Rav Bender: Have We Gone Mad?

31

By Rav Yaakov Bender, Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Darchei Torah, Far Rockaway

Baruch Hashem, it has been a wonderful first two weeks here at the yeshiva. From Nursery through Kollel, and every level in between, the talmidim are learning and growing – and most of all, they are visibly happy. Based on the overwhelming feedback that we have received from you, the parents, it is clear that you are happy as well.
So forgive me if I feel the need to offer some constructive criticism, but this issue bothers me a lot, and I feel that we cannot ignore it. Especially not in Elul.
The issue is WhatsApp.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This message is not about the whole parsha of technology and its myriad of pitfalls in kedusha and menschlichkeit that lurk everywhere, both for ourselves and our children. That is a serious topic that needs further discussion and takonos. Today I am writing specifically about WhatsApp and similar ‘social media’ platforms.
Baruch Hashem, I think it is safe to say that nearly every one of our 1,324 sets of parents, bli ayin hora, is thrilled with their son’s rebbi and teachers. As is expected, there are bound to be a few parents who are unhappy or who have legitimate concerns or issues, and we do our very best to address them.
What WhatsApp and inventions of its ilk have enabled is for one ‘unhappy camper’ to instantly broadcast and amplify his or her complaint – with the click of a touchscreen – to scores or more of their fellow parents. This is not a uniquely Darchei Torah problem. This is a problem in Klal Yisroel.
How much progress we as a nation have made over the last number of years in awareness of and dikduk in the halachos of Loshon Hora and Rechilus! With the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at the forefront, it is finally acceptable to politely interrupt another person with, “I’m sorry, but I think that’s Loshon Hora. Let’s change the subject.” Mi Kiamcha Yisroel! How many men, women and even children around the world learn two halachos a day, according to the calendar set forth by Rav Yehuda Zev Segal zt”l, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva!
But the Yetzer Hora/Soton is very smart. He’s definitely smarter than us. So smart, that he invented the smartphone (pun intended) — and an estimated 5.7 million apps of all kinds to run on it. Including apps like WhatsApp. So now serious aveiros of bein adam lichaveiro, such as Loshon Hora, Rechilus, Motzi Shem Ra, and others, have become much easier to violate – usually without much forethought. A Yerei Shomayim adult – someone who is meticulous about kashrus, Shabbos and the entire Torah – who would never dare to stand up in front of an auditorium of 90 people and spew rumors, gossip and negativity about another Yid, has no compunction about doing the exact same thing via a digital app! Have we gone mad?
A case in point: I received an email from a parent who was concerned about the configuration of her son’s classroom. And then an email from another parent, and then another. No parents had ever previously complained about that room. They love the rebbi and the teacher and the children are thriving. Suddenly, in the space of a few days this month, we received about ten complaints. What happened?
The key phrase in the email from the first parent who wrote me is very telling: “and I, along with all of the other parents, was very disturbed.”The proverbial bell went off in my head. WhatsApp! One parent had a concern – legitimate or not, that is beside the point – and aired it to a group of fellow parents.
Is this the nicest yeshiva building in America? Possibly. Is there another yeshiva with as beautiful and modern a campus, with expansive ball fields, a gym and other amenities right on its grounds for miles around? I doubt it. All of the positive attributes of their son’s yeshiva were lost as one parent’s gripe suddenly became the shared concern of “all of the other parents“in the group.
I have heard from other menahalim around the country who are in agony over this issue. Your hair would stand on end if you heard about some of the virtual “retzicha” of rabbeim and teachers that came about because of parents with loose lips, or, in this case, loose fingers. I use the term “retzicha” purposely, as Chazal compare the severity of evil speech to actual murder. Countless lives and careers have been devastated. For what? Because someone needed to vent?
Rabbosai, Yisroel Kedoshim Heim. We have so much to be proud of, in all areas. But it’s Elul. It’s a time of reckoning, of cheshbon hanefesh. Before we hit ‘send,’ let us stop and think: is this muttar? Or is this a ticket toGehenom? I do not wish such a gezeirah on anyone, but let’s be careful.
Thank you for listening.
Kesiva vachasima tova.
{Matzav.com Newscenter}

31 COMMENTS

  1. BH we are Zocheh to have Roshei Yeshiva like Horav Bender Shlita who are not afraid to sign their name when expressing their concern on issues such as this. The class chats that exist in EVERY Yeshiva (there is no school that does not have this happening – there are schools who will think or claim they don’t, but they all do) these chats are awful. I am on one of them for one of my children and it is horrible in this area expressed by Rav Bender. I remain on this chat because it also helps so much with getting the word out quickly on class news, homework assignments, arranging play dates and other helpful reasons, but when it comes to destroying the teachers, rabbeim and hanholos the chat is horrendous.

