R’ Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz: I Apologize and Ask Mechilah

(Thursday, January 28th, 2016 12:01 PM)

syrDear Readers,

As there is a lot of confusion regarding my speech, I would like to clarify some of my points and my intentions. I apologize for any typos etc….but I am writing at a very inconvenient time from a very inconvenient place (Maimonides Hospital). I nevertheless feel it’s important to write now, to avoid anymore potential Lashon Harah.

1. I apologize and ask Mechila for not for seeing the possibility of people using my comments out of context. The point of my speech was to deliver one message, and one message only, and that is to make sure that there is a place in school for all our children in Lakewood.  It was not meant in any way to “bash” Lakewood or its leaders. Anyone using my comments to support their own ulterior agendas are twisting my words. I am not Anti-Lakewood or Anti-Kollel, and if that happens to be your position, I would reccomend you take a tour of the city and its Mikomos Hakdoshim and I assure you, that you will be impressed. Anyone who is somewhat familiar with the substantial financial resources that I’ve invested and will continue to invest in Lakewood, would quickmy Family, and am proud and thankful that I can be a part of this extraordinary Makom Torah. Besides supporting the Mosdos, I think I’ve proven that I try to do everything in my power to help any Yungerman or their children in a time of need, and IY’H hope to continue to do so, in addition to the rest of Klal Yisroel.

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1. I never Chas V’shalom meant to be Mevazeh any of the Roshei Yeshiva or Rabbonim. To the contrary, I spoke of the Roshei Yeshiva’s attempts and involvement in helping children get into Mosdos, only to be turned down. I have heard directly from many Roshei Yeshiva, both from Lakewood and other cities, that they consistently have problems getting children into Lakewood schools. If any of the Roshei Yeshiva or Rabbonim were offended, I hereby ask them publicly for Mechila. If any Rov or Rosh Hayeshiva would like me to come to them personally, I’m prepared to do so. I have, and always had tremendous Kavod for the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva. Im sure if asked, they will all tell you that I fulfill any and all requests they ask of me without asking any questions. As an Askan, I have never acted without the directive of the Gedolim. In all my Tzedakos, I believe that I’m known to never ever give with strings attached. I don’t discriminate against any person or Mosad even if they’ve done me wrong.

2. If I had to do it again, I would’ve spent the first hour telling people about the greatness of Lakewood. Lakewood has grown by leaps and bounds in population and Ruchniyus. Under the tutelage of the Rosh Hayeshiva, Hagaon Hatzadik, Reb Malkiel Kotler Shlit’a, Lakewood has been more successful than anyone’s wildest imaginations. It’s Talmidei Chachamim have sprouted all over the world, spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit. The city off route 9 that we call Lakewood is merely the “corporate office” for the world over. I mentioned that Lakewood is everything right, that there is nothing more beautiful than Lakewood, but they are deficient in just one area. Due to the fact that I wanted to get a point across in the time allotted to me, I clearly did not spend enough time describing my genuine Ahava for Lakewood.

3. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when I specifically said  that I don’t place the blame on the Roshei Mosdos, as they’re doing what we’d all do, to protect their Mosdos and not compromise the Chinuch they provide for following years. I also did not want to place blame on them, as every single one of them have bent over backwards to try and help alleviate the problem. I’ve been in communication with most of them, and they’re always trying to place “just one more child”.

4. Let me be clear. I put most of the blame on the Elitists. An Elitist is someone who calls a Mosad, and holds them hostage forcing their will and desires, while clearly harming other children. They are generally of the belief that they are superior or frummer than everyone else. They put themselves on a pedestal and insist on their way or the highway. Instead of viewing other kids as the Aibeshters children, they view every child as a potential threat to their child’s reputation. This happens every year at nearly every Mosad. I can understand a parent wanting a school where all the children come from homes without Internet, televisions or other negative influences, but if you don’t want your child in a class that has children who’s fathers work to provide Parnasah for their family, then you are an elitist! The working father can be ehrlich, Kovea Ittim, have all the right Hashkofos, but that’s not good enough for you, because you consider yourself on a much higher Madreigah.

5. The one point where I should’ve been clearer is that the vast majority of Lakewood are not elitists. They are humble B’nei Torah who’s Zechusim we rely on to exist. But as in every religion and every culture, the extremists and the most vocal carry the show. While the elitists are the Mi’uta D’miuta, they’ll cause 90% of the problem. In my opinion, it’s incumbent on all of us, as the silent majority to speak up and not tolerate these attitudes that are the impetus and perpetuation of the problem.

