Dear Rabbi Abenson
I had a little read through one of your articles and really enjoyed it! I could not help reading your view (or Rev Matisyohu Salamon’s view) against the idea of setting homework for children. In my school, the parents actually demand that homework be set so that the children will have something constructive to do when they get back from school!! How would you understand this approach?!
All the best,
Thank you for your email. I will try to give you an answer.
Dear Reb Nosson*
Please refer also to my first article regarding homework which was posted in the Lakewoodscoop. The link is ttps://thelakewoodscoop.com/2020/12/did-moshe-rabbeinu-set-homework-part-1-rabbi-dovid-abenson.html
For our part, we must be particularly wary of any practices which seem to equate Torah with secular studies. This sends a damaging message to our children. For example, there is an organization in America that publishes a yearly homework diary. The format equalizes Hebrew homework with English homework and camouflages it with Jewish ideas throughout the diary. In the child’s mind, there is Torah homework and English homework. Parents have to sign for both and the consequences for not doing the work are the same so Yiddishkeit is just another school subject. If you can be bad at math and hate history, then you could be “bad” at Chumash and “hate” Gemara. This is not chinuch.
I cannot stress enough that Torah learning should never be given as a punishment. If a student is not looking inside or doesn’t have their finger on the place in Chumash or Gemara during shiur, they may be punished by having to write out the passage. This only serves to build resentment towards the Torah and its disseminators. In my practice I have heard from parents who were punished this way as children and to this day cannot bear to look at those passages. To use Hashem’s holy Torah as a means of punishing a child is a literal chillul Hashem.
Regarding the argument that homework keeps kids busy in the evenings, I would re-emphasize Rav Mattisyahu Salomon’s approach that the home should be a place of refuge. Children need time to unwind from the stresses of the school day, to play, to bond with parents and siblings. All too often I hear from overwhelmed mothers with multiple kids of all ages trying to do the impossible: supervising the homework of several kids, whilst juggling the needs of the toddlers, babies, and preschoolers.
The rebbe thinks the homework is just 10 minutes but any parent can attest to the fact that it can take twice this long just to get the child to sit down with the Sefer and even longer to deal with the emotional meltdowns that can result if homework isn’t really “easy” for the child. Many parents resort to doing the homework themselves or hiring teenagers to supervise homework. Homework thus creates nightly chaos for many families and erodes the shalom in the home. Children would learn more effectively by day if the evenings were warm, loving times that fortified children for the day ahead.
*The name has been changed
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Rabbi Dovid Abenson can be contacted at: Tel. 15147393629, Cell/Whatsapp 15149935300, Email: [email protected]
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 Roshei HaYeshiva and Menahelim to improve students’ underdeveloped learning and textual skills.