The Box Child – By Rabbi Dovid Abenson

rabbi dovid abensonWe reserve the right to limit the quantity of successful bochurim coming out of this yeshiva © 2013. Every institution craves for the ‘box child’ The box child is a child which fits the mold. No need for intellectual explanation.

He achieves like the norm, and does not deviate from the regulations of the institution. Unfortunately this trend has been
adopted from the western philosophy and has crept into our institutions and has become reality.

Shlomo Hamelech states: Al Pi Darchoi, “Teach the child according to his ability”, not “Darchem” – Your methodology. (Policy)

Before the second world war, it was a common practice to hear about many children being illuyim (geniuses). Today I’ve asked many mechanchim and parents, do we hear such terminology today regarding our children? They answered a profound “no”.

However there are many non-Jewish children who have gone on to become geniuses and some becoming celebrities. Where have ours gone?

We have created great orators and Jewish singers, but we are missing our born and bred american gedolim. We have had 60 years to reproduce
our gedolim. Where are they? Most of our greatest gedolim came from overseas. Why does importing need to happen?

My answer is yes, we have geniuses. We have many potential gedolim. The geniuses are those who are being medicated, out-of-the-box, off the derech
or in rehab.

I fully believe that if the Lubavitcher Rebbi, R’ Moshe Feinstein or Rabbi Meir Shapiro just to name a few, would be living today as young boys, they would all be thrown out of our institutions because they were not boxed candidates.

Before the war, parents would come together and pay a rebbi to teach their child in small groups. After a number of years, and at the approximate age of 12, the rebbi would announce that it was time to move onwards to a yeshiva, because he could no longer teach the child.

I always wondered how a rebbi could say such a thing. Did the child have behavior problems? Is that the reason why the rebbi could no longer teach him?

Perhaps the reason why the rabbeim would send the child away, at a tender age, for a higher level of learning is because they themselves felt inadequate to go higher and the child would not benefit from their teaching any more.

Today, if the child shows to be smarter than the rebbi, what normally happens is one of two options:
a) The rebbi throws the child out of class, as it appears the child is being chutzpahdik
b) Notifys the principle or parents, that the child needs medication or psychological help.

A story is circulating about a rebbi who called his student’s parents and informed them that their son needed Ritalin as he was being very hyperactive during class time. The father replied and said, “I don’t think my son will take it.” The rebbi came up with a plan to make the child take it every day.
Every morning the rebbi would ask the child to make him a coffee, and as a result the child would get “a candy” aka Ritalin pill, as a reward.
Three months later at the child’s PTA, the rebbi informed the parents that their son was doing amazing and was much calmer in class, showing great results. He recommended carrying on with the Ritalin. The father replied; “My son told me that the first day he received the candy he did not
like it, but he didn’t want to show you a lack of hakaros hatov, so he decided to put it into your coffee… ever since!

This easy cop-out must be stopped. Our children are not boxed children. Our rabbeim are not packagers.

Let me clarify a misconception regarding the famous Chazal which brings down the following. 1000 students go to study in yeshiva, and only one comes out a poisuk (godol)l and there is another Chazal which states that everyone has the ability to become like Moshe Rabbeinu. This seems like a strong contradiction.

The answer is that Hashem bestows upon people, characteristics and middos to bring out their full potential. It is a true gift from Hashem and if one can study and seek out his potential and utilize it to its fullest, he is considered to be in the same category as Moshe rabbeinu.

On the other hand, regarding the 1000 students which go to study and only one becomes great, it doesn’t mean that the yeshiva only needs to cater for the box child, and the ones who are not following the protocol get to be thrown out of the school and left uncared for. This is the wrong interpretation of what Chazal mean. Rather this staement means as follows. It is the full responsibility of all institutions, that every single child gets the right education whether these are boxed or out-of-the-box children, and if the institution does not know how to deal with this particular case they must get outside help to rectify the situation.

From my personal experience spanning nearly 3 decades in education, I have found that many times the problems students are facing stem from the institution not having the knowledge, expertise, understanding or professionalism in how to help the particular student.

