems. She had a G-d- given talent to deal with problems of this nature, and the Chazon Ish would sometimes refer children to her.

There was one child who grew up in her house, who had a good heart but behaved in a very odd way. For example, he only agreed to bentsch if the tablecloth would also "eat" and he would proceed to spread butter on the tablecloth. At first Rebbetzin Kaufman would not accede to his request, but eventually she decided that it was not possible to let the child go without food. She would often go to the Chazon Ish for advice on educational matters and on one such occasion she told him about the problem with the child. She claimed that the child in any case did not understand.

The Chazon Ish told her: "You have to tell him only the truth. You cannot educate a child with lies." (A tablecloth does not eat). She tried to argue with him, but the Chazon Ish would not change his mind. One of the Rebbetzin' Kaufman's grandsons who was present at that meeting, pretending not to understand, asked, "From where should the truth come?" The Chazon Ish gently replied, "The truth has to come from the inside!"

That boy touched the heart of the Chazon Ish as if he was his only child, and he invested a lot in him, as he did with all children who had special educational needs, more than with mainstream children. (From Mr. Avner Fuchsman)

"To educate a child to mitzvos, not to chilul Shabbos"

Mr. Shraga Spitzer recalls the following incident: "One Shabbos some people came from the Pardes Katz neighborhood to ask my uncle Yehuda Herzog z"l if he would agree to be the mohel for a baby whose bris was due that day bizmano, since the mohel who had been asked to perform the bris could not come.

After Mincha Gedoloh my uncle went to the Chazon Ish and I accompanied him on that visit. My uncle, explaining the situation, asked if his young son could carry his miloh instruments for him. The Chazon Ish asked his sister, Rebbetzin Kanievsky o"h, to bring a candy for the child. He gave it to him and asked him to make a brochoh on it. The child made a shehakol and we all answered omen. The Chazon Ish then said, `We have to educate children to mitzvos, not to chilul Shabbos!' He said that it was categorically forbidden for the child to carry the miloh instruments on Shabbos."

"My uncle asked what he should do in that case. The Chazon Ish replied that the bris could be postponed to Sunday. My uncle said again, `So what should I do?' and the Chazon Ish gave him the address of a non-Jew on the outskirts of Bnei Brak, saying that the goy could carry the instruments."

The uncle continued the story: "I went to the farm where the goy was meant to be, but did not find him. After a while I went back to the place and found the goy sleeping. I poured a cup of water on him to wake him up. After he finished uttering some curses, I hinted to him that he would receive his fees, and he agreed to take his horse and cart to the Zichron Meir neighborhood. He took the instruments and rode slowly while we followed him on foot all the way to where the bris was to take place."

Speak Gently

Rav Nochum Lasman zt"l recalled walking with the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak on Beis Hillel Street towards Volozhin Yeshiva, when the Chazon Ish told him that he did not understand how people could speak in a harsh manner when Chazal tell us (Gittin 6b) that "the three things which a man has to say to his household just before Shabbos commences, `Have you taken ma'aser? Have you placed the eruv? Light the lamp,' should be said by him gently (benichuso)." The Chazon Ish drew out the word benichuso, singing it lovingly. He added that a strident tone blocks up the listener's ear, and that only pleasantness could cause things to enter a person's ears! (From Rav Mordechai Weissfish, who heard this from his rov, HaRav Nochum Lasman).

He added that the Chazon Ish once saw a member of his household mixing cheese with butter on Shabbos. Other people would have shouted at this person, but the Chazon Ish made the equivalent of a loud noise by smiling, moving his fingers, and saying: "That's [the melochoh of] lishoh!"

"Mei'ikar hadin the neder does not need a hatoroh"

Rav Chaim Shenker recalled the following: "When I was in shiur alef in Yeshiva ketanoh, I had to undergo an X-ray examination of my lungs. I was worried about my state of health and made a neder to have kavonoh for every word of the Shemoneh Esrei if everything turned out all right. B"h I became better, and after a while I remembered the neder, which I was not observing! In my state of consternation I went to seek the advice of my rov, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkovitch, who went to ask the Chazon Ish what to do.

"The Chazon Ish replied that mei'ikar hadin I did not have to do hatoras nedorim, but I should do so." (He probably thought that the neder was analogous to a neder to go up to the heavens, that is, impossible.)

