Letter: Mesivta

Dear readers, I would like to share something that has been tugging at my heart every year at this time. And that is boys taking farhers in various mesivtas.

For many boys as young as having just turned bar mitzva, it is a total nightmare. Days and sleepless nights filled with anxiety if they will get into the “top” mesivata where all their friends are going.

What so so troubles me is how have we reached a point that a boy at age 13 has his future dictated to him based on how he did in elementary. How many boys have the kochos and just that need a push, had they have gone to a top mesivta they could have done extremely well, instead after being rejected in all his choices, he is deflated beaten down and left with little self esteem.

What was wrong in the good old days, as long as you tried hard and wanted to learn you are welcomed.

Would love to hear feedback on this topic.

A concerned Lakewood father.

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  1. Dear letter write,
    Although the process is definitely stressful and anxious we cannot protect our kids from this their whole life. Also there are literally 100s of yeshivas and there is really no TOP yeshiva. That’s in your head. Every yeshiva is geared to taking the boys fit for them and helping them reach their potential. By choosing a yeshiva fit for your son (not what you think is TOP and where you want him to go for the name) he will grow and succeed much further than struggling in a yeshiva not fit for them. Yes taking the fahers are stressful but so will it be this way for bais Medrash and shidduchim… we cannot avoid it. So if the work they are putting in is truly what they can handle then they are applying to the correct yeshiva. Do what’s best for your son and not your family name.

  2. The problem is “top” mesivtas. It DOESN’T help Klal Yisrael.

    Thirty years ago, I went to a regular Yeshiva where in my eighth grade class we had boys who were EXCELLENT, average, and mediocre. The entire class, kmaat, learned with ameilus and gishmaak.

    Unfortunately, the class broke into pieces, for absolutely no reason. The top boys went to Riverdale (one became the “best” boy in Riverdale), the rest went to average Yeshivos, where there were no excellent boys, just average and mediocre boys. There was nobody to look up to, just a couple to look down to. Even the four boys who went to Riverdale would have been better off staying put. In Riverdale, only one was recognized as the best boy in Riverdale. The others, though EXCELLENT learners, were now average Riverdale boys. No matter how hard they pushed themselves, the best they could hope for was being an average Riverdale boy, with nobody looking up to them. Eventually, I assume, they slacked off, never to be heard from again.

    This elitism NEEDS to stop. It does nobody ANY favors.

  3. I once complained to a top educator that my entire life has been dictated on how I fared in Elementary school.
    His 4 word response was quite telling in today’s day-and-age.
    “Elementary, my dear Watson,” he said before taking a puff on his pipe and walking off with his head held high.

  4. The writer cannot be more correct. Until the system changes, there’s only one approach that I can think of to deal with this, one that I take with my own children and talmidim: I make it perfectly clear to them that they should never let this destructive attitude get to them. I think most healthy teenagers in Lakewood have figured this out on their own, as they are more aware than you may think about how the system works, for better or worse. But don’t worry about bochurim not having respect for their “educators.” The educators will get the full respect they deserve the very minute they earn it. Hevei k’vod talmidcha chaviv alecha k’shelcha. Bochurim don’t have to be destroyed emotionally for life because they believe they’re mechuyav to respect a system that’s built on it’s own insecurity in making sure they have the best mosad. Every gadol, past and present would concur with the above principle. From the Chazon Ish to Rav Ahron Leib and beyond. Look up what they’ve said about such issues in the system if you have any questions. Bracha v’hatzlacha to all be”H!

  5. I would like to point out that with son many new Mesivta’s opening would it not be a good idea 25 boys per yeshiva !
    Everyone agrees big classes destroy lives

  6. The true reason as apposed to the good reason is pride pride and more pride . Every yeshivah wants to pride itself on a facade of the best .This is exacerbated by the peer pressure .
    The downward spiral of genuinity has impacted every corner
    They want only the fanciest shidduch
    They want the newest brand car
    The latest designer /brand name clothing
    The most branded head wear hats and sheitels
    The schools with the proudest ring
    The latest electric gadgets
    The most exotic vacation
    The Elitist yeshivah with the best sounding name for the shidduch market
    Houses that make them feel proud
    The nuschaos are varied slightly but the idea is the same
    Living a standard of life higher than what they are capable
    Beautiful Experiences are reduced to film capturing
    Beautiful music is lost to the recording of it
    As summed up in the chovos halevavos shaar prishus in second perek
    Their stomachs are their gods
    Their mode of dress is their Torah
    Obsession with perfecting their dwelling places is their mussar involvement
    The world cannot be changed only ourselves can
    Turn this interesting question into a useful one and open a yeshivah based on true torah values

  7. The school system is broken not only mestiva all the schools from kindergarten through BMG. We need to overhaul the entire system. We are not giving our children a fare chance.