When Chazal say only one person out of 1000 becomes a poisuk, that means that the other 1000 children should still be taught the beauty and greatness of Torah Al Pi Darko. If only we truly applied what Chazal teach us, much of the problems we face with students today would be eliminated, and simchas hachaim would not be dimished in any way in Limud HaTorah, causing the child to lose interest.

As an after thought, sadly to say, this concept of fitting a child into the box has manifested itself unfortunately even outside the school system. There are religious Jewish groups which feel that if a Jew does not dress like them, act like them or speak their language, they are considered in their eyes as second-class citizens and these groups publicly call THEM goyim or even Nazis. This terrible outlook was created by our educational system and this is not Judaism at all.

Let us remember the great wisdom of Shlomo Hamalech “Al Pi Darchoi” – and not “Al Pi Darchem!”

Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director, author and lecturer at Shaar Hatalmud, a unique yeshiva based online program, featuring evaluations and upgrading of skills in Hebrew reading, Gemara studies, consulting school principals world wide to improve their ability to discover students who possess under-developed skills. He can be reached at [email protected] or 1-877-HATALMUD (428 2568).

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  1. I have children like this. My oldest was “evaluated” in 3rd grade and presented on a high school level in reading and a 7th grade level in math. She too squirmed in her seat and was labeled chutzpadik. She was bored. Now, 5 years later, she hates school and is unmotivated…she “performs below her abilities”. We have invested thousands of dollars in art lessons and my husband has been teaching her computer programming. What else can be done? She definitely is not a box child and would have benefited greatly from a gifted and talented program at a young age. Why do we spend so much time and energy on the other end of the spectrum (special ed) and force the brightest students to “fit the mold”? How can greatness be achieved in the current system?

  2. How do you expect yeshivas to professionally deal with any of these cases when the Rabbeim and hanhalas themselves don’t have any professional education or background themselves to know how to handle the various situations. Secular education is cut off by high school – they don’t take any education, psychology, sociology courses to enable them to help the students. Sure, they can teach a blat of gemorah – but that’s about it. I truly lament the fact that we are not properly equipping the school’s rabbeim with tools necessary to educate, counsel, etc today’s children

  3. thank you for the very informative article. may of the points you write about touch home. if only there was a way to change the education system that all children would be given a fair chance to succeed. Then we would have a lot more positive schooling experiences. Children would want to show that they can succeed even if they have to work twice as hard as others in there class. Schools also need to provide training to the staff of how to best help a child who is not your so called perfect student.

  4. Whats interesting is most of us Lakewooders grew up in NYC area. We had real mechanichim as menahel. We had yeshivas that were established by leading gedoleu hador. They all gave us much more ‘feedom’ than what is acceptable today. Examples being boys in HS wearing ‘colored’ shirts.( WOW?)

    There was english in mesivta. All this sanctioned by the gedolia yisroel and most of us will say we learnt more with our rebeim than what our boys learn today. We all had kids who were a little jumpy but they were dealt with in a ‘chachmadike’ way w/o the ‘ritalins’ that exist today. There weren’t all these OTD kids that exist today…

    This article is right on but we live in a ‘dor yosum’ no ones going to do anything…

  5. I’d love to shake your hand. I experienced first hand the pressure from a school to put my son on meds. I had him evaluated by a top notch expert at NYU who said he has some mild traits of ADHD but it can easily be dealt with by working with the child. That wasn’t enough for his Rebbe. His Rebbe told me that as a kid he had behaviours problems and that my son needed meds. I asked his Rebbe what meds he had taken and was met with silence. It takes effort to raise and educate a child, as you say the cookie cutter approach does not suit all children. Parents and teachers have to partner and put in the effort, not look for the easy way out. As for us, I ended up switching Schools after the third grade and BH my son is doing terrific albeit with the occasional effort everyone owes a child when we bring them into the world. Thank you for this great article.

  6. Not so long ago I was a kid who would be sent home everyday.
    After a year of this happening, I started to feel this unmotivated pressure.

    I was doing nothing… All, all day.

    One day I was kicked out of yeshiva and I had a whole day for myself, I asked my father, how do you build websites? He said check it up! Your smart!

    A few years later I became an outstanding developer and now currently run a successful web business.

