In Defense Of The System – A Response

[The following was submitted by an LMSW in response to comments on the Tolner Rebbe’s Chinuch video] All of the comments I have read are passionate and true. However, I feel a little bit of the other side is in order. As Jews we believe that our purpose on earth is to become closer to god in the best way possible using our god given talents and limitations. The issue is not learning or working but that we should become more spiritual and less physical. Learning the Torah is to learn from god and about god and that is the only way to truly perfect ourselves in the way designed and desired by the almighty.

Our school systems understand this absolute truth and work their hardest on installing these values and truths to the children.

Nobody means to decry, vilify or put down those unable to spend all their life devoted to god and his Torah however the message still must be to shoot for the stars.

It is unfortunate that those who are unable feel bad and incapable and therapy or proper guidance is needed for them to realize their own particular possibilities and path in life. However it is simple minded to Blame the system for this.

Our values and deepest desires must be passed over to our children. Our deepest values should be that our children feel a desire to connect to gid and to do their utmost to accomplish that.

In today’s age how many failures are really incapable and how many are merely a product of an environment that perhaps didn’t see the light and scorned the true values?

Unfortunately many parents who didn’t make it in learning the way their parents taught feel necessary to be negative on the system blaming their failings and shortcomings on the rabbanim and the system .

All of our gedoilim would gladly show love acceptance and appreciation to their children who were incapable of following the preferred path but that doesn’t mean they didn’t prey, sacrifice and do whatever it took to help them reach what they feel and know to be the ultimate purpose in life.

An analogy is appropriate to success in the business world. Parents who truly believe that hard work and preparation ultimately leads to money , success and stability send that message in every way possible sometimes even at the detriment to their child. Why? Because they believe success and money to be the source of their child’s happiness. So what of the incapable child?? The parent sees this child as incapable of true success and understands that as a result of his failures he may feel inadequate but to give up preaching or trying is to seal our children for a life of unhappiness. Whatever happens they continue trying to persuade their child along a path of monetary success.

The Torah world is no different.

They know success to be defined by blaat learned and mitsvos accomplished and that worldly struggles are vehicles to true growth. A child who is incapable can be given the message that he can’t achieve a true connection to god so he might as well achieve physical happiness or that he can keep trying and do his best, Installing the message that we believe in their abilities and reinforcing the concept that growth is measured only by god based on ones talents and abilities. Such a child will be faced with struggles and inferiority but can overcome and succeed spiritually even if this means working and learning on the side. However why give up prematurely ??

I believe that most who are upset at the system are really upset at their own life’s and the feelings they face every day and are not really focused on their children’s best interests.

I would like to to see the rav or godol with a challenging child challenge the system.

Tellingly it is not so!

It is only those with personal beef that attack the system with the argument of saving our children

At the end of the day all of these arguments are personal and subjective merely reflective of ones status and emotional level and are not based on real and absolute care concern and truth.

The only true way is to be honest and to follow the path of the Torah. Those who succeed great and those who don’t can be taught to succeed in ther own way. As far as the feelings of inferiority? That is an unfortunate consequence of trying to attain worthy levels that are hard to reach. That doesn’t mean thy we should change our values and ideals and preach that which is inaccurate or incorrect.

I agree that all children must feel able and successful but I believe that the old system that follows generations of tora greats is the right way of course coupled with genuine care concern and love for our children.

This content, and any other content on TLS, may not be republished or reproduced without prior permission from TLS. Copying or reproducing our content is both against the law and against Halacha. To inquire about using our content, including videos or photos, email us at [email protected].

Stay up to date with our news alerts by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

**Click here to join over 15,000 receiving our Whatsapp Status updates!**

**Click here to join the official TLS WhatsApp Community!**

Got a news tip? Email us at [email protected], Text 415-857-2667, or WhatsApp 609-661-8668.


  1. This article misses the point. We are not talking about school children, rather teenage and older that it was the norm not too long ago that the vast majority went to work. It is not a contradiction to instill a feeling that Torah learning is the most important occupation although one is working. It’s factually wrong and ignorant to say ‘I believe that the old system that follows generations of tora greats is the right way of course’ because that’s actually not how they have learned. The system of a local melamid that they used is vastly different than what we have today. It is known that Gedolim who have expressed reservation with the current system, though they don’t say to change it because of es laasos etc.
    And I don’t have any school age children.

  2. i hope this does not get moderated out. The systemhas many flaws and no amount of op-eds will change the facts. Small minded people don’t want their glass house shattered but the reality is, as my father in law (a 30+ year veteran teacher and menahel) has said many times “the system is broke and nobody is fixing it”. It’s not all the parents the system too is at fault. The sytem is not perfect and neither are those who work in it.

  3. The Issue the Rebbe was addressing was not with the system, but rather In the system. HOW the system is delivered and handled.

    You can still shoot for the stars with a loving rub of the cheek and a comment like “I’m suprised a Tzadikel like you can do that” , rather than giving a zetz of a potch and saying “How can you do that”!

  4. The point is that all Lakewood Mesivtos are set at one level of learning (10 hrs/day) + 1 type of learning (Yeshivish slow moving B’Iyun).

    Therefore children who are not up to that level (many) feel like failures, and have no love for Torah. They either do it because they have to, without genuine enjoyment, or dont, and get politely moved on (out of Lakewood).

    If we had the ability to set up a system that would focus more on discovering every bochur’s level, ability, and type of learning that finds his appeal ( Gemara, mishnayos, Nach, Hashkofa, etc…) then he would find success, which is sweet, and he would be doing it willingly, and keep coming back for more.

    You will note that so many failing Mesivta boys will excell when being learnt with one-on-one, allowing them to explore Torah at their level, and finding success at it…

    We keep opening new Mesivtas (5 new ones this year), and each one is a clone of the last…I am seeking a shtellar, want to give over Torah at my level. Farhers are given to see if a bochur can fit into my mold…not what I can do to fit his…

    Thus the Tolna Rebbe’s comment: If a bochur doesnt love learning, someone has failed… (our system of ignoring our responsibility to deliver Torah in an individually tailored / appealing way).

    Not an easy system to implement, but the only one that can really succeed.

  5. Scenario:
    Ideal = Talmud Chochim, measurable in blatt learned and retained.

    Problem: Many children/adults can not or will not achieve that “Ideal” which results in disappointment, frustration, disillusionment and r”l sometimes rejection and disgust.

    Solution: Use the Torah’s definition of Ideal, Eved Hashem, a goal that is achievable by every single person.
    (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 5:2, and Rav Elchonon’s explanation in Kovetz Maamarim)

  6. Having children in the school system, I can say firsthand that though the teachers try their best, the current system does not allow all students in their classes to reach their full potential. Chinuch al pi darko is lichatchila, and the current system is just not that.

  7. I agree so strongly with the comments made above about every mesivta essentially being the same and unfortunately being more worried about the Rebbes status as a maggid shiur. Who are we fooling? The Tolner Rebbe is right on the mark (not that he needs my haskamah at all of course). Be honest now, how many boys are actually happy and loving it learning 12 hours a day when they are 14 years old? Who are we fooling? This is more to suit the status and shtellar of the Rebbe. That is not chinuch. That is not injecting the love of Torah and Yiddishkeit into our children.

  8. You wrote-“Nobody means to decry, vilify or put down those unable to spend all their life devoted to god and his Torah however the message still must be to shoot for the stars”

    It is this approach that causes so many to lo aleinu fall out of the system and get involved in

  9. You wrote-“Nobody means to decry, vilify or put down those unable to spend all their life devoted to god and his Torah however the message still must be to shoot for the stars.”
    In my humble opinion,
    It is comments like this one that are destroying our youth.

    It is absolutley incorrect to teach our children that sitting and learning all day is the first choice and best muhaluch.These expectations are unrealistic to most.Infact, the opportunities of being mikadesh sheim shimayim are greater in the work place than in the bais medrash.It is obvious that in todays day in age going to work is inevitable for many and that is what hashem wants and expects from us.Our children need to be preped for the work place in school and taught that you need to be an ehrliche yid who is kovea itim.Being ehrlich in the work place is as noteworthy as learning all day long.Working and being ehrlich is first choice!this does not compromise being close to hashem. Learning full time should obviously be praised but not expected.

  10. You contradict yourself when you say our purpose is to get closer to hashem and then go on to say the ideal is to learn, the ideal is to be mekadeish Shem shomayim and get closer to hashem with whatever your abilities are.
    The system does not teach shoot for the stars! It defines the stars as it sees it and tells you to shoot for it. The ideal teaching system would be to teach our children how to reach their potential excell and pursue perfection. This would produce much more talmidei chachmim actually.

    The old system was not like this at all, this is a new system that has developed over twenty years. Research and you shall find the solution.

  11. I take great offense at your response. do you have any idea what is means to sit in a classroom for 10 years and not be successful! i’m not talking about a high pressure school, i’m talking about a regular school with tons on tutoring help. the frustration is unbelieveable. Would you keep a job for even 1 year that you were not successful at? especially if everyone you know was “getting it” and you had to struggle to get to first base. I’m not talking about a special ed kid, i’m talking about a very bright kid with a learning disability. Do you have any idea how a kid is affected socially, when he’s called dumb all the time. In my son’s words ” imagine if you went to school in China and had to sit through class there, would you show up for 10 years!” most of us would quit after a day or two but these kids go day after day cuz their not allowed to do anything else.

    You write that this is the way it was. It was never like this! 30 years ago a kid who couldn’t make it for whatever reason got a job! but today if you don’t learn full time your doomed! It’s narrow minded pple like you who cause problems!

Comments are closed.