“Then And Now” – Part 1 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Since launching my book “I CAN Learn” a few months ago, I have received calls from people of all ages crying out for help. A 42-year-old client summed up his story in this heartfelt letter. I hope it gives hope and encouragement to many. At the same time, his story should alert us to the real problems that exist in the educational system. What a shame that a person can suffer for so long when his issues are relatively easy to address. When will schools start to focus more on teaching skills, so that all children can learn with happiness?

Dear Rabbi Abenson,

I am 42 years old. I grew up in Boro Park and went to a chassidishe cheder. I moved to Lakewood about a year ago.

I recently went into the Judaica store and browsed through the book section. Your book stood out and the title spoke to me instantly. I thought to myself: maybe someone experienced what I did, through my entire schooling and wrote a book about it. So I bought the book.

From the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down, I had to finish the entire book. Everything you wrote resonated with me.

For my whole life, up until I read your book, I walked around asking myself: what’s wrong with me? How come I was never successful in school? I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I was always so confused. It shattered my self-esteem.

I always wanted to be the best student and know how to learn Chumash, Mishnayos, and Gemara. But I never succeeded. The rebbis always labeled me the “shvache” boy, further crushing my self-esteem and putting me down.

How I wished I could be like the “good boys” in cheder or the people learning in shul so geshmak, with or without a chavrusa. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t learn. Year after year I knew Gemara was not for me. Gemara is traumatic for me.

Before I even finished the book, I was so excited and couldn’t believe what I was reading. I just knew that I had to call you. B”H I got through to you right away and we spoke for almost an hour. You listened so patiently to my story and explained to me that there is nothing wrong with me and that I’m not stupid! I had tears in my eyes when you told me that I CAN LEARN. I just had never been taught the proper way of learning.

After you did an evaluation, you assured me that I’m not that bad at all and that I will pick it up really fast. At our first session, I felt like I was in Kitah Alef again. You taught me the basic foundational skills that were never taught in Cheder. I couldn’t believe that I was missing those skills.

The same week I sat down to learn Chumash and Rashi, I noticed a particular Rashi in Parshas Vayeitzei 29:15 where he was explaining the “vov hahifuch”. I was so excited that I knew what Rashi was talking about because you had just taught it to me at our first session! If not for you teaching it to me I would’ve never paid attention to it. It’s dikduk… the rebbis in Cheder always skipped those Rashis!

I look forward to our weekly class. I gain so much from it every time and can’t wait until we actually start learning Gemara.

It is a shame and disgrace that the chadorim don’t teach the basic foundational skills of how to learn. No wonder there are so many dropouts. We need a total revamp of our education system and start teaching as it says in Pirkei Avos.

Your book is a must-read for every parent. Every school owner, school principal, and even Rabbis must read your book. If only I had known those skills before I started to learn gemara in Kitah Heh!

Finally, I now feel that learning is made for me also, not only for the elite.

I hope your book will raise awareness amongst all parents that send yiddishe neshames to cheders. Parents should rise up and demand from the chadorim that the children are taught the proper foundation skills to help them learn for the rest of their lives when they are out of school.

Thank you for writing the book and giving me hope.

“I Can’t Learn” is available for purchase at all Jewish bookstores or online at


For evaluations, speaking engagements or to sponsor my seforim, please contact my office at Tel. (514) 739-3629

Cell/Whatsapp (514) 993-5300

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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