    It was all because of that day. Now I am praising my school for doing such careless acts, because look who am I today

    BUT I just told you about me. Not everyone else who gets kicked out for not fitting in the “mold” – not many come this way like me. Chas Veshalom they throw of Yiddishkeit and they go off to the streets.

    THE reason why I can say all this, is because I have been through all of it and I have seen many, once upon a time, bochurim go off.


    Your article makes tears in my eyes. I have seen many kids being thrown out of yeshiva for not fitting into this “yeshivish” mold,
    and especially when a school calls itself a “community school”

    How can we fixe our school system?

    WHY do we need to throw out “future gedolim” from our yeshivas?

    Who knows? Maybe with my excelleant mind I could have become the next gadol? Instead I turned to the web and used my brain their!

    Our yeshivas need to make our brains work in becomming the next gadol hador!

    Maybe some of our “supposed to be future gedolim” are on the streets? or millionaires? because they use there smart brain else where!!


    (I promise you; I ended this with real tears)

  7. As a parent of a first grader who is just starting with all of the evaluations, specialist visits, and so on, I want to thank you for your thoughts and consideration for our children. Like a prev poster, my child is extremely bright and can’t sit in his desk. His rebbe is understanding but to a point and likes using bribery for behavior instead of giving him more enriching work to do in class. If only all rebbeim and administrators thought like you, our students would be excelling at their own pace!

  8. The only way for your child to receive his personal chinuch geared to his potential is for the parents to do it himself. In the old days, there were no chadorim, there were private melamdim. If your son is genius material, hire a tutor and teach him privately. There is plenty of time on Friday Shabbos and during the evening. You are the only one that can take care of it and stop giving the menahalim credit, power and kavod that they don’t deserve.

  9. Finally!!! Than you so much for this article. This article should be sent to every school in Lakewood. The problem is that the teachers and MOST of the principals do not know how to handle an “out of the box” student. We were told either medicate your child or leave the school. This was after his 3rd grade rebbi smacked him. Well we decided to leave the school. H e is doing great now, B’H, because his menahel knows how to deal with an out of the box kid.

  10. I couldn’t agree with him more! The idea that untrained ‘professionals’ in the Chinuch world are making decisions on medicating our children is a frightening thought. I know a Rebbi who won’t allow any child into his class that is on any kind of Attention Disorder medication. He works – extremely hard – with each and every child to bring out their potential.

    Regarding other points that were brought up by R’ Abenson, he’s so on the money, however it will unfortunately fall on deaf ears. Many people are constantly screaming “mesoireh!” when this mesoireh we currently follow is 70 Years old. Granted it was a necessary change then, however times have changed & its time we make the necessary changes as well or there’s no hope for the next generation!

  11. There are rabbeim who make more money than people working a 9-5 job. Yes there are many exceptional rabbeim who really work on each Talmid with love to bring them to their highest potential. They Nurture these children and build up their confidence and give them tools to succeed in the future. These rabbeim truly deserve more, sometimes parents notice this and try to contribute. These rabbeim are true mechanchim and Hashem should bench each one with Hatzlocho. However you also have rabbeim who look at this as a way to receive a check and pay for tuition, but they do not do much for the children. Their anger is quickly triggered when admonishing a child, and they can be seen doing things in middle of class (like texting or on calls) rather than giving their undivided attention to the children. Then when a child doesn’t know the material so well or start to misbehave of course it’s the child with some issue. My question to you is, which Rebbi are you suggesting is paid minimum wage?

  12. In my original post I mentioned that my daughter has been getting enrichment during her time away from school. This cannot be the only solution, however since most of her waking hours are spent in school. I have to give power to the school to educate her…that is what I am paying for…but she is coming away from it with a not so positive outlook because she spends most of the day correcting her English teacher and that gets her sent to the office. There has to be a better way to deal with brighter kids then sending them to the office, no?

  13. We are all mukpid not to eat any food or go to any restaurant unless it has a good Hashgocho, but we send our kids to mosdos where there can be total hefkairos. Anyone can open up their own moisad and do what they like, how they like, and there is noone to complain to. The Gedolim know that things are going very wrong but they have no leverage. Parents have to get together and insist that they will not send their children to a moisad unless the moisad operates under the hashgocha of a reliable Bais Din or a Godol who is not just a figure-head but is actually involved in the day-to-day running of the moisad

  14. I am a continuous supporter of Rabbi Abenson from the first time I saw a link on a frum israeli website…

    I can not say YES YES YES any more than a million times.


