The Chofetz Chaim and Excluding our Potential Gedolim from Mosdos – by Rabbi Dovid Abenson

rabbi dovid abensonAs we wind down the school year, some parents are reflecting back on the accomplishments of their child’s scholastic year, and others are thinking of summer plans for their children. Yet, many other parents are trying to figure out where to send their respective elementary, high school, seminary or yeshiva child to next year. With this in mind I would like to share with you the following thoughts.

A few months ago, the Torah world was hurled back into history with the clear vivid images of a living Chofetz Chaim, surrounded by a mass of Yidden, at the first Kenesiah HaGedolah. It felt somewhat like Techius HaMeisim. We all know the great works of the Chofetz Chaim, the Mishna Berurah, the sefer on Shmiras HaLashon. His words are universally accepted and studied daily by worldwide Jewry. So, to see this great tzaddik “live”, in black and white, walking slowly, surrounded by an entourage of followers, brought him back to life.

A story, perhaps not so well known, illustrates the Chofetz Chaim’s tremendous love and concern he showed for Klal Yisroel.

A philanthropist once came to visit the Chofetz Chaim in Radin, but as soon as the Chofetz Chaim saw the man, instead of giving him respect as he would normally have done, the Chofetz Chaim gave him an icy stare and had him unceremoniously escorted from his presence. The man was dumbfounded and was determined to stay in Radin to find out why the Chofetz Chaim seemed displeased with him.

The man came back and asked to speak with the Chofetz Chaim and begged to come in. He finally stood face to face and he beseeched the tzaddik “what did I do wrong?”. The tzaddik answered that it was all HIS fault! The philanthropist asked the tzaddik to elaborate, as he was baffled as to what had been “his fault” and to what the Chofetz Chaim was referring to. The tzaddik continued, “More than 3 million of our Jewish brethren are suffocating under the harsh yoke of Communism, and all the oppression, pain and suffering they are going through is all YOUR fault.”

The Chofetz Chaim continued. “Many years ago when you were an administrator in a local Talmud Torah, there was a young boy called Leibel who learned in your cheder and who had lost his father and was living with his struggling mother. The boy acted out, was wild, had a sharp tongue and caused trouble due to his deprived childhood.

In the end you lost patience and had him thrown out of school and he ended up going to a non-Jewish school where he flourished. He was extremely smart and brilliant and could have become a Rosh Yeshiva. Instead he absorbed secular knowledge and became a leader among the non-Jewish population. His name became the famous Leon Trotsky who was the supreme high rank commander of the Red Army and one of the founders of Communism. How many thousands of neshamas have suffered due to his insidious ideology? And so I ask, who is to blame if not you? Leave me; I cannot bear to look at your face!”

What would the Chofetz Chaim say today to all those individuals who throw out children from mossdos never to return? Would he not also say “Leave me, I cannot bear to see your face”?

Ultimately, the Chofetz Chaim felt that this man was responsible for his talmid’s future. We too must also take the responsibility for every single student, taking preventative measures in making sure that each talmid succeeds in their Torah studies, and helping them find simcha in learning.

Let us learn from history and the ripple effect and repercussions which occurred for generations to follow in the above story. No individual who is working in Chinuch, should ever feel the need to throw a child out of school, but should accept every child for his potential and think of how great he could become.

When responsible parents apply to a mossod for their child, we can safely assume that they have done their research and feel that that particular mossad would be the best fit for their child and they should be accepted.
Our approach for accepting students into our mossdos should parallel the Baalei Teshuva institutions where doors are open 24/7 without prejudice, where they are invited in with open arms to join their mossad.
Parents should not have to go around running and crying to Rabbonim and pillars of our communities to plead their cause, begging to get their child into a mossad.

Just as we learn and have integrated the Chofetz Chaim’s mehalech into our lives, we must also follow his example of never turning away a student. If we heed his words, we have the potential to produce thousands more students who could become Roshei HaYeshiva and highly successful talmidei chochomim.
Let us remember that just 70 years ago we lost 2 million Jewish childen – we cannot afford to lose any more.

The Chofetz Chaim’s words “Leave me, I do not want to see your face again” should never have to be said again.

