Sunday, April 17, 2005

On Da'as Hedyot's pain (and mine)...

Da'as Hedyot posted something today which really hit home for me.

It's an issue that I touched on in a previous post, but he really said it far better than I did. Specifically, he talks about how his Yeshiva nearly drove him away from frumkeit. I hit home for me, because mine nearly did the same to me, and many of the issues that he touches upon in his post reflect what happened to me as well.

I find it interesting that it was the Yeshiva itself - the one thing that is supposed to help ensure that we grow up being Shomrei Torah U'Mitzovs - that nearly did us in. It wasn't (at least it wasn't for me) girls, drugs, television, violence, gangs or any of the other "outside influences" that one might expect to drag young men away from a frum lifestyle. It was the Yeshiva itself - simply because I wasn't their ideal student.

That leads us to the question - what is the role and purpose of the Yeshiva in the frum community? It is to produce talmidei chachamim and G'dolei Yisroel? Or is it to teach our children how to learn and how to perform the Mitzvos? And need the two goals be exclusive? In my yeshiva, that seemed to be the case. If one wasn't on the "star track," then one was given the impression that they weren't a good Jew. If you weren't going to learn full-time, then you were just a waste of effort on the Yeshiva's part.

But we have to face reality - not everyone is willing to, or is suited to, full-time learning. There are those of us who are going to grow up to try to be Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, but not talmeidi chachamim. We'll go through life doing as well as we can, trying to do better, but just as average people. But the Yeshiva world (at least the one I went to - and by judging the comments on my earlier post on the matter, others as well), we seem to be destined to be "written off." It seems that the Yeshivos are focusing on the "stars" at the expense of everyone else - and it's just plain wrong. The parents of the "stars" don't pay any more tuition than the rest of us. I certainly agree that if a child shows an aptitude in learning and a willingness to continue in it, he should be encouraged to do so and further challanged to do so. But the yeshivas have to be willing to put an effort into the others and not stigmatize them for not being true to themselves.

Good post, Da'as Hedyot. I thank you.

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

I've said it many times and I'll say it again.

The American yeshivishe yeshiva is modeled after the East European yeshivos of pre-WWII, which were Talmudic universities, plain and simple.

The Hedyot said...

You're welcome. There's a whole lot more where that came from!

Anonymous said...

I found this:

In 1951, R. Eliyahu Dessler (Mikhtav Me'Eliyahu, V. 3, pgs 355-60) wrote a
sharply worded teshuva regarding the inadvisability of establishing a
teacher's seminary which would issue academic degrees. Within that teshuva,
he wrote the following:

"...the philosophy of Yeshiva education is directed towards one objective
alone, to nurture Gedolei Torah and Yirei Shamayim in tandem. For this
reason university was prohibited to their students, because [the Gedolim]
could not see how to nurture Gedolei Torah unless they directed all
education towards Torah exclusively. However, do not think that they did not
know in advance that through this approach, G-d forbid, many (students) will
be ruined, since they will be unable to survive such an extreme position,
and [therefore] separate from the path of Torah. However, this is the price
that must be paid for [producing] Gedolei Torah."

"Of course, [the Gedolim] must keep watch to do what is possible to maintain
those who cannot be Bnei Torah, but not through means that will influence
those who remain [in Yeshiva]. For example, those who must leave... [should
become] storekeepers or other jobs that are not professional careers, which
require no [educational] preparation and do not attract the [other] students."


In other words: they know they are sacrificing people and chose to do it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well put wolfish! You expressed a lot of what I was thinking.

BrooklynWolf said...


I just don't have the words to respond to that. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me to be so *obvious* that it's wrong to do so...

I suppose one has to look at it in a cost/benefit type of manner. For example, one could require an infant seat on airplanes (thus forcing parents to buy an set for infants) in the name of safety. Surely, we are told, this will save lives, as an infant would be much safer in a crash (a ground crash, of course -- nothing's going to save an infant from a 20,000 drop) in an infant seat than in a parent's arms. So, the reasoning goes, if only one infant would be saved because of this, it would be worth it to enact the rule.

However, there is another factor that must be considered as well. If you force parents to purchase a seat, then more parents will balk at the extra cost and choose to drive somewhere for vacation instead. Driving, as we all know, is far more dangerous and deadly than flying. By forcing more families on the road, more children (and adults) will end up being killed as a result of the airplane infant seat rule. So, one can't simply look at the rule itself, one must analyze the whole cost/benefit calculation.

That being said, is it worth losing X number of people in K'lal Yisroel (and, likely their descendants) in order to produce a Gadol. IOW, what is the "cost" of a Gadol, and can we justify paying that price? How many neshamos is a Gadol worth? My heart tells me not one. Analytically...

I may expand on this in a future post. Thanks for bringing it to my attention Ron.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Thanks for the compliment farshideneh greenstein, but the thanks really goes to Da'as Hedyot, as he put it even better than I did.

The Wolf

orthomom said...

I agree that this may still be a problem in Brooklyn, but where I live, the problem is already being worked on. Except the problem in my sons' (admittedly enlightened) UO Yeshiva is that they are trying so hard to meet the needs of every student that the true "stars" are woefully underserved. Every other boy in the school is receiving special ed. services in some form or other (resource room, OT, PT, extra learning Rebbe, etc.). Grades are not stressed as important, and every boy is encouraged to do the "best he can". While this is laudable for the kids who would have floundered in the yeshivot such as you described, does it foster mediocrity in the "stars"? I have three boys, one of whom is excelling but not lifting a finger, one who is doing great but trying hard, and one who is doing OK with the help of the aforementioned special services. Am I happy that my son who need the help is getting it? Yes. Do I wish my "star" could be more challenged and nurtured? Yes on that one too. Something's gotta give.