| Inbox |

Inbox: Issue 962

We hear so many stories about gedolim who were mediocre at best as children, and who later became role models for Klal Yisrael
Like an Equal [Man of Principle in the Halls of Power / Issue 960]

I appreciated the write-ups in honor of the 25th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Sherer ztz”l. They sparked a memory of mine from very early in my career as a graphic designer.
I was hired to help design the marketing materials and ticket order forms for the Siyum HaShas to be held for the first time in Madison Square Garden. I recall one specific meeting as if it were yesterday.
I was probably 20 years younger than anyone around that table of distinguished rabbanim and Agudah leaders. Rabbi Sherer treated me like an equal and insisted I sit next to him. Throughout the meeting he kept turning to me, asking for my opinions.

In hindsight, I realize he architected an audience for me. If Rabbi Sherer asked someone to speak, no one dared interrupt.
I left that room feeling and believing the success of the entire event was in my hands. There was no way I could let everyone around that table down.
I poured my heart and soul into that project, and I’m not really sure how to describe the incredible confidence I gained from that experience. But it propelled me forward and certainly translated to my growth both personally and professionally in my career.

Mordy Golding, Cedarhurst, NY


Stronger and Weaker [The Alef-Beis of Chinuch / Issue 960]

Rabbi Neuberger laments the “beis” yeshivos label, and offers reasons why an integrated system would be beneficial for all.

Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz ztz”l offers another consideration. He says that the metzuyanim will often be embarrassed to ask the rebbi to repeat the Gemara, because “es pass nisht” that they didn’t understand it the first time.

When, however, there are weaker children in the class, the rebbi will automatically repeat it for their sake, and in fact, everyone gains!



Effort More than Ability [The Alef-Beis of Chinuch / Issue 960]

I just read Rabbi Neuberger’s beautiful article in Mishpacha magazine about alef and beis mesivtas. The real issue, as he noted, is that once a child believes that he is in a slower group than his peers, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the school and his colleagues believe he is, in fact, weak.

In academics, being less intelligent might predict future success, but in Torah, this is patently false. This is already pointed out by the chacham m’kol adam, who writes in Mishlei, “ki Hashem yiten chochmah mipiv, daas u’tevunah.”

The Malbim and others point out that while one naturally needs intellectual ability to learn, it is really the yegiah, the effort, that is most important. For when Hashem sees the effort, He supplies the chochmah. It is not based on academics.

I am sure you have heard of this before, but it is not just a cute idea and some words of comfort. Many baalei kishron have not turned out to be the gedolei hador, and many illuyim were tremendous masmidim as well. Shlomo Hamelech himself only had the dream promising chochmah after fasting 40 days for it. It is not based on kishron.

This idea is important to teach children when they begin to mature. For convenience sake and common sense, we may need to begin educating based on kishron, but by all means they should be taught that this does not define their capabilities or their futures as talmedei chachamim in any way. Drill it into them that becoming a talmid chacham is not limited to the bright and the brilliant minds. If they would truly believe that, they wouldn’t be hindered by starting in a “beis class.”



Setting the Record Straight [The Alef-Beis of Chinuch / Issue 960]

Rabbi Neuberger makes a very strong point regarding today’s chinuch system and the sensitivity in labeling children. He cites three examples: a community in which all the mesivtas are competing for the alefs and denies beis bochurim a ticket to mesivta, and the ’70s in Boro Park where all bochurim were absorbed by the limited available options. Then he terms the city of Lakewood a “disaster” for not allowing entry to any mesivta-age beis bochurim.

Although no system is perfect, not the community denying bochurim a chance to learn in yeshivah, nor the the ’70s in Boro Park where many of the beis bochurim didn’t get enough attention and weren’t sufficiently motivated as they basked in the shadow of the smarter and stronger bochurim, please allow me to set the record straight about the third example — Lakewood.

Aside from the fact that I question why you felt compelled to call Lakewood (and not the other anonymous community) out by name, your description of “it’s a disaster” is simply not accurate.

There are close to 60 mesivtas in Lakewood, and it is a very competitive system with many flaws, but shutting out below-alefs is not one of them! Although some mesivtas say they can only accept alefs, as someone on the inside of this system, I can attest that there are hundreds of devoted rebbeim helping bochurim on multiple levels shteig. Every bochur who wants to learn is given a chance to be matzliach at a mesivta where he will get the necessary attention and nurturing that he needs.

Please contact me next time you are in Lakewood, and I will be happy to give you a tour of the beautiful and diverse yeshivos of our town.

Rabbi Sholom Gray, Rosh Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch


Top Tier Only [The Alef-Beis of Chinuch / Issue 960]

Writing now as a grandmother but having had sons who attended elementary over 45 years ago, I can tell you I am so happy they are not entangled in the current yeshivah system.

