Accept them with love – Part 2 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Dear Rabbi Abenson shlita

I enjoy reading your articles in the Jewish tribune*. I find the stories that you tell about your successful methods fascinating and inspiring.

Can you help me?

I was brought up in the non-Jewish school system, with an evening cheder session three times a week. I went on to take a degree at a prestigious university and only opened a Gemora in my 20s. I have had chavrusas since that time but still struggle with the Aramaic and the unpunctuated style of Gemora. I manage well with Rashi and Mishna Bruro. I do also have a vocabulary problem with Mishnayis but successfully use R’Kehati.

Today I am retired and I get by with my yeshiva-trained Chavrusos by preparing with Artscroll etc in advance. I live in a Chareidi Kehilla.

Although I realize that everyone’s learning session should be accompanied by advanced preparation, I would like to enhance my learning with greater fluency. This is particularly important now while my mental faculties are good.

Can you help me, please?

I am happy to give you more details about myself.

Kol Tuv

Mr. Y

We connected. I told him that I had tremendous respect for him, as after 50 years, he contacted me to learn Torah and I was humbly honored with such a request. I asked him if I could publicize his letter to inspire other Yidden around the world to never give up on Torah learning – it makes no difference how old one is, and what background one can still acquire the skills. He said for sure. However, when he shared his background on why he started at the age of 20 to learn Gemara, that saddened me. He told me his mother was a frum girl who had come over to England on the Kindertransport. She married, and when he was 5, she tried to put him into a religious primary school in London. He was rejected. His mother had no choice but to send him to a non-Jewish school. I now had even more respect for him, he stayed religious!

When I told my friend in shul the above story he was blown away and shared another sad story with me. He had a client, a highly educated nonreligious Jew, and he explained why he was not frum. His mother was religious and had come over from Hungary just after the war to Montreal, Canada. When she applied for him to go to a religious school, the Menahal told her that her son could only be accepted on the condition that she pays full tuition. She told him that as recent immigrants from Europe, they had no money. He refused to accept him and his mother was devastated and was forced to send him, their only child, to a non-Jewish school, that is how their whole family turned off Yiddishkeit to this day-70 years later.

There is a famous gemara in Sotah 47a

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן לְעוֹלָם תְּהֵא שְׂמֹאל דּוֹחָה וְיָמִין מְקָרֶבֶת

The Sages taught: It should always be the left, weaker, hand that pushes another away and the right, stronger, hand that draws him near… In other words, even when a student is rebuffed, he should be given the opportunity to return.

I just want to quote the last story that the Gemara brings down and that is the story of Jesus the Nazarene

When he came back to Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachya arrived at a certain inn. The innkeeper stood before him, honoring him considerably, and overall, they accorded him great honor. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peracḥya then sat and was praising them by saying: How beautiful is this inn. Jesus the Nazarene, one of his students, said to him: My teacher, but the eyes of the innkeeper’s wife are round. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya said to him: Wicked one, is this what you are engaged in, gazing at women? He brought out four hundred shofaros and excommunicated him.

Every day Jesus would come before him, but he would not accept his wish to return.

One day, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya was reciting Shema when Jesus came before him. He intended to accept him on this occasion, so he signaled to him with his hand to wait. Jesus thought he was rejecting him entirely. He therefore went and stood up a brick and worshiped it as an idol. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya said to him: Return from your sins. Jesus said to him: This is the tradition that I received from you: Anyone who sins and causes the masses to sin is not given the opportunity to repent. The Gemara explains how he caused the masses to sin: For the Master said: Jesus the Nazarene performed sorcery, and he incited the masses, and subverted the masses, and caused the Jewish people to sin.

Why did the sages place these incredible stories in the gemara? Does it not show a bad light on our great leader?

Our great sages wanted to teach us two important lessons. Number one no one is perfect. Secondly, if we make mistakes, learn from them, and never do the same mistake again because the consequences can be huge. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Peraḥya made a mistake, he rejected Jesus. A new Religion- Christianity was born then. We the Yidden have suffered being murdered oppressed raped for 2000 years by the Christians – all because of rejection.

The lesson is simple and clear as I already have mentioned in my previous article called “Accept them with love” and that is Rosh HaYeshivas, or Menahelim, as our leading Mechanchim and role models of today, must take the responsibility not to reject students because of financial, “ not our type” or “skin color” or “have no room” etc, applying to their Mosdos, thus making the child feel rejected for life and chalila, not wanting to remain part of Klal Yisroel.

Baseless hatred and hearsay and rejecting children from schools will keep us sitting on the floor yearning for the Bais HaMikdash!

This crisis of ”Rejection from school, Yeshiva, or Seminar” must stop once and for all. The stakes are too high!!!!


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Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah up to learning Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation, and training, and consults with school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.

*The Jewish Tribune newspaper is the only orthodox publication in England.

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