Rav Schachter: Teach the Poshut P’shat

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rav-hershel-schachterDuring a recent kashrus webcast 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.”

{Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. There are other meals to share the divrei Torah with.
    I think it was Rav Yaakov zt”l who said that schools are teaching so much, there’s nothing left for the higadta l’vincha. I guess it’s good then if the schools don’t focus as much on pashut pshat.

  2. Parents – let’s take back our Sedorim and return them to the Vehigadita Levincha status and no longer allow them to be Vehigadita Leavicha. It is out of control!

    If you take a few minutes and prepare the Seder you can do it. Even if you think you can’t – you can! it is an amazing opportunity to sit with your family – to lead your family and to do your part in the Mesoras Hatorah. when your kids get older they will remember what you told them much more then the vertlach they wrote down.

    Reb Chaim Kanievsky Shlita was asked last week the question of if you have only 1 room for guests in your home do you invite your parents becasue of Kibud Av or your children becasue of Vehigadita Levincha? The Rov’s answer? You guessed it – the children come first for the Sedorim (if there is no other option of course to have them both). The Mitzva of teaching your children is that strong. So if that is our Mitzva as parents then we need to do it and not by having the kids talking during the Seder (they have all of Yom Tov to do that).

  3. I think people are missing the point – the point is that all this gematriya nonsense is obscuring the actual Hagada. So that kids spend ten times more time and energy finding out about the 4 sons, than they do “avodim hayinu b’mitzrayim” – while the latter is just a bit more important…

  4. The fact that Matzav is publishing insights of Rav Schachter is exhilirating. May Hashem reward you all for promoting achdus.

  5. This isn’t just a problem with the Haggadah. It seems that teaching Midrashim – the stranger-sounding the better – has actually become the ikar, leaving the pshat to be forgotten. I once heard a very young Bais Yaakov girl giving over a very complicated midrash at the Shabbos table. She was obviously having trouble even remembering it. When she finished, her father (who was also in chinuch), asked her, “So what’s the nimshal? What is this trying to teach us?” The poor kid not only had not the foggiest idea what the midrash was about, she didn’t even know it was supposed to be about anything. To her it was just another part of the pshat to be memorized, along with the actual pesukim themselves.

    If our kids are not taught the difference between pshat and midrashim which are taught almost as if they were fairy stories, how are they to know what is essential and what isn’t, when they begin to ask questions in general? How many kids have had problems staying on the derech because their rebbe insists that the child believe literally that Adam Harishon was 1000 feet tall, or otherwise the child is an apikorus?

    Let’s get back to basics – teach the pshat as pshat, and leave the midrashim for when the child is older and can understand the hashkafa concepts they are trying to teach. Of course, this means re-educating some of the rebbeim, but as Rav Schachter says, it’s a problem and we’d better get busy solving it.

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