Rabbi Dovid Abenson is the founder and director, author and lecturer at Shaar HaTalmud, a unique yeshiva based online program, featuring evaluations and remediations, working with students to upgrade skills in Hebrew reading, chumash/rashi and 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. Cant agree more. I have a chassidishe bachur who has no mesifta. All i get is we’re full, or well be in touch after purim,then after pesach,then after shevuos or no reply at all. Sure hope this is resolved by ellul

  2. The way our mosdos reject children is a crime. Many of the parents who suffer however should stop blaming others and realise that they themselves look down at other yidden who they consider less yeshivish than they. If you think that you are better than your neighbor, dont complain that others think they are better than you!

  3. Beautifully written. True words. Very touching. As a mother of a child who struggles in certain areas, these words makes me shiver. How could anyone ever give up on my son? Or anyone else’s? I will do whatever in my power to help him succeed. And I pray, that those who have the gift of having him in their classrooms, and hallways never shun him. He is going to be great things. I know it.

  4. I agree with everything said. How ever how do you address the over crowding in the schools. Many schools just don’t have any more space. I would like to hear from Rabbi Abenson what he suggest should be done to make the admission process more fair.

  5. There is another factor of here. Parents who only want their children to go to the “fancy” “upper class” schools. Even if they are accepted elsewhere they will still push and push for their own pride. There are plenty of slots in the Lakewood schools.

  6. I would like to inform my readers that on the same day this article was printed, I was informed that 2 bochurim were expelled from Yeshiva, one in Europe and one in Canada, because someone did not have enough patience for them! May Hashem have rachmanus on Klal Yisroel!

  7. How true. Unfortunately, the common response from the Rosh hamosdos is “It’s not MY responsibility” . Until we collectively understand that we are all responsible for one another this horrific situation will continue Rachmana litzlon! Rabossi bmokom shain Ish……. may the borei olam send the proper shluchuim to address this calamity.
    Btizpia lyeshuah

  8. Like any institutional or public official, principals tend to quickly forget that it is about serving the client, namely, the student and not about a maintenance free environment. Instead of looking at their job as one trying to create Gedolim and raise the level of each child, they actively seek children and parents who won’t cause them any problems. They look for rebbeim and teachers that will control the class (again not causing the principal any headaches) leaving education in the classroom as a lower priority. Emotional health of the child? Not even on the radar screen of many principals. Parents are terrified of making demands lest their next child be refused entry to the school. Answer: more schools and don’t think for a minute that your child is in good hands. Pay attention to warning signs. If you don’t advocate for your child, who will?

  9. Unfortunately a lot of our rabeim and teachers are not trained in this area. (To really understand the student needs, not just teach the subject )They simply don’t have tools how to deal with a child who doesn’t fit the mold of regular yeshiva setting. Its easier just to give up . they have whole class to deal with so those children just have to let go… The expectations in school are to much to hard to handle even for a good studedent. … Its so sad and heartbreaking for a parents to see their child to go down… And no one is there to really help the situation.. And its not we only loosing our children but the familys of this children are suffering from being looked down and a lot of time can’t function normally….

  10. AMEN!
    When Rav Shteinman was here a bunch of years ago, He stated that a bais din should be created for inyonei chinuch.
    This should’ve been done and wasn’t.
    A bais din should decide
    a: if a child should ever be thrown out
    B. If a child should be denied entry
    C. Should go over the chinuch ( at least of the girls schools) and decide if the ciricula is appropriate to be taught
    And other issues which come up
    This would solve many many problems .
    The mosdos won’t like it , but they also need someone to answer to.
    But don’t worry after 120 they will have to answer up for all the Trotskys by the lake

  11. The harsh reality is that a substantial percentage if our children simply cannot keep up with the demands in schools and yeshivas . try as they may, many of them are unable to meet higher expectations. As we ratchet up the tension level and raise the bar to encourage them to hurdle to greater heights, many of these children crash into the bar time and time again. Brocken hearted and discouraged, they simply stop trying and seek fulfillment elsewhere. The sensitive young men are misreading our wellintentioned message to them, they are not hearing our calls to better their lives and enrich their future. All that they hear its never -ending shouts if voices that pierce their hearts: we don’t want you in our classroom, in our yeshiva , in our home. ( this is from the article from R.Yakov Horovirz). Its time to all the people in chinuch field to rethink the methods they use and not to deny the fact that the system is not working for everyone the way it should.