6. I should have taken out the time to thank all the Askanim who work day and night, trying to get children placed. They Aibeshter should bench them with Shefa and  Bracha. Unfortunately, they don’t have the power alone to fix the system.

7. As I have clearly gotten too emotionally involved, I don’t think I’m the person to deal with the schooling issue. I have therefore decided to remove myself from this Parsha. In terms of financial support, I will continue to support this beautiful Makom Torah, and hopefully with Hashem’s help, and your Tefillos, I’ll be able to increase my support.

As the Seforim Hakdoshim write: We’ll never know who is supporting who.

Ha’Aron Nosei Es Noisov. (Yalkut Shimoni)

B’Chavod Rav,

Shlomo Yehuda

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36 Comments

  1. crazybrit says:

    Im not sure what the apology is for.

    Every word of that drosho was gold and true.

  2. TannaKamma says:

    Reb Shloime – I’m mochel you for apologizing…

    May G-d give you the strength to continue on your path of truth & fearlessly fulfill the Mitzva min HaTorah of “Lo saamod al dam rayecha”.

    Ashrecha!!

  3. independent_thinker says:

    This posting is brilliant, as it ironically and transparently shows that Mr. Rechnitz did strike a chord with the majority of people. On YouTube, the clip yielded 726 positive ratings to 19 negative ratings, and over 75,000 hits over 3 days. He was right on all fronts, and the opinions on YWN on the previous article echo these points. But this is what happened. The next morning, when the dust cleared, he got a phone call and there was something that we don’t know. This apology is transparent verification that someone felt really threatened. Is there no better verification that something is really wrong here? Gaivah. Gaivah. Gaivah. It is killing us. Kol HaKavod to you, Mr. Rechnitz for standing up. May Hashem give you the strength to pursue this agenda behind the closed doors of scary and threatened men.

  4. manishma says:

    You may not have bashed the Roshei Yeshiva but the points mentioned in peoples comments are all valid.
    Why is a family where the father works not good enough to be in most Lakewood mosdos?
    What does the color of the father’s shirt have to do with the frumkeit of a person?
    B’mchilas kvoid the Roshei Yeshiva if they are the leaders of the community they need to be able to control the elitists running the township.

  5. independent_thinker says:

    Correction, 71,916 hits and counting!

  6. ajmyer says:

    What, apologize for whom!! you were EXCELLENT.

  7. Yitzy B says:

    Interesting that this letter is showing up on far fewer websites than the original speech did….

  8. yosef stern says:

    Ashrecha! The only thing this man cares about is potential Lashon Horah, whereas YWN doesn’t care one iota to publish loshon hora, motzei sheim rah, or rechilus about Jew as long as their rates go up!!!

  9. Not getting involved says:

    Beautiful. Kol Hakavod.

  10. karlbenmarx says:

    so basically he is saying everything he said before he didn’t mean?

  11. MDshweks says:

    This clarification is exactly how I took his speech in the first place. It’s always the loud minority vs. the silent majority.

  12. eric55 says:

    SY your speech was self explanatory anyone who didnt get it and was bashing you for it, is for one reason only because they are Elitist and they have a guilty conscience. 99% of Lakewood was cheering you on. All of your tzedokah should be a zechus for your shver to have a refua shelaima B’karov

  13. Realisticguy says:

    Kudos very well said. And I would like to add to what you are saying. Someone mentioned that the main point that needs to get across is that while in the past the luxury of being able to keep ones child in atmosphere of their choosing may or may not have harmed anyone that time has passed. Lakewood is now too big for any one person to be able to dictate without hurting anyone. And any one who insists on being able to dictate in this situation is in the wrong religion and is missing some major hashkafa. Their child not being in the ideal environment is the least of their problems.

  14. y2r says:

    Your Speach was great!!!

    People who talk negative about LAkewood in general are low people..

    I personally witness the Rosh yeshiva (r’ Malkiel) trying to get kids into schools and being turned down in a very nasty way. To the Rosh yeshivas credit he did not give up. Some people are not machshiv das Torah..
    I also heard from a mother who the schools did not take in their kids and she placed a call to Rechnitz and the next day they were in.

    Rechnitz and the Rosh Hayeshiva and should also mention R’ Menasha Frankel are tzadikim

  15. crazykanoiy says:

    Lmaaseh did he but the winning power ball ticket or not?

    This obsession with Rechnitz is ridiculous.