A Yeshiva bochur and Kibbud Eim

Rav Dovid Shapira recalled the following: "My mother o"h had to have an operation, and would need a lot of rest after it was completed. I was learning at a yeshiva in Yerushalayim at the time and wanted to move to a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, where my parents lived, so that I could go home easily whenever my help was required. My father did not agree to this suggestion, arguing that it would result in a lot of bitul Torah and that he would manage without me. I was worried that he would not manage without me.

"My father and I decided to go to the Chazon Ish for a din Torah about our disagreement. It was on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, two weeks before the Chazon Ish passed away. After musaf we approached him with our problem. He thought about it and said that I was right. `A yeshiva bochur is not exempt from the mitzvah of Kibbud Eim.' (Perhaps he said, `is not exempt from the mitzvah of chessed'). He concluded with a brochoh that Hashem should help and that I should not have a lot of bitul Torah. My father tried to convince the Chazon Ish that he was right, but he did not agree with him, and I moved to a yeshiva in Bnei Brak."

Rav Dovid Frankl zt"l related that the Chazon Ish was told about a boy (a famous talmid chochom today) who when he was learning Gittin went to one of the botei din to watch how they arranged a get. The Chazon Ish was very impressed and said: "Dos is a yingl" (That's some boy!). (From Rav M. Weissfish who heard this from his rov, Rav Frankl).

Rav Yitzchok Dovid Guttfarb once went to see the Chazon Ish and was told, "Go up to Ponovezh and you will see an interesting Yid, the Ponevezher Rov!" He went there and found the Ponevezher Rov rolling around on a mattress and then moving from one mattress to another. He was shocked at this sight and asked the rov to explain what he was doing. He replied that he was about to buy mattresses for some children in orphanages and he was checking which mattress would be the best to buy for them. Rav Yitzchok Dovid ran to the Chazon Ish, and told him what he had seen. The Chazon Ish replied, "A zoi darf sein — a zoi darf sein!" (From Rav Mordechai Weissfish).

"An Educator has the Din of a Mumcheh"

The educator Rav Shlomo Hoffman recalls the following: "I was involved in educating children from the Aliyat Hanoar at an institution in Bnei Brak. Some children aged 9 to 12 were having a bad influence on the other boys. They were not interested in any religious matters, and it was difficult to improve their attitude. I worked on them for about three months, and then decided that perhaps they had to be taken out of the institution. In those days this was a very difficult decision to make, and I went to the Chazon Ish to ask whether it was permitted to let them stay if they would chas vesholom be a bad influence on the other boys.

"This was during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvoh of 5707 (1946). He asked for more information about the children, and whether it was feasible that their situation would improve. He asked us for our opinion about the children and what we thought should be done. I dared to ask him why the Rov was asking us for our opinion. He replied, `An educator has the din of a mumcheh! Just like a doctor is considered a mumcheh for matters connected with a sick person on Yom Kippur and Shabbos, and we have to rule in reliance on his opinion, so too in educational matters, we have to first hear an educator's opinion.'

"I told him that based on my experience I felt that I could not influence them any more, and that they had to be taken out of the institution. I wanted to wait until after Yom Kippur before doing this, but he said, `If they are harming the others, they have to be taken out straight away.' I asked if this could be done using force (beyodayim), and he said, `Yes, beyodayim. You must only make sure that they will not move to an institution where they eat neveilos utreifos.'"

Testing talmidim

Rav Chaim Shenker remembered the following incident: The Chazon Ish would test talmidim in Tiferes Tziyon Yeshiva. On one occasion he asked a question which nobody answered. The rebbi, Rav Shraga Feivel Shteinberg realized that the talmidim did not want to answer because they thought that the Rov had asked a "difficult" question and they were unsure of the answer. He then asked the talmidim, "Tell me, what do we sweep a house with?" Then one of the boys understood that it had been an easy question and answered straight away.

During one of the tests held in his house for young talmidim the Chazon Ish asked one of the boys a question to which he did not know the answer. He then told him to take a gemora Kiddushin from the cupboard and asked him to read the following (30b): "The school of R. Yishmoel taught, `if this scoundrel [the yetzer hora] attacks you, lead him to the beis hamedrash: if he is of stone, he will dissolve; if iron, he will burst, for it says, `Is not my word like fire!'" Naturally, the talmid was given the feeling that he also knew something, and some years later the Rebbi went to the Chazon Ish and told him that that talmid had made a lot of progress. The Chazon Ish replied, "You can never know which maamar Chazal is meant for a specific neshomoh, to draw it closer to Hashem." (From Rav Meir Altman, who heard it from the Rebbi).

The 54th yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish is on 15 Cheshvan, 5768.

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