  12. If a child was sick and not doing well under the care of their doctor the parents would (or definitely should) look to see what they can do to find better care. What if a major factor was that the environment in the home was unhealthy for the child, will it help to find a different doctor? We way to often see people blaming “The system” and the mechanchim. Changing ourselves and doing what isn’t easy regarding chinuch but what is best for our children is what we can really do to help them.

    Unfortunately there are some cases like this story where the responsibility is for the mechanchim to help the child including actively helping the home environment. The norm however is far from it. The blame game is so easy and people who help people aren’t always going to be perfect. They will make mistakes. Focus on what we can do 100 times more than the “people in chinuch” will have a much better impact on our kids.
    I love seeing all the blamers who know so well how the mechanchim are messing up and meanwhile they are so off on how they act with and discipline their kids.

  13. To taxpayer above. Your post is inaccurate. While some parents need the name of a fancy school, many others just cant get into appropriate places. You claim there are many slots open in town. Could you specifically list who has openings for chassidishe bochurim? Doesnt have to be fancy just a place where they will be welcome. Please reply.

  14. What a powerful article.

    The story with the Chofetz Chaim is repeated many times and people seem to simply ignore the message.

    We are suffering from all the ‘high ranking’ officers, the ones who operate these Yeshivos and the ones throwing out those bochurim.

    I personally know a story of a young boy. This boy was thrown out at least 4 times a week, this was on a regular bases. As the bochur grew older and had bad feelings toward those rabbeim they tried to befriend him again to possibly wipe away those horrible years. When the bochur reached the last grade he was told “all this was because of you!” You were a jumpy kid, what do you expect to happen??

    Is this what we do? Blame the child if he is thrown out, blame the child by saying he has a major problem and that is the reason he went off. They seem to make up propaganda to justify killing our children.

    I had a non-observant teacher once ask me “why was there a holocaust? I answered that we don’t know the actual reason however it is due to the fact that people are loosing the spiritual connection between yourself and G-D, then came the harsh words.
    Kids that were frum are now not, that may justify his excuse from becoming observant.

    Moshiach. We need change in order for Moshiach to come.

  15. Very well written I just want to add tha more emphasis has to be given in the classroom for behavior midos tovos and mannerism to be a Mensch, this will ultimately reduce the behavior problems in the classroom

    Also at a younger age there must be more professionals involved in the detection of any red flag in behavior which maybe be as a Result
    of trouble at home

    I also believe that the boys in high school post high school should be given courses in relationships and marriage so that as they grow up very learned to be good husband because many of the problems of the children in the classroom are a result of the struggle of single parents that our generation is Plagued with

  16. What an inspiring story about the Chofetz Chaim! It would be even more effective if it wasn’t pure fiction.

    You see, Leon Trotsky, born Lev Bronshtein, came from a totally irreligious family. Yiddish was never spoken in his home. A mixture of Russian and Ukrainian was the language used by his family. A photo of Bronshtein at age eight shows him bareheaded. His father, very much alive when Trotsky was nine years old, sent him to study at a German school in Odessa.

    Besides the fact that Trotsky never attended cheder, nor did his family ever seek to have him admitted to any Jewish religious institution, his father’s demise is reported somewhat prematurely by Rabbi Abenson. Trotzky’s patrents lived to see him married (surprisingly before a Jewish chaplain) and have children and even raised those children while Leon Trotsky was exiled in Siberia.

    The main sources for the above are Trosky’s autobiography, “My Life”, and ” The Prophet Armed: Trotzky” by Isaac Deutscher. Other sources also confirm these facts.

    I am reminded of the anecdote where a fellow encounters his friend and exclaims, ” I heard you made $50,000 in the stock market!”. His friend counters, ” Well, it wasn’t exactly like that. First of all, it wasn’t me; it was my brother. Second, it wasn’t $50,000, it was more like $10,000. And lastly, he didn’t make the money; he lost it.”

    However, Rabbi Abenson is absolutely correct on two points: The Chofetz Cahim was a very great and holy man, and not accepting a Jewish child in a Yeshivah or a Beis Yaakov is a very terrible thing.

  17. This is a fascinating story of the Chofetz Chaim . I hope all the educators & or so called educators take this story with importance greater than the he or she takes of a single chalacha. Reason being one chalacha is just one not to belittle one at all. Although when a child goes off the derech it can be for dorot & dorot amounting to thousands & millions of chalachot.Keep up the amazing writings Reb Dovid.

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