  16. Aaron Teitelbaum says:

    Dear Mr. Rechnitz,
    You spoke beautifully, I think you were very clear and have nothing to apologize for. I do admire the fact that you are apologizing for some people’s misinterpretation. If we put aside the many mitzvos you have already done, I think this speech outweighs them all, and we all know that you have done an enormous amount of mitzvos in your lifetime. You were the Pinchos ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakoain, The Nachshon ben Aminodov, etc…. the person that took the guts to jump in the fire to stop the plague from klal yisroel. I had tears running down my cheeks while I was listening to your speech. Ashrechem to the parents who can proudly say “this is my son”, Ashrechem to your entire family that can say “he is our relative”, and Ashreini klal yisroel that we have a brother like you.
    May this be a zchus for a Refua Shleima for your great father-in-law and for all of klal yisroel.

  17. hymie18 says:

    From an admirer

    Writing this while sitting at the bedside of your critically ill shver took a lot of fortitude. The Ribbono She Olam should continue to give you koach to do your heilige arbit.

    From Maimonides Hospital…..

  18. ricola says:

    Where are all those individuals who were so quick to condemn Lakewood on the previous post? I live in Lakewood and I love it but I am well aware of its flaws- as with any other location. Each city or town has their own set of unique dynamics which leads to its own unique list of pros and cons. Yes, there are serious issues involved in getting a child into school and often it is because the school chooses to not take a child who reflects poorly on their institution. Many many more times, it’s because the classes have already enrolled between 40-50 students in EACH class! No one is acknowledging the fact that many times it truly is a space issue. I have been involved in getting several children placed in schools and I can think of only one rosh hamosad who took his position as a power trip. Most of these people are human beings whose hearts break from the mothers who call them crying. Lakewood is an exceptional town and the amount of chessed performed here daily is astounding. So while there is indeed a serious issue in regard to school acceptance please do not unduly disparage an entire town- 50,000 people in one fell swoop. That was certainly not the point of rabbi rechnitz as evidenced in his follow up letter above. Any person or persons who so choose to do so, you may want to read and reread the Sefer chofetz Chaim before posting any more of your vitriol. Thank you!

  19. shmuelg613 says:

    Dear R’ Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, Although I seriously doubt you’ll either have the time or the necessity to read this reply, I nevertheless feel compelled to write my thoughts here. As a mechanech (1st grade Rebbe) for many years, I felt at once powerful to make a significant change within my classroom, yet powerless to help make a real change within Chinuch itself. There is an old adage in Hebrew that says, בעל המאה בעל הדעה. This can be both used disparagingly and positive. I mean this for the positive of course. Your speech inspired me again to believe that there can be accountability towards real change in our current system. Change not in Torah or Mesora but in the human weakness we can all to easily fall into. That of the “eliteness” you so eloquently and powerfully delivered. When one takes the concept of being part of the “Chosen” nation and then uses it as a tool to demean ANYONE, than they have lost the right to use that title. I beg of you NOT to remove yourself from the unique position you are in. Please please, continue on behalf of so many out there that need your voice to be spoken on behalf of us that are mere midgets. I implore to be bold yet again, and speak out on behalf of Chinuch for the sake of תינקות של בית רבן. Do not bend, do not shy away from this for perhaps you were given this ability just for this task alone. Chinuch has a long way to go still. May HaShem continue to grant you success in all your endeavors and may we all yet see the fruits of your labors.

  20. micha says:

    Paragraph #8 hurts the most.

    The obvious reason, because it means that the change won’t happen.

    The more personal reason… because the man spoke about being belittled by the elists, had to apologize for it, and ends by belittling himself yet again!

    To translate: “I am so sorry I had the chutzpah to spell out to you how deeply the elitism in our community has hurt me and those like me by destroying our egos. So sorry. And as kapparah, I admit that someone like me is not fit to help make things better. Go back to your tzidqus.”

    I must confess it broke my ability to continue suspending judgment of your qehillah based on the actions of the kid who had a homeless man pour coffee over his own head for $5. It seems the powers that be do the same thing, but with more finesse and far deeper cuts into the ego. This retraction goes beyond outrageous, it’s Rav Aharon’s second petirah — the dream the Alter of Slabodka nurtured all those years ago is truly dead.

    I would like to establish personal contact with a man. I think I found someone with ability, funds, and quite likely a strong desire to revive a Yahadus in which (to quote R Shimon Shkop, haqdamah to Shaarei Yosher):

    יתברך הבורא ויתעלה היוצר שבראנו בצלמו ובדמות תבניתