| Encore |

Encore: Chapter 20

"If you don’t have a feel for chinuch, you’re wasting your time. You need those instincts to be effective”


Once, Sholom Wasser had gone to a chinuch asifah. It was during school hours and he didn’t get the idea of missing giving shiur to learn how to be a better rebbi, but the menahel hadn’t given them a choice. All the rebbeim had to go, the menahel insisted, and he would serve as substitute teacher for the whole mesivta.

   In a Lakewood wedding hall, there had been iced coffee and platters of sushi on a side table and Sholom had felt odd there from the start: He wasn’t one of those clean-cut, smooth chinuch professionals shaking hands and backslapping, talking easily about techniques and approaches. 

He just wanted to be in the classroom, explaining the difference between when the Gemara says “Tanya” and when it says “Tnan,” easing Yitzy Blauer’s anxiety about the bechinah, and making sure that Aron Tzvi Pansky, who took pills and never had an appetite, remembered to eat something.

Instead, he was listening to a therapist in a fancy suit talk about boundaries. All around him, rebbeim were taking notes and he wondered if there was something wrong with him or with everyone else.

When the next speaker, a veteran menahel, was announced, there was a surge of anticipation in the room, rebbeim with gray beards moving their chairs up to hear better. Sholom decided to pay attention.

The menahel, who spoke in an intentionally low voice and looked like the type to throw out any rebbi who coughed during the speech, was talking about chinuch instincts.

“You can prepare, you can go to courses, you can daven for success — you can do it all, and you should do it all,” he said, “but if you don’t have a feel for chinuch, you’re wasting your time. You need those instincts to be effective.”

That had been it for Sholom Wasser, who mentally checked out and started preparing the next day’s shiur after that. Instincts were for other rebbeim, like Rabbi Kaufman, who never seemed to prepare and didn’t even know every boy’s first name, yet was widely considered the best rebbi in the school, the one parents requested, even after the menahel assured them that “Rabbi Wasser is a star, he puts his heart and soul into the boys.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 803)

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