    My unsolicited advice – parents on these chats should allow the teachers rabbeim and principals to read the chats, give them the chance to defend themselves or explain themselves and by doing this, when parents realize that the person they are writing about is reading it as well, they will no doubt think 10 times before posting. This will all but eliminate the Loshon Hora parts and keep the chats for information sharing and helpful information only.

  2. This is nothing new. Its just the means of how its dosplayed. hotzoas shem ra especially with schools camps rebbeim and shidduchim are quite common unfortunately. And its not only the parents who cause it. We’re all guilty.
    Teshuva teshuva teshuva.

    • Yaakov,
      “grivences” “grievances” Yes, that is PRECISELY the issue every minor silly issue has BECOME a major “grievance”!
      We are a spoiled generation with every person thinking as they are G-d’s gift to the world.
      Instead of taking care of their children, people spend time on social media and then blame their children’s educators.
      Not that Mosdos are perfect – they are far from it! But that very situation is part of the parents fault as well.

    • In private. To the principal or a Rav, never to our children or other parents.
      Parents also have to realize that schools are of necessity designed for a rabbim, even as they heroically try to individualize for each child’s “darko”. This is an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children that even if something is not perfectly suited to them as an individual, it is sometimes (often) worth making sacrifices for the benefit of the tzibbur. We want our children to learn to be osek betzorchei tzibbur, but then we confuse them by giving them messages that clearly imply that their needs and desires come first.
      Let’s empower our children to grow into responsible, giving human beings who will give nachas to HKB”H.

    • YG, Shlita
      Can you please elaborate why the same manner that they did for the past 5 plus millenia is insufficient?
      Does every grievance require social unrest ?
      Perhaps you are taking a cue from our least educated sector of society.
      I for one am not a mechanech , but as a parent abhor my whiny colleagues . Whatsapp is steroids for whiners .

      • You have the gall to speak the english language and utter that! Did you get a secular education? Did Moshe Rabeinu? What about do you use modern inventions and plumbing electricity etc. . Do you send your kids or would send to beis yakovs? People learn some Jewish History !

        • Eh?!
          So if we adopted aramaic,we should also absorb their bad attitudes?!

          So if we did adopt some things from the Greeks ,we Ch”V should’ve adopted their despicable behavior !?

        • Eh?!
          So if we adopted aramaic,we should also absorb their bad attitudes?!

          So if we did adopt some things from the Greeks ,we Ch”V should’ve adopted their despicable behavior !?

          That is what you do ?

    • Directly to the Rebbe or Menahel. Don’t just spread your complaint around to all the parents first. Would you appreciate it if all of your clients/customers/patients ganged up on you over one issue that one of them had and then all at once they all decided to start bashing you over the head about it when that one person could have just brought it to your attention and you could have fixed it quickly without everybody getting worked up about it?

    • Parents with grievances can make an appointment to speak to the rebbi, teacher or menahel to discuss their concerns. The aforementioned method may sound archaic in today’s technology driven world, but it’s the most mentchlich way to do things.

  3. His points are very valid. It is wrong to create a whole scandal about small things, that will anyhow be addressed if you approach privately and respectfully.
    But what are we to in cases of true misjudgment and abuse of power?

  4. I have an enormous amount of respect and gratitude for Rav Bender. Sadly – and he knows this more than anyone else – not all people are like him. Hanhalos don’t always care to address concerns – and let’s just leave it at that. Perhaps if of theirs were like Rav Bender, parents would have to feel like they have to resort to aggressive – and prohibited – methods to get some attention where it is due.

  5. Thank you To Rabbi Bender, one of the heroes in the Torah world today, a true Torah giant, a giant of spirit, a kindhearted mechanech who truly cares about Klal Yisroel.

  6. This is refreshing article, cause we mostly hear railing against technology, but we hardly hear any guidance how to USE it properly al pi Torah.

  7. I agree 100% with Rabbi Bender. My concern is that for so long the Hanhalas etc have benefited by pushing everything under the rug. When a parent voiced a concern they would make the parent think they are the only one with such and such concern. Now my point is not to justify the Lashan Harah but I dont think that just simply addressing this as assur and unacceptable is the correct approach, he should offer an approach how this can work.

  8. R’ Goldberg – Parents can express their issues with the hanhala directly. At least there they stand a chance of getting something accomplished. Chatting on a chat will accomplish nothing other then become a vehicle for more Loshon Hora and as Rav Bender said become your ticket to Gehenom.

  9. You address grievances by speaking to the person who can help you. All the parents you are venting to are not in a power to help you. I work in a school and have seen that one parent is upset about the bus, will vent to the whole group, with no toeles, as they are not the ones that can help, and this puts a damper on the whole group even if they don’t have that issue per se. If you want the school to fix a problem, you must let them know. By venting to all the parents, ,via whatsapp or just speaking to them, is just making every one excited and upset about a problem that can easily be fixed by addressing it to the right person

  10. Definitely not to other parents. They should speak to the person who can do something to repair the matter – sometimes it’s the teacher, sometimes the principal, sometimes administrator.