  8. I would have to disagree with the letter writer.
    Your son can do VERY WELL in any Mesivta.
    I have a son that went to a TOP yeshiva, where they learn extra by every recess and there’s a supper seder & over time, it has NOT proven to be any better than the boys that come out from other, normal,, solid Mesivtas.
    And in a way, it was worse. A lot worse. Id rather not go into details here.
    And, btw, that Elementary, my dear Watson story was a joke.

  9. Agree to letter 100 percent. But dont agree to the title. Instead of just ”MESIVTA” it should be titled Daycare/Elementry/Mesivta/BM/Kollel etc…

  10. The only true advantage to these “top schools” is for shidduchim. The whole idea is meaningless. Unfortunately, this idea ends tragically for many girls. Top learner does not equal top husband.

  11. I do not agree with the whole premise of the post. Your son’s life will not be dictated by what he does in elementary school. Even if he ends up in an “average” or “below average” mesivta he can still develop into an incredible talmid chacham. However, if you or your son believe that how he performs at the age of 13 dictates as such then your belief will become your reality.

  12. I think the harshness of the Mesivta thing is just the parents. Who said their whole life is dictated based on this small decision. The more stressed the parents are about this ‘weighty’ era the more the kids feel it. The schools are all okay, some have better student environment, some have more Rebbi involvement, some have more motivational atmospheres. If the parents are relaxed the kids don’t need to panic. We have to be role models to show our youth that all this is okay, that externalities are not what’s important, that this period is a time to live out faith, hope and equilibrium. Chillax y’all.

  13. R’ Aron/BMG policy was “all are accepted” boys came here not frum and became gedolim. But it’s a different world today Mesivta’s have to be very careful who and from where they accept because of Drugs and anyways they’re not obligated to accept anyone whom they don’t want because they built their yeshiva with their own money (which they had or raised) and their own hard work. Just like students and parents want the best Yeshiva so too the yeshivas want the best Bachurim . But every bachur has a Yeshiva; there’s a shortage of girls schools, boys Yeshivas are plenty.

  14. I grew up out of town where all boys of various learning abilities go the same mesivta. There were only a few mesivtas and families chose based on family hashkafa. Any boy who fit the mesivta’s Hashkafic policies was accepted regardless of academic abilites. I believe this is the best system.

  15. 2 things.
    I have been teaching 8th grade English for 5 years. As much as I agree with some of the comments that everyone needs to learn to handle these type of situations, I don’t think the amount of stress these 8th grade boys go through is normal. They are under a huge amount of pressure, and I don’t remember it being this tense when I was applying for high school 17 years ago. (Although I didn’t grow up in Lakewood, so I don’t know what it was like over here 17 years ago.)

    I will say that all the Menahalim work very hard to make sure that all the boys get into Mesivta. Only once did I see a boy not get in and it was the parents fault. They classified their son as a genius and he was really below average. Totally their fault and not the systems. He applied to Yeshivos he wouldn’t be able to keep up in.
    Quite frankly, I also teach 9th grade now and there is one boy that is really not keeping up with the class. He has incredibly low self esteem because of it. We can’t just put all boys “who want to learn” in the same Yeshiva.

    And yes, this isn’t just Mesivta. I had to apply for elementary school for my son this year. I applied to 2 Yeshivos. One, I knew a lot of the parents and was a pretty well established school with a “top” reputation. The other one, I didn’t know any parents and it was a newer school but I knew the Menahel. I went to the one that was established and the administrator told me as directly as indirectly possible that we weren’t accepted. I went to the newer Yeshiva, and the Menahel told us he’d be glad to have us. I told my wife, for my image, I would push my son to get my son into the one that didn’t accept us. For what’s best for my son, the second one is better. And that is where my son is going.

  16. I love when parents complain how hard it is to get into the TOP yeshiva/mesivta/school/playgroup/camp/seminary etc. etc. If the doors would be wide open, you wouldn’t consider it the TOP. Basically you want them to only accept YOU easily but no one else. Stop trying for the hardest-to-get-in institution and you won’t have to complain. Picky parents have only themselves to blame for all the “problems with the system.”

  17. I spoke to so many parents, and the premise of this post is just not true. Almost all parents are looking for a Yeshiva that will bring out the best in their children, not ‘top’ Yeshivos.
    No boy is branded by the Mesivta he attended, unless it was far out. Yes, nobody will confuse a Chofetz Chaim of Rochester boy with a boy from Lakewood Mesivta. But boys from so called top Mesivtos are no more likely to stay in learning long-term, no more likely not to drop out, no more likely to become real Talmidei Chachamim and no more likely to develop their Yiras Shamayim. It is just not true.
    And Shiduchim is also a non-issue. The length of time between starting shiduchim and getting married is in no way connected to the Mesivta a boy attended. It is all dimyonos.

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