    I want to see some videos of you speaking about klal yisroels situation!

  15. My son is brilliant… And different. We have spent so much time and money dealing with the different and not one second or penny on the brilliant. A friend once said to me do you think the vilna gaons mother spent time wringing her hands and saying Oy my son is so weird! Food for thought…

  16. This article is 100% true, of course. Truthfully, however, how much more can we expect from Rabbeim who are paid $30,000 a yr and even that isnt always on time ? We are not gonna attract our best & brightest w/ those wages. Be happy w/ the talents our Rabbeim have.

  17. to #22

    money is not life, and if you say they teach differently when getting paid differently then they are not true Rabbeim.

    SO SORRY. Sleep with the fishes.

  18. Stop kvetcvhin about the rebeim salary. They survive like evryone else. They get the salary + free or low tuition + jersey care + hud + english teaching job and at the end of the year they come away w? as much as a working fellow if not better.
    Of course I would love to have them get paid 75k but that is not happening…. What they have is relativily decent.

  19. to me; #26

    Sorry; a class should be successful in every way

    the rebbe should cater to all, or teach on a level for all.

    don’t say that this is not possible.

  20. The situation I was in was one very compelling, especially when I was considered out of the box.

    We need people to speak up. Look how many people love R’ Abenson in a humble way.

    WE; KLAL YISROEL, it’s hard for us to speak up and say the current situation our nation is going through.

    Why is hashem punishing the states with bad whether, every shmutz place will be effected by these things.

    After obama agreed upon smutz things allowed, the whole states were hit with huge storms.

    What message is hashem trying to bring us???


    We must stand of for Judaism and make it the way hashem wants it and how it was for thousands of years!


    An article is nice; but doing is 100% better.

  21. I attended public school and scored a 720 on my math SAT. I was sent to college to become a teacher and hated it. If I had been a male, I would have had so many more choices. My guidance counslor did not do what I needed and my parents who were holocaust survivors did not know better.

  22. Wow!

    This article has gone viral! Over 100 people love it on fb !!

    hope this causes a revolution to change our current “situation” which needs much improvement !!

    Keep up this great work Rabbi Abenson and may you succeed in all your endeavors.

    I’m a proud supporter of Rabbi Abensons work!

  23. I am a college educated businessman. I used to be a substitute rebbe in a reputable yeshiva when i was a bochur. I was a great pirchei leader and story teller. Let me tell u…. being a rebbe is not easy. It’s like being told to make a big fancy salad with nuts and fruit and then make it ALL taste like lettuce. The children are young and most often do not know how to properly communicate their feelings or reasons for misbehaving and rebbeim are not trained in how to translate those hints. It’s easy to blame rebbeim, but I think it’s the easy way out. A bored child can be challenged at home to memorize the homework instead of doing it out. A jumpy child can be given gymnastic lessons to give them ample opportunity to run around so when school is in session they can relax and so on. Its what we do with them for the other , 17 hours a day that will help them through their day.

  24. Look at the Facebook likes number: it is viral now !! Great article. There should be a training program for school principals and rabbeim.

  25. to ytz,
    the article is not blaming anyone.
    It’s saying that those rabbeim with out previous education etc. in teaching children should not be a Rebbi!

    If the rebbi is a good rebbi no child will be bored during class, because if the rebbi is interesting there is no need of being bored!

    I know you are thinking like the many thousands of yidden who are suffering from all this… this article is 100% completely – the truth and I think that those who disagree with the truth are the people this article are talking about 🙂

    hint hint.

  26. Wonderful to finally see someone share these thoughts “out loud.” I hope our educators will understand and begin to reach out to the “out-of-the-box” types instead of forcing them into the mold as their only option for inclusion. It is no wonder that up to 1/3 of graduating seniors go off the derech as their only means of finding themselves and identifying where they actually fit within the Torah world.