  11. Definitely not other parents. Grievances should be addressed to the person who can repair it or help repair. Sometimes it’s the teacher, sometimes it’s the principal, sometimes it’s the administrator. But just talking about it with other people only spreads ill will.

  12. To Yakov Goldberg: the old-fashioned way. Speak to the teacher or menahel if necessary. If there is a more pervasive issue than “let’s talk about my child’s seat placement”, talk to a friend who will handle things appropriately and wisely, i.e. keep it between the two of you. Sometimes you do have to approach the school as a group. It can be done with dignity and without letting the whole world know, with something minor and easily manageable snowballing.

    This reminds me of the Tisha B’Av CCHF video of a year+ ago, about the rebbe who was – gasp!- buying a very expensive piece of meat…

  13. This definitely goes both ways. My wife and I have complained about a particular teacher many times. We were told that we are the only ones complaining about the teacher and my daughter must be the issue. When a menahel or principal says you are the only ones complaining we have a right to seek out others to check on this. It turns out many parents were complaining and each parent was told that they were the only ones with the issue. Its called divide and conquer.

    To be balanced, parents have to very careful not to broadcast on WhatsApp group petty and small minded complaints because a small issue can get blown of proportion in that forum. A group chat should be used to exchange information not to use all the group participants to release some steam.

  14. To Yakov Goldberg: If a parent has a grievance with the school, he should address the school directly not vent to everyone on whatsapp. Maybe others don’t have the same issues he has and don’t have to hear about them.

  15. Kol hakavod to Rav bender for having the courage to say what should be said. I am a parent, not a hanhalah member, and I couldn;t agree more.

  16. And in the “olden days,” if parents were bothered by something and made phone calls (rotary or cordless) to see if other parents were bothered too, and if they were, they presented a united front to the hanhala – what was wrong with that?
    If there is something that bothers a parent, it is wise to see if others are bothered too. The more people who complain about the same thing, the more likely something will be done about it. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  17. Rabbi Bender is absolutely right. The problem is real. The answer isn’t do away with whatsapp groups – as commentators are suggesting, but rather be more careful with your speech. I am part of three separate class whatsapp groups (different grades) and none ever reduce to teacher or school bashing. That’s a credit to the parent members.
    For their part however, school administrators need to be more available to parents and really listen to and address their concerns. I was blown away to read in this article that Rabbi Bender has an email that is available to parents. The principals of my sons’ yeshiva is difficult to reach and when reached they tend to brush aside parent concerns. It’s no wonder parents turn to each other to vent!
    School administrators: please do your part to help the situation by making yourself available to parents and really listen to their concerns. Your students are OUR kids – we should be actively involved in their education!
    There are three guilty parties in lashon hara: the one who says it, the one who hears it and the one who it’s about. Principals, please make yourselves more available to parents and allow chinuch to be more transparent so that parents won’t need to vent in whatsapp groups or anywhere else.

  18. we were raised, and we raised our children that –right or wrong–the rebbe/morah/teacher was right. then we dealt with it . in life, we are not all going to be perfectly happy with our in-laws, siblings, teachers, employers, siblings and, dare i say it, parents. venting to others who do not have the power or interest to change situations is pointless. having a loshon horah fest with other parents, friends, our own children,will not effect change discussing the situation with the person who does have the power, where each person listens to the other persons point of view, usually helps. and, of course, this can be an amazing opportunity to teach our children to be mevater

  19. Although i believe in technology – i believe in using it for business, banking and research – i think that social media is very threatening to our society in many ways. We no longer talk to each other – we post casually and every little stupid vent/kvetch becomes an issue and we have to share and like and reply – There is no way that this media can be controlled – just forbid it – so you will have to have a chain call to advise of the postponement of the teacher’s meeting, or to find out if somebody found your son’s scarf – it is not worth it-do we recall the feathers mashal of lashon hara – imagine how we would gather feathers from a whatsapp audience – Rabbosai- it is NOT WORTH IT. People get hurt, kids have another insane standard of who their ‘friends’ are-personalities are crushed with the lack of human and personal interaction – we have to stop it before it cripples us – Try to show your children that not every complaint is a worthwhile taana, certainly not a publishable issue – Take things in stride more and your children will learn that middah and it will benefit them forever (and eternally)

  20. Many parents in my class have asked me to share my trick. Before Yeshiva, I created the what’s app group, with the English teacher and I as admins. We run the group. If parents post a grievance, we can respond instantly.

LEAVE A REPLY