Inspiring Email from an 82-Year-Old Woman: Lakewood, Israel | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today to address a matter of utmost importance: the crisis in Jewish education. As evidenced by the email I received, from an 82-year-old woman in Lakewood/Israel this issue has been ongoing for quite some time, and we must take action to address it.

There are several steps we can take to make a difference:

  • Spread Awareness: Please consider forwarding this email to your friends and encourage them to do the same. Spreading awareness is the first step in addressing any crisis, and by reaching more people, we can amplify our efforts.
  • Share Resources: My recent book, “I Can’t Learn,” offers valuable insights into this issue and practical solutions. I urge you to distribute copies of the book to educational institutions and friends who may benefit from its wisdom. Together, we can provide support to those who are struggling and in need.
  • Support Our Organization: Consider becoming a sponsor of our organization. With your support, we can extend our reach and help thousands more individuals who are silently suffering. Every contribution makes a difference, no matter how small, just like the 82-year-old woman who generously supported our cause. Your support can have a significant impact on the lives of those in need.

It’s crucial to recognize that the current state of Jewish education is worsening, with many children and students disengaged and lacking essential skills. This not only affects their academic success but also their overall well-being. This problem is exacerbated by the allure of the internet; when individuals lack the foundational skills to engage with Torah study, it becomes boring and unfulfilling, driving them towards online distractions or pursuits like becoming Jewish singers or musicians.

Without intervention, this trend may lead to further disconnection from learning and traditional values. We must act now to prevent this from happening. By investing in education and providing support to those in need, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of countless individuals and ensure the future of the Jewish community.

If you share my concerns and are willing to join the effort to address this crisis, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Together, we can work towards a brighter future for the Jewish people.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm regards

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Abenson

Dear Rabbi Abenson,

When I was living in Jerusalem a few years ago, I spotted your columns in The Lakewood Scoop, on the importance of basic skills in Loshon Kodesh for the mastery of Torah learning. In the previous 40 years, I had hosted numerous American talmidim in Lakewood and Jerusalem batei medrash, who had been struggling due to such a lack. Until they were handed the “keys’ that they had been missing, they could only limp along in their learning and could never really enjoy it. I was happy to hear that you have been able to help so many struggling students surmount that hump and to launch them on a new trajectory of success in Torah, leading them to a future of happiness and accomplishment.

I could relate personally to their experience, because my father, 100 years ago, had to cope with learning with only the basic bar-mitzvah-level knowledge that the limited Torah instruction of early 20th-century America had provided him. By applying what he had gleaned from his father and his after-school studies by the time he was orphaned at age 16, my father as an adult was able to teach himself painstakingly from whatever was available in English translation. But he could have learned so much more on his own if only he had been given the keys to unlocking the hidden workings of the Loshon Kodesh that he had only half-understood as a dutiful child.

My father’s great-grandparents came to America in 1850, and my mother’s grandparents in 1870. They were pious and learned Jews. Their children grew up in America and were pious like their parents, but being only home-schooled they were not tremendously learned. There were virtually no yeshivas in America, and the surrounding culture, even in the New York area, was overwhelmingly non-Jewish and secular. Between the public school and the street culture, that late 19th-century American generation missed out on both a yeshiva education and a yeshivish environment.

My parents were their children, products of Far Rockaway in the early 1900s, a solidly frum Jewish community. They had a strict Jewish upbringing and a rigorous “Talmud-Torah” education, which still didn’t get them much past Chumash, davening, dinim, Shabbos, and Yom Tov. After Talmud-Torah, my father’s lifetime of learning was all self-taught, mostly in English, while my mother remained satisfied with her outstanding ability to read Hebrew fluently, albeit without understanding. (This unique talent made both my mother and my sisters, after her, virtual rebbetzins in the eyes of their peers).

Although my parents knew sh’miras Shabbos in their sleep from their own upbringing, I don’t think they were aware that “there are 39 mal’achos” – as any toddler could tell you today. They had mastered a long list of do’s and don’ts, and they carefully transmitted them to us, on how to make Shabbos and how to keep it. When I eventually learned that there are 39 melachos from my 5-year-old’s Shabbos tape, I began to wonder whether even the melamed who had taught us, children, privately, an escapee from Europe, had been privy in his day to that very helpful hint.

At age 12, I graduated from the family melamed. At that time, in the 1950s, New Jersey did not yet have a Bais Ya’akov, and the level of learning in the Talmud Torahs was dismal. I was very fortunate that my mother was able to persuade a pious and learned rebbetzin to teach me privately. The first thing she did was to introduce me to dikduk, so that we could learn Mishnaic sources such as Pirkei Avos and Haggadah. Dikduk opened me up to learning on my own. There were very few Hebrew translations in those days, but I could at least limp along with the help of those available in Chumash, Tehillim, Megillah, etc. I could read well silently but not orally since I had not been taught the rules of vocalization and pronunciation. I was already middle-aged when I learned when and why each syllable got the accent, or when and why the sh’va was “noh” or “nach”.

The more informed I became in the logic of loshon kodesh, the more meaningfully I was able to learn and to pray. Learning and praying became a great source of personal growth and satisfaction to me. Torah knowledge, although beloved to all Jewish women, is not one of their primary Jewish “professions”. But for a man, “Torah se’hei umonusi” — Torah learning is his main profession, besides being his main source of personal growth and satisfaction.

That is why my heart goes out to all the men and boys who think learning is a job that must be done, even though it is hard. If only it weren’t hard, they would feel that it is life-givingly wonderful! When it isn’t overly hard, it is an adventure and a challenge, an invigorating mental workout that nourishes their minds, enriches their thoughts, strengthens their spirits, and purifies their souls. If only they held the keys in their hand, that would unlock the logic of loshon kodesh!

Your book I Can(‘t) Learn is a clear presentation of what these keys are and why they are so critical to learning, loving, and sharing Torah. Assimilating them and putting them into practice will enable every generation of the family, not only the youngsters and young adults, to share in the tremendous treasure of Torah and joy in learning.

I also know from experience that learning Torah turns a person automatically to teshuva. As soon as a Jew learns something that he or she is supposed to do (or not do), they immediately want to start (or stop) doing it! That is because our learning reminds us of the things that our soul already knows since we were taught the entire Torah before we were born. Teshuva revives a person, and the Jewish nation is revived on a national scale when more and more Jews are learning the Torah. The more Torah we know, the more ready we are for Moshiach, and the sooner Hashem will send him to lead us.

For all these reasons, I am grateful for the learning solutions that you have developed and the robust capabilities that you are providing generation after generation! I hope to contribute to this cause and to see the benefits it can offer to my own family and friends.


Mrs Y


“I Can’t Learn” is available for purchase at all Jewish bookstores or online at

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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 school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.

“Unlocking the Legacy: Insights from My Journey with my Rebbe, HaRav Mattisyahu Chaim Salomon זצ״ל ” – Soon to be published.

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