Teaching: An “Insider Job” – Part 1 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Our chinuch institutions play an extremely important role in educating our children. Mechanchim and Rebbeim are working to the best of their ability. Although I am frequently critical of these institutions, my intention is not to undermine or deny the amazing work they do. Nevertheless, having worked with struggling and gifted students globally for over three decades, a recurring issue is the inability of even advanced, bright students to learn the text properly inside. It is my hope that by raising awareness of these issues, improvements can be made so that the ultimate goal of our schools — the Torah education of all Jewish children — may better be realised.

If a person sees someone erring, even his teacher, and remains silent, he may be liable for the error. Consider the following Gemara (see Sanhedrin 7b, also Horayos 3b)

אמר ר’ יהושע בן לוי עשרה שיושבין בדין קולר תלוי בצואר כולן פשיטא לא צריכא אלא לתלמיד היושב לפני רבו

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says: If ten judges are sitting in judgment, a prisoner’s collar [kolar], referring to responsibility for the consequences of an incorrect verdict, hangs around all of their necks. The Gemara asks: Isn’t it obvious that all of the judges bear joint responsibility for the verdict? The Gemara answers: It is necessary only in order to include a student who is sitting in front of his teacher in the court, and notices that his teacher erred. Although he is not formally part of the court, he nevertheless bears responsibility if he remains silent

Rashi elaborates:

לתלמיד היושב לפני רבו – ובא דין לפני רבו והוא לא נזקק לדבר נענש אם שתק והוא מבין ברבו שטועה

A student who sits before his rabbi – and someone comes in to be judged and he (the student) knowing that his rabbi is mistaken in his ruling, chooses not to get involved and stays silent, he will be punished.

If we see rebbeim and mechanchim making errors, we must speak out. Unfortunately many are afraid to speak out against yeshivas and schools because of politics or fear of losing their jobs. Since I do not affiliate with any Institution I am much freer to speak out when I see grave mistakes and their consequences. I am more afraid of the punishment I would get for seeing errors and not speaking the truth as indicated in the above Gemara.

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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

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