  27. Kol Hakavod! We agree with you whole heartedly! More mechanchim and mechanchos need to speak up like you do! It is only recently being considered that ALL children are due educational rights and differentiation methods. Our “older” children still suffer the isolation and awkwardness of being different. Society has dealt them a tremendous harm and disservice. Help us to change the world! Thanx Dovid,for opening and reshaping “the box”! Hatzlocha and my best regards to you,and your wonderful family! Missing u Yehudis!

  28. I think jewish613’s idea is brilliant and also good business sense. Any reputable Chinuch Mosad should welcome working under the Hashgocha of a Bais Din. Parents will be more comfortable to send their children there. That is why people in the food business select a good Hashgocha – even if they are not Jewish. It is good for business!


    Kol hakavod Rabbi Abenson

    My last comment was “wow” 100! Now…. 700!


    May your revolution in chinuch be the starting point in saving our children from our out of the box situation.

  30. Wow! Finally someone’s making an effort to prove a very essential point to the world! I agree one hundred percent! I hope people will take this seriously and really try to put in some effort to change things.

  31. sooo im an out of the box dude!… i left the “system” at ninth grade… fortunately!! yeshiva was deff not for me… if someone would ask me where to send there kids… it deff would not be a Lakewood school … 5 years ago i predicted this would happen.. and for now its only gonna get worse… the “system” is busting!! and its gonna crash… im out in the “streets” everyday… there 12 ,13, 14, year olds girls guys showing up more everyday!!…. the ratio of kids is 1:3 kids and its almost half!! these kids dont give a (moderated) about anyone or anything! no shobbos, no nothing… everyone is an enemy… i know… ive been there…. soooo the question is???? when is someone gonna do something about it!!… there has to be a huge change in every schoool….

  32. We live in a culture that emphasizes externals and we have become acculturated. It is easy to see a boy wearing a black suit and white shirt and pass judgement on him as a wonderful ben Torah. Then my 16 year old son tells me that the kid is smoking “weed” and hanging out with public school girls. He dresses that way so he won’t be suspected. We will be cured of this disease when we stop being afraid of the “velt”. We have Torah and if present it with love and understanding, it can withstand the onslaught of the velt and give our kids the tools they need to do the same. If we force them to grow up too quickly, expect them to be immune to Yetzer Horas that we all struggled with, we will create kids with disconnected psyches. We have to be real for them to be real.

  33. It’s not just lakewood!! I send my kids to a school that caters to all types! It’s a wonderful school and 90% of their Rebbeim are wonderful. I also have a difficult child n had my husband n I not been very vocal advocates for him he would be one of those teens at risk. I cried when his kindergarten teacher told me he never met a kid he couldn’t figure out until he met my son. Now he’s in high school, struggled academically, B”H we can give him the help he needs, fight the school not to put him in the gimmel shiur and he’s become a real mentch! It’s a partnership! When the Rebbe/yeshiva sees there’s s/o to work with that will stop at nothing to save their child, you get the results your seeking!

  34. Our son was kicked out of a yeshiva midway through 7th grade, about 4 months before his bar mitzvah. Not surprisingly, he had no desire to ever put on his tefillin. His feelings of worthlessness were portrayed to us daily in his aversion to attend school and his preference to spend his days isolated in his room. He chose friends who he could better relate to, other suffering souls. He started using drugs to numb his pain: first marijuana, then pills, and then to smoking heroin. You would never expect this to happen! Comments in my son’s ‘yearbook’ by his friends referred to him as “the funniest person they ever met.” We, as his parents tried the best we could to keep our son in yeshiva. I sometimes wonder why we bothered when the rebbeim and teachers didn’t really seemed to care. He could miss days or weeks at a time and no one would call.

  35. R’ Dovid speacializes in training teachers and Rabbeim. He also helps students overcome the challenges with their reading skills and other fields. His focus is to give students back their sense of pride and self worth. All of this is done while keeping the student within the mainstream classroom.

    Creating remedial classrooms give a student the feeling of I am a second class citizen, an outcast andas a result have no pride or self worth. Feelings such as these are a main cause for a student in later years to be a total failure and eventually go off the derech. Stop the desease before it even begins…

    Teach the Rabbeim how to teach. Make the Yeshivos hire QUALIFIED Rabbeim just as is done in public school or colleges. Being a good learner in the most famous Yeshiva in the world does not make a person a good Rebbi.

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