By Rabbi DovidAbenson
We reserve the right to limit the quantity of successful bochurim coming out of this yeshiva © 2014. 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 Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav 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 hakaroshatov, 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 simchashachaim would not be dimished in any way in LimudHaTorah, 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 ShlomoHamalech “Al Pi Darchoi” – and not “Al Pi Darchem!”
Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director, author and lecturer at ShaarHatalmud, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-HATALMUD (428 2568).