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29 Adar I 5768 - March 6, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Foundations of Education

by HaRav Nosson Einfeld

More interesting observations from HaRav Nosson Einfeld.

Negligence of Talmidim in Fulfilling Mitzvos

In Bircas Hamozone, Krias Shema, tefillah, bircas HaTorah, bircas HaShachar, krias HaMegillah, krias HaTorah, kiddush, and shnayim Mikra ve'echad Targum there is general neglect and disregard by a great percentage of talmidim, and surprisingly even by those after their bar mitzvah.

I saw a prominent cheder where most of the talmidim did not say birchos HaShachar at all. They come to the tefillah, speak all sorts of devorim beteilim, and begin from hodu or mizmor shir together with the shaliach tzibbur. I asked several students and they admitted they had become "used" to not saying brochos. Naturally, I spoke to those who head the cheder about this.

A seventeen-year-old boy said that from the fifth grade on he had never said brochos before the tefillah. He did not take his tefillah seriously. Until the fifth grade they would daven word by word with the teacher but in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade all the classes davened together. Most talmidim would forget about saying the brochos and in general would not daven properly. This is what that talmid told me.

These are not isolated occurrences. What happens there is widespread. I checked this over the years and have found it true about numerous talmidim.

Many talmidim do not know what kiddush really is. When I asked them, they answered that we make kiddush since we are obligated to drink wine on Shabbos. They did not even know that the Torah obligates us to say kiddush (and that using wine is only derabbonon) nor where the Torah commands us to make kiddush. Saying shnayim Mikra ve'echad Targum is very much neglected. I have written what I know without any shadow of doubt. Educators will benefit by examining these shortcomings of talmidim.

Seforim tell us that saying birchos HaTorah with kavonoh is a segulah to succeed in Torah studies. Some do not even know what veha'areiv no (sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth) means, and others study the whole day without saying birchos HaTorah, which is a grave sin, something that Chazal evaluate as causing the churban of the Beis Hamikdash. A number of students admitted they had difficulty listening to krias HaTorah and the Megilloh without missing out one word, although the poskim rule that one is not yotzei if one missed hearing even a single word in the Megilloh.

I once met a godol beTorah shlita at twelve o'clock and I could see he was in a great rush. He asked me whether I know of any shul where he could hear krias HaTorah since it seemed to him that he had not heard clearly some words.

One more important point. Many talmidim are confused which brochoh rishonoh or achronoh to say on foods. Many talmidim answered that after apples and pears we say a brochoh mei'ein sholosh of al ho'etz for a brochoh achronoh. This is not only because they are not proficient in hilchos brochos but because they do not make the brochoh at all. Boruch Hashem, at home we eat all different types of fruits and if we were careful to say a brochoh after each food we would surely know what brochoh achronoh to say. Try to make a "surprise test" on a dozen types of food and ask which brochoh rishonoh and achronoh should be said. You will then realize that widespread neglect exists in this area. And how do the talmidim say Bircas Hamozone? Please check this too.

We must take this matter seriously and decide to do something about it. We should talk extensively with talmidim about it, and not tire from discussing its importance, and not despair.

These are the foundations of chinuch and religion for the whole life. Someone who degrades these matters in his youth will remain so his whole life. It becomes a heter for him. The parents, who are responsible for their offspring, should be active partners in supervising the children's carefulness in the above. We must search for ways to rectify this problem.

I saw in some yeshiva that they have a special seder for putting on tefillin and saying birchos HaShachar until Hodu or mizmor shir. Their schedule reads that at 7:00 they put on tefillin and say brochos, and at 7:15 they start Hodu. It is commendable that they have delegated time for saying the brochos. Naturally there is a mashgiach to supervise this, since without such supervision the schedule is not worth much. Actually in many chadorim the talmidim complain that they do not have enough time to say brochos until the minyan starts Hodu and this is especially true for someone who comes a bit late. Setting fifteen minutes for brochos and putting on tefillin is a great help. If the tefillah of the talmidim will be strengthened we will merit siyata deShmaya, success, and nachas from our talmidim and children.

Rules About Hitting Children and Talmidim

1) One is forbidden to hit children when angry (which usually happens). "An angry person is compared to one who worships avodoh zorah."

2) We are also forbidden to hit children if done with cruelty, even if we are not angry.

3) The above is true also if a person hits a child or talmid who has done something wrong. Hitting children unjustifiably causes immense harm to their Torah education.

4) When a child is acting wildly and disrupts the class we must look for ways to restrain him. When no other way helps we should hit him with love and not with hatred. We should surely not hit him cruelly. Only on condition that the father or educator can control himself and is not at all angry is he allowed to punish in such a way.

5) We must hit the child in a place on his body where he will definitely not be harmed and it should be done with rachamim. I heard from an educator that he would wait five minutes before hitting a child so that he would be convinced he was not angry. The smallest mixture of anger forbids hitting a child.

