The Best Investment | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Imagine you had a major plumbing problem in your home. So you hire a plumber to try to get to the root of the problem. He works diligently for a whole week and then presents you with an enormous bill. After he leaves, you excitedly rush to turn on the faucets, only to discover the problem remains. You call up the plumber to complain. What exactly was he doing this whole week? It turns out he spent the entire week repainting all the pipes a beautiful blue color!

When boys are not doing well in yeshiva, the rebbeim recommend that the parents hire tutors or chavrusos to help the students along. Therefore, in addition to spending thousands every term on tuition, plus whatever extra resources the yeshiva pours into helping this struggling child, the parents are also paying large sums for extra help beyond yeshiva walls.

We can applaud these parents for sacrificing so much to help their children learn Torah.

But if they are not seeing positive results, is it worthwhile?

Why are there so many students for whom this extra help just does not seem to make a difference?

It is easy to blame the child, “we don’t know what’s wrong with him, nothing we try seems to help.” I would argue however that the problem is a mistaken methodology. As I have written extensively, Torah learning requires basic skills that must be explicitly taught. When these skills are missing, sitting with a chavrusa hour upon hour does nothing to advance the learning. It is like trying to solve a plumbing problem by repainting the pipes. It is literally money down the drain.

Binyomin T, a 25-year-old talmid of mine, experienced numerous frustrations in learning during his 20 years in the yeshiva system. His parents hired many chavrusos to try to help him and Binyomin estimates they must have spent around $25,000 on extra help, but nothing helped. Finally, after a particularly heartfelt tefillah session on zos Chanukah, when he was on the brink of giving up, he came across a Shaar Hatalmud article featured in the Lakewood Scoop, and figured it was worth a shot. In his own words:

I have seen major growth. I should have found Rabbi Abenson’s learning program when I was in high school and let my parents pay him instead of my chavrusa who happens to be a rebbi, and I wouldn’t have had to struggle through high school and all my beis medrash years without knowing the basics. If someone had simply taught me these skills, it could have saved my parents thousands of dollars and saved me a lot of pain.

It is frustrating when so many years go by and so much money and resources are spent on ineffective remediation. Perhaps more devastating than the wasted money, is the years of pain and feeling like a failure. Chaim, another one of my talmidim, was one of the lucky ones, who never considered giving up learning because of his strong Torahdik background. But even so, many many years of pain could have been avoided with the right kind of interventions.

Chaim lived in Eretz Yisroel attending chareidi school until age 11 when his family relocated to the U.K.

I considered myself a smart kid, pleasant to be around. I am a very practical person and during ben hasedorim, I would make myself available to help out anyone who needed it.

In school and Yeshiva I took my learning seriously. But I was becoming more frustrated day by day. I gained very little from the shiurim and had difficulty holding down chavrusos. Eventually, I found myself without any chavrusos whatsoever.

Being surrounded by hundreds of bochurim shteiging away with Simchas Hachaim on their faces was demoralizing. My learning was void of any enjoyment and even when I tried to learn comparatively easy things like Chumash or Rashi, I could not see the wood from the trees.

I was then about 16 or 17 and there were bochurim younger than me who were already fluent in reading the gemara, understanding it, and being able to follow the shiurim

In retrospect, had it not been for the fact that I come from a truly Torahdik, happy home where my father devotes his days and nights to learning, and my own determination to succeed, I may have just left Yeshiva. My background had taught me to appreciate the importance of Torah, but I was yet to taste that “geshmack” in learning of which they all spoke.

It was a member of Chaim’s family who came across one of my articles in the Jewish Tribune and contacted me. I started learning with Chaim over Zoom for two hours a day. Although he was fluent in Ivrit, he lacked basic knowledge of the grammar of Lashon Hakodesh and this was impeding his ability to translate Chumash. Once he mastered this skill, his confidence grew and we moved on to Gemara. He is now learning happily in Yeshiva, growing by leaps and bounds, and looking forward to continuing his Torah learning.

So many simply drop out of the system when they do not succeed. And as mentioned in a previous article, many stay in but are just going through the motions.

As Chaim reiterates, I feel sure that there must be hundreds, maybe thousands of bochurim like myself in the yeshiva world who are suffering emotionally and feel they have nowhere to turn lest they be labeled a failure, chas v’shalom. But it seems to me that it is the establishment that is the failure, not the individual.

I am indebted to you for revealing my potential, which might have otherwise lain dormant all my life. May Hashem bless you, and may the day come soon when your programs become part of the curriculum of every Jewish school and Yeshiva.

Another student wrote to me that he knows many people ( he is referring to bachurim and kollel avreichim, not baalebatim), who can only understand the sugya by listening to a shiur.

…which is great but come on, don’t you want someone to teach you the actual skill so that when you open a sefer the letters won’t look Chinese but will actually speak to you?

Earlier today, a student from England told me that he had learned more Torah from the program in the last year than he had in school for the last 17 years. He also told me that he had been teaching boys his age this past Shabbos how to learn Torah, and one of them said he couldn’t wait for my sefer.

Successful teaching is not measured in hours or dollars. It has to be targeted in the right way to teach the essential skills needed for learning and to address missing skills. Only then will real progress be made. My just-published book “I Can’t Learn” from Feldheim discusses the methods in-depth and gives a practical step-by-step guide to learning successfully. It is currently available in Eretz Yisroel, and will be in bookstores in the UK and USA shortly.

If we measure the quality of investments in terms of returns, then this is surely the best investment you can make for you or your child’s Torah education to ensure they are really fulfilling their potential.


Coming soon to bookstores near you: “I Can’t Learn” – A Practical Guide to Success in Independent Torah Learning: Click here to pre-order.

To contact Rabbi Abenson

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 school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.


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