Rav Schachter: Teach the Poshut P’shat

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rav-hershel-schachterDuring a kashrus webcast two years ago at OU headquarters in New York, NY, with OU Kashrus’ senior poskim, Rav Yisroel Belsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and Rav Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon, Rav Schachter took a strong stand regarding teaching children the simple understanding of the Haggadah Shel Pesach.

Following a fascinating program of dozens of questions aimed at providing practical guidance for the Seder and for Pesach preparation, Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, the moderator, asked the rabbonim in which area do they see the most mistakes being made with regard to Pesach observance.

Rav Shechter responded that earlier, it had been asked how much time people should allow their children to spend on the sheets that they prepared in school.

“I think that that’s a major problem,” said Rav Schachter. “[At] all the different yeshivos and all the day schools, the rabbeim a lot of times teach the children gematrios and roshei teivos and pshetlach and vehi shemada…[that] it means this and it means that. They don’t tell them the poshut p’shat. I think it is a problem with Chumash as well…they teach all the children p’shetlach on all the pesukim.

“I think we should try to straighten out the yeshivos and the chinuch, and the day schools…should teach the poshut pshat, without the gematrios and without the roshei teivos. They should know what the pirush hamillos is. We shouldn’t have the children eat up so much time with all these roshei teivos and p’shetlach. And then we finish the Afikoman after chatzos and we finish the Arbah Kosos after chatzos. They should be…trained to say over the poshut p’shat.”

Rav Schachter also mentioned that it is his impression that many people are not aware of the chiyuv to drink at least rov kos during the Arbah Kosos – and lechtchilah the full kos – and that just taking a sip, as some people do – “they think it’s  like under a chupah,” said Rav Schachter – is not correct.

He said that people exaggerate how hard it is to drink the Arbah Kosos. “If it wouldn’t be Pesach night, there wouldn’t be a yeitzer harah not to drink, so they would be able to drink Arbah Kosos.”

{Casriel Bauman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. When Reb Berel z”l told over a pshetlach to the Brisker Rov z”l, the Rov admonished the cheder rebbe and told him “only the poshut pshat”. This problem carries over in high school and bais medrash where bochrim are fed “raid” and know this better then the gemora rashi tosfos. It is a widespread problem and the bochrim as well their rebbeim refuse to change. (and I bet the mod. will delete the last sentence and that proves how embedded this problem is that no one wants to change the status quo!)

  2. I’ve been complaining about this for some 20 years now. Bu WE push lomdus lomdus lomdus, and who cares about poshut pshat anymore? It’s wrong.

  3. By having machmir in the shiur of a kos, we create problems drinking rov kos. Get a smaller kos (at max, it needs to be about 5 oz). Most of the kosos that people use are 7+ ounces.

  4. When the Pesukim are telling us Halochos, it is impossible to reconcile the Poshut Pshat. If you would follow it, you would be practicing a totally diffr relegion.

    Therefore, it’s a bit dangerous to focus to much on Poshut Pshat when learning with a fresh mind of a child. That’s why Rashi goes staight to the Medrash.

  5. To #8: We’re talking about the Hagadah here. We must explain the poshuter pshat of the Hagadah. And where there are drashos of Halachah (like Yachol meirosh chodesh), those must be explained according to the poshter pshat of Chazal, and, if you wish, with a vertel also. But don’t forget to explain poshut pshat.

    For example, how does the posuk with the words “lochatzim osom” show that “lachatz” means “d’chak?” Zo hacherev: where and when was there “cherev” (sword) during Yitzias Mitzrayim? And many more like that. I actually wrote and had published a Hagadah that translates the entire Hagadah according to poshut pshat, and baalai tshuvah love it, despite the fact that the publishers ruined it with the Hebrew font they used. Oh well, gam zu latovah.

  6. comment to #8 – I think you are missing the point. The question at hand is how far off the text a rebbe should go. For example, when teaching a gemara a basic translation of the sugya and its main rishonim/achronim are key.

    The question is, do you move on or continue to analyze it with even more from as many contemporary achronim you can find.

    In most yeshivas the rebbeim try to add on many more achronim than necessary to have a basic understaing of the gemara/rishonim. The reason is simple (and i’ve been told this first hand by many rebbeim). The rebbi has to keep it geshmak for the bochurim. These extra ‘phetlach’ make the bochurim feel good when they learn them and tell them over.

    For this generation this is necessary but it certainly wasn’t always like this.

  7. #8 – The brisker rov also added on another occasion that pshat is like rashi. i.e. to only speak out how rashi explains the words and not necessarily all the midrashim….

    #12 – The Chazon ish once answered such a rebbe “if you would have geshmak in pshat, so would the talmidim”…..???? ????? !!!!

  8. The Chassam Sofer in Toras Moshe on Parshas Beshalach and also in Derashos, speaks about why we teach Midrashim and other Peshatim to Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban rather than the poshut peshat in the Chumash. The answer he gives is to open the minds of the children. (He doesn’t write lets change the mesora)Haggada on the other hand the Chassam Sofer taught his young children the simple pshat(Minhagei Chassam Sofer). So it seems that there is a difference. As an added note, the Chazzan Ish writes that “miyom azvu es limud hamarsha, azvu es limud hapshat kula”.

  9. “Get a smaller kos (at max, it needs to be about 5 oz). ”

    Five ounces is way too big. Reb Moshe zt”l says 3.31 is enough. The real shiur is smaller, just look at the kos your great-grandfather used, it’s probably much smaller than 5 oz.


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