In conclusion, a father and teacher must give the child the feeling that he loves him and is concerned only with his good (and not concerned with cooling down his personal anger, etc.). The child must be convinced that he has truly acted out of line so that even if severely punished he will accept it with understanding and justify it. He will only love his father and teacher more because of it.

This is what the posuk means "Someone who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him . . . (Mishlei 13:24)." Hitting a child while feeling real love for him is called proper disciplining through corporal punishment.

Bircas Hamozone is Like Shemoneh Esrei

"The Sefer Hachinuch writes that a person careful in saying Bircas Hamozone will have a respectful and abundant livelihood his whole life. Someone who wants to be especially meticulous in saying Bircas Hamozone should read it from a siddur or bentcher and not by heart" (Mishnah Berurah 183:8).

I would like to point out a certain halochoh concerning Bircas Hamozone that is not generally known. In Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim (chapter 183:8) Maran the Beis Yosef rules that Bircas Hamozone is like Shemoneh Esrei as far as hafsokoh (talking and hinting in the middle) is concerned: "Some say that speaking in the middle of Bircas Hamozone because one fears another person or must show him honor has the same halocho as Shemoneh Esrei (and you are not allowed to speak in those instances, unlike Krias Shema where you are allowed)." When the Mishnah Berurah writes "some say" he does not mean others disagree—see Kaf HaChaim 183:43 what he writes concerning this.

The simple halocho is that Bircas Hamozone is really like Shemoneh Esrei and one is prohibited to stop and talk during it even to answer Kedushoh, Borechu, Omen yehei Shmeih rabbah. This is how the Kaf HaChaim rules (184:45) in the name of several poskim. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 28:3) writes that "perhaps" one can answer Kedushoh, Borechu, Omen at the intervals of bein haperokim. The Beirur Halocho of HaRav Yechiel Zilber zt"l cites Maran the Chazon Ish who ruled halocho lema'aseh for a certain shul where people used to daven and that those who ate at the same time benched Bircas Hamozone should answer the above divrei kedushoh at bein haperokim. [In Shoneh Halochos of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky this halocho of the Chazon Ish is cited without adding "perhaps" and he surely is familiar with the above anecdote.] See the discussion of this halocho at length in the Birur Halocho.

At any event, no one disagrees that in general one must say Bircas Hamozone like Shemoneh Esrei. The whole disagreement is whether one can stop and answer Kedushoh, Borechu, Omen yehei Shmeih rabbah. As far as anything else is concerned, Bircas Hamozone equals Shemoneh Esrei and one must do nothing else while saying it, not even hinting with his hands or eyes or stopping to make any other movement. The Aruch HaShulchan (at the end of chapter 183) rules explicitly this way. [The Daas Torah in the name of Sha'arei Rachamim is doubtful whether one can answer omen when he is up to zochreinu in the ya'aleh veyovo of Bircas Hamozone.] This is so according to all opinions. The Mishnah Berurah writes this halocho without specifying the ruling on answering Borechu and Kedushoh, and it needs to be clarified what is his opinion.

A rosh yeshiva shlita thanked me warmly and said: "Yeyasher koach to you, HaRav Einfeld, for your pointing out that Bircas Hamozone has a halocho like tefillas Shemoneh Esrei. It never occurred to me (nisht derhert di halocho). I began to bentch better after understanding that." He initially argued with me that perhaps when the Mechabeir mentions Bircas Hamozone is equal to tefillah he means pesukei Dezimroh, but after he reexamined the halocho he admitted I am certainly correct. He concluded that one must undoubtedly be careful to say Bircas Hamozone as one says Shemoneh Esrei and thanked me. I heard that in a certain kollel a student in the name of the rosh kollel announced this halocho publicly and encouraged people to be careful about it.

We must induce people to bentch without interruptions since I have seen that many are not careful about this. People make all sorts of movements and hints during Bircas Hamozone and are not acquainted with this halocho. An eminent talmid chochom thanked me for telling him this halocho and said he did not notice it beforehand and never knew or heard of it before. Many have not heard of it. Many times it happens that talmidim come to me and ask what the halocho is when they do not remember whether they have bentched or not. I answer that I do not understand how one can forget if bentching is equal to Shemoneh Esrei. The answer is that they do not bench properly. They bench quickly and light- headedly. I have seen people in the middle of Bircas Hamozone go over and say nu, nu ... .... when they hear the phone ring. They also open the door when people knock or ring. This is surely not according to the halocho. It is as forbidden to do anything in the middle of Bircas Hamozone as it is in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei. It is a mitzvah to make this known to all.

My dear friend HaRav Chanina Shif shlita told me that at the home of the Beis Yisroel zt'l, the Gerrer Rebbe, during a Shabbos meal some people cleared the table in the middle of Bircas Hamozone. Afterward the Beis Yisroel shouted at them: "You are amei ha'oretz who do not know halocho. It says in the Shulchan Oruch that it is as forbidden to do anything in the middle of Bircas Hamozone as in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei." He warned them not do it again.

May we in the zchus of saying Bircas Hamozone according to the halocho merit the brochoh of kol tuv from the Sefer Hachinuch.

Combing Hair on Shabbos

In some homes people are lenient and allow girls and boys to comb their hair on Shabbos with hard brushes that tear out hairs. Someone told me: "We are accustomed to doing this and I do not know what to do to stop it."

Let us look into the halocho. The source is Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim (450:1) and the Mishnah Berurah (3) with the Bei'ur Halocho (s.v. al shtei sa'aros). In these sources we see explicitly that tearing two hairs is real chillul Shabbos. Tearing one hair is also forbidden by the Torah like any chatzi shiur. See also Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim 303:27 and the Mishnah Berurah 86 that write if one intends to tear out hairs, doing so is forbidden even with a soft brush. If one does not intend to tear hairs, it is permitted only with a soft brush that smooths the hair.

Due to our enormous sin we do not differentiate between the two and think only a comb is osur and use all sorts of hard brushes with iron teeth that tear out many hairs. This is real public chillul Shabbos. People are unaware of the grave issur they are doing. Chazal (Kiddushin 20a) write if a person has done an aveiroh twice it seems to him to be permissible. This is only if he has done it ten times, but if he has already done it many times it seems to him to be a mitzvah done lichovod Shabbos, Rachmono litzlan. The Mishnah Berurah (303:86) writes: "The Yeshuos Yaakov writes `I have seen people who are lenient to comb their hair on Shabbos and it has almost become a heter for them. How painful it is to see people scornfully profaning Shabbos. It is proper for every chochom in his city to warn against this and perhaps people will hear and take mussar.'"

In short, halocho lema'aseh, it is forbidden to use any brush that tears out hairs on Shabbos and therefore is muktzeh and forbidden to be moved on Shabbos.

The Mishnah Berurah writes in his introduction to Hilchos Shabbos that "it is known that observing Shabbos properly brings the Redemption nearer, as we see in the statement of Chazal that if Yisroel would observe two Shabbosim they would immediately be redeemed."

Shnayim Mikra Ve'echod Targum

I want to impress upon the talmidim the obligation to read shnayim Mikra ve'echod Targum of the parshas hashavu'a each week. It seems to me that not everyone is careful always to fulfill this. It is an explicit halocho in the gemora and the poskim and they write that its reward is long life. I will tell you an astonishing story that happened in Bnei Brak but we will use fictitious names. I learned from this story how meticulous we must be in fulfilling this halocho:

I have a friend, R' Reuven, who was not sufficiently careful in fulfilling this halocho. He was a busy and successful businessman who had little time all week to study Torah. On Shabbos he studied with hasmodoh and in depth, and therefore permitted himself not to read Shnayim Mikra ve'echod Targum on Shabbos. He asked me about this and I told him I had not found any poseik at all who permits not reading this. We have never heard that in order to study Torah diligently and in depth one can overlook this halocho that is similar to any other obligation in the Shulchan Oruch. He never told anyone else about his not fulfilling this halocho.

One day, my friend R' Shimon, a real yorei Shomayim, went over to R' Reuven and asked him, with no previous knowledge, whether he reads the parsha shnayim Mikra ve'echod Targum every week. R' Reuven was astounded by his question, was totally embarrassed and also a bit frightened. Because of his immense turmoil he answered in the affirmative.

Reuven then asked him, "Why do you suddenly ask me this?" Shimon answered: "This last Shabbos night I had a dream and understood that Shomayim are asking me why you are not saying shnayim Mikra. I therefore came to ask you if this is true. If you say you do fulfill it, it seems my dream was just plain nonsense. Please forgive me for the question."

R' Shimon walked away.

R' Reuven, however, remained stunned by the dream since he knew the truth. He realized this was a real shelichus from Heaven to warn him to be careful about this and there is no heter not to do it even when one studies Torah diligently. He did not have the courage to tell R' Shimon the truth, but the dream totally moved him.

He was so excited about what had happened that he came to me and told me about the dream, and that he sees in it a sign that he must stop using his "heter." He decided to be careful in this halocho. We both were stirred by this dream and discussed it at length. After we calmed down we decided to go to R' Shimon and tell him the whole truth.

R' Reuven gave R' Shimon a yeyasher koach for telling him the dream. R' Shimon said he never knew anything about R' Reuven's not saying shnayim Mikra and thought it was just a meaningless dream.

This is the whole story without any exaggerations or changes. This happened more than twenty years ago. R' Reuven and R' Shimon are still alive and live in Bnei Brak. I tell this story to talmidim so that they should realize the importance of saying shnayim Mikra ve'echod Targum. The truth is that we do not need a dream to prompt us to fulfill a halocho in Shulchan Oruch, but this did happen and it made a tremendous impression on me since I am well acquainted with both people involved in this story, and am sure that R' Shimon did not know that R' Reuven was not careful in this halocho.

Talmidim fail to take these three matters seriously. They should certainly be encouraged to strengthen themselves in these halochos.

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