The Gedolei Yisroel on the Cheder Wall

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“In our classroom, there are pictures on the wall of the gedolei Yisroel when they were in second grade.” This statement, which sounds bizarre to the point of being detached from reality, was made by my grandson, a child in Rabbi Leventhal’s class at Talmud Torah Shaarei Daas in Ramot. Does anyone have a picture of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky or Rav Moshe Feinstein when they were in second grade? Has anyone ever seen such a picture of Rav Ovadiah Yosef or Rav Shmuel Wosner? Did cameras even exist when Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach was in the second grade? How can such a collection of pictures be on the wall of a cheder?

Curiosity impelled me to investigate the matter; perhaps there would be an interesting story behind it. I found the time to make a trip to Ramot, where I climbed the two flights of stairs in the Shaarei Daas building and entered Rabbi Leventhal’s classroom. I told the rebbi about the purpose of my visit, as my eyes scanned the walls for the pictures in question. As I had anticipated, there wasn’t a single sign of the collection of pictures my grandson had described.

“He must have made it up,” I deduced.

Rabbi Leventhal smiled broadly. “He wasn’t imagining it at all. Take a look at those pictures on the wall.”

I looked. The wall was decorated with photographs of the children in the class. I recognized two of them, including my grandson.

Rabbi Leventhal explained, “I tried to find pictures of the gedolei Yisroel when they were at the age of the children in our class, but no such pictures exist. No one took a picture of Rav Shach when he was in second grade. But I decided that for the next generation, there would be such pictures! These children, be’ezras Hashem, will be gedolei Yisroel in another 50 years.”

And then, of course, there will be photographs of the gedolei Yisroel when they were in second grade. I was amazed by the genius of the cheder rebbi.

Tzvi Yaakovson –


  1. it is goionus r gifter zt”l had a blank space among his pictures of gedolim but I m not sure it will work for a second graders either they ll think I ll never get there which is a detriment or just dismiss it offhand with a sarcastic chuckle a realistic goal would be more appropriate like I want to be like my rebbi

  2. Here’s my take –

    Perhaps the aforementioned Torah scholars had a chance to achieve greatness, precisely because when they were in second grade the class was focused on actual Torah study. Maybe, just maybe, instead of being bombarded with photos and make believe stories, children had the opportunity to look inside and enlighten their pure eyes with the אותיות מחכימות of our תורת אמת. It is nothing short of barbaric, that my son (who is enrolled in a fine Lakewood cheder with the most refined staff BTW) has a better chance of knowing when the יאהרצייט of רב אהרון קוטלר ז”ל is, then knowing how many years נח lived for.

    אוי לנו מאותה בושה!!!

    Those of us that feel a responsibility to our future need to join forces and brainstorm. We need to come up with a plan, no less important and insightful than that of רב יהושע בן גמלא to restore our אידישע pride ליושנה!

  3. #2 what u r saying is true sadly however it doesn’t pertain to this post. I think the rabbi is a genius and this way he boosts the kids’ self esteem and shows them they can make it without overdoing them and showing them where it actually starts if u want to become a gadol

  4. I question the (well-meaning) Rebbe’s actions.
    What about the boy who, in 2nd grade, is having a hard time?!? When he can’t read the pasuk/Rashi/ mishna, he will now think to himself – “I WILL NEVER BE A GADOL!” and he will CH”V give up.
    Stop pressuring kids to be a gadol! Pressure them to be a mentsch! To be ehrlich! Not everyone one is a gadol! We have created this silly system that everyone needs to be “the top”. So what happens is that kids 1) become despondent and give up or 2) pretend that they are geonim and fake it.


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