Children were not labeled then as now. Teachers taught to the middle of the class. If you were brighter, it came easier and you were luckier. In the middle you worked harder. If you were on the lower end, perhaps you received extra help.

Nowadays, it seems as if rebbeim only want to teach to the top tier. The goal is to get bochurim into a top mesivta as somehow this reflects on the standing of the school. It’s like a surgeon who only operates on those patients he’s assured he can cure but is unwilling to take the riskier cases as it affects his rating.

We hear so many stories about gedolim who were mediocre at best as children (not the ones who were geniuses at age three), and who later became role models for Klal Yisrael.

Every boy’s learning capabilities and intellect develop at different rates. In today’s society, even in education, there is no patience... no “let’s give it time and a chance.” Every parent and teacher wants their child to be happy and successful, but it should not be at the expense of denying the chance for children to be children.

Yes, my sons were products of the ’70s. Each one had their unique kishronos. I don’t even know if it would wash today to let each child have their own time.

Our children today are the future. Let’s instill in them a love of Yiddishkeit, of learning, of ameilus b’Torah. What they were at age 5, 10, or 15 is not what they wil be at age 30, 40, and 50. The goal of a yeshivah should be to produce caring members of the klal with good middos, who are good sons, husbands, and fathers — the rest will follow.

Let’s take the lessons of the fate of the students of Rabbi Akiva to heart. Let’s respect each one of our talmidim, no matter what level.

Hatzlachah to all,

An Anonymous Grandmother


A Good Night’s Sleep [Open Mic / Issue 960]

In his thought-provoking article about our diminishing ability to focus, Rabbi Yaakov Barr mentioned the problems caused by lack of sleep.

About a year ago, this magazine featured a lengthy mail war about excuses and judgments of yeshivah bochurim who do not wake up on time for minyan. While this very real problem is often viewed as a moral issue, nowhere did I see anyone ask the obvious question: How much sleep are these young men getting?

The truth is that human biology has not changed in the last 100 years — yet we somehow think we can operate on full mental, physical, and emotional capacity on less than seven to eight hours of sleep. Teens are at even more of a disadvantage, commonly needing nine hours of sleep, as well as having a later circadian cycle that pushes them to later bedtime and wakeup. Inadequate sleep will likely affect the ease of wakeups, as well as the ability to focus on the rigorous intellectual exercise of Torah learning.

There are many legitimate and holy reasons for the typical beis medrash schedule, but perhaps we should acknowledge that it does not easily lend itself to healthy sleep patterns (nor, for that matter, does the typical bein hazmanim schedule). For some bochurim this may not cause obvious repercussions, but perhaps consideration could be given to the benefits, both physical and ruchniusdig, of a good night’s sleep.

Chava Katz


The Missing Piece [A Friend in Need / Double Take – Issue 960]

Thank you for a delightful magazine.

As a veteran playgroup morah myself (and yes, baruch Hashem, my group fills up very fast), the Double Take in last week’s magazine really affected me. Although I really enjoy your magazine, I usually don’t love the Double Take. I know they are fictional and all that, but every single story is missing one (big) thing... daas Torah! There’s no rav or rebbetzin in any of these stories.

I personally experienced a similar situation to this story, when one year someone from my neighborhood called to register her child... after my group was full. She had a complicated situation that left me in a quandary.

When I discussed it with my rav, he said I had to take the child, and he would take responsibility for any fallout from the already-registered parents.  My rav transcribed a text for me to send out to the parents, which explained the situation without going into detail.

The child who was accepted was not the easiest child — yet that’s how Yidden should live. We don’t go by feelings or whims or anything like that. We go with daas Torah!

The fact that the mothers in the story were schmoozing (aka lashon hara-ing) about the teacher really rubbed me the wrong way. The morah doesn’t have to explain every last detail to everyone.

Personally, there have been many times over the years that I’ve had to discuss different work related issues with my rav. Baruch Hashem for rabbanim who guide us!

Morah M.


Initial Attraction [Second Thoughts / Issue 960]

I am confounded by Rabbi Feldman’s objection to associating fun to limud haTorah. Some of the most effective marbitzei Torah of our generation have attracted thousands of people to Torah learning by making it fun — Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, with his fascinating and very often, funny stories in the V’haarev Na series, and Reb Eli Stefansky, with his incredibly popular daf yomi, come immediately to mind.

I fail to understand why fun is different than any other shelo lishmah that we are commanded to embrace as a necessary first step (“l’olam yaaskon b’Torah shelo lishmah”).

No one ever said that Torah is nothing more than fun, chas v’shalom; these individuals are merely using fun as a means of attracting people to Torah — and for that I heartily applaud them.

Shmuel Minhahar


The Real Reward [The Moment / Issue 960]

I appreciate your highlighting (in this past week’s The Moment) the recent story from Doeihu. I, too, am an inspired daily reader of their emails on kedushah in the workplace (and I highly recommend everyone sign up at subscribe@doeihu.org).

While it was gratifying that the woman in the story made a lot of money from her scrupulous observance of hilchos yichud, I think it’s important to recognize that the chashivus of these stories isn’t when the person makes money or finds a better job later. The real reward is the gevurah a person internalizes when they make the decision to protect their own kedushah, and that exists regardless of how things play out.

I feel this is important to stress because not everyone who sacrifices for kedushah reasons necessarily finds a better paying job or wins the jackpot. But deciding to protect their values is ultimately the grand prize itself, because you’re staying true to who you are and what you believe in, and that’s worth more than any financial compensation.

This point was highlighted by Rosh Yeshivah Rav Aaron Lopiansky at this past year’s Agudah Convention. He related a story about a Bnei Brak yungerman who was “hired” to be a poll watcher during the most recent Israeli elections. He was excited to receive the 2,000 shekel government payment for just a few hours of work. This was as much as an entire month’s stipend from his kollel!

However, when he found out that the polling station that he was assigned to was in a non-chareidi section of town, he realized that he would be exposed to the pritzus of the general public throughout the day. No money was worth doing that, and he gave up the position.

The next day he was walking in the street and thinking about his decision when he looked down, and, as Rav Lopiansky put it: “No, he didn’t find 2,000 shekel and not even 200 shekel — he found himself.” He was proud of his decision to keep to his principles, and that was the greatest reward he could have received for withstanding the nisayon.

E. Kletsker


We Don’t Need Your Kindness [Inbox / Issue 958]

I’ve been reading the letters concerning out of town vs. in town, and I am extremely bothered by the overall attitude that exists among in-towners. I’ve actually been wanting to write a letter to Mishpacha since Purim, when the Kichels featured a paper plate mishloach manos under the heading “O.O.T.” Surprisingly, even in 2023 people just don’t know the reality of what’s going on outside their daled amos.

I just want to make a request of that letter-writer (and of anyone who echoes his sentiments) who wrote about all the sacrifices an out-of-towner must make if they are considered by an in-towner.

Please, please, I beg of you. If you are an in-towner who looks down at out-of-towners, and you cannot see past your own side to another, please take an in-town girl only.

I have a number of friends who have had such tzaros from mechutanim who were so “kind” as to take their daughters for their (sometimes older) sons. Once they got engaged, the mechutanim were extremely demanding — everything but everything had to be on their terms because doesn’t the out-of-towner owe them the entire world?!

If taking my family feels like a burden, please, spare us the headache and heartache.

And out-of-towners, I’m not telling you to stand on ceremony, but it’s your simchah, too. I hope no one makes you feel otherwise.



The Real Inconvenience [Inbox / Issue 958]

As a proud in-towner, spouse, and mother-in-law to a couple of out-of-towners, I’ve been following the discussion in response to Rabbi Besser’s “Going to Town” article with great interest.

I thought Rabbi Besser’s point was excellent! With that being said, I think it should have ended after the first paragraph, requesting that mothers consider out-of-town girls and not just make a decision based on location and convenience. Fair point!

When I originally read the article, in my mind the “inconveniences” were not referring to dating or wedding location. It’s the fact that it will now be a given that our children/grandchildren will often not be present at important moments throughout the year.

It is not so easy for parents when a young couple starts finding the traveling back and forth hard and lets you know that they will be spending the entire Yom Tov with the other side. How about when the couple lives in Eretz Yisrael, and you are expected to pay for the tickets from Eretz Yisrael and the tickets to/from the out-of-town community, only to have the couple with toddlers staying with you from a week “before” Pesach until the first flight out Chol Hamoed?

With our busy lives, we take Yom Tov family bonding time seriously. It is hard for us. True, it is still worthwhile to have such wonderful in-law children. But it is understandable that parents think twice about it. It is a commitment — and for the right one, a great investment.

As a general point, I think out-of-towners are wonderful, and I think in-towners are also great. I was a bit surprised how this topic prompted such negativity toward in-towners. Is this some sort of color war? They, we…. It’s hard for me to understand why talking negatively about full communities and groups of people is okay. Is it actually the case that most people in town are rude, not “really” machshiv Torah, not good cooks, inconsiderate, and unthoughtful?

There’s so much good and chesed going on in all our communities. Let’s try to focus on that and not build unnecessary walls of separation.

May everyone find their zivug b’karov, and may we all be living in town together in Yerushalayim!

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 962)

Oops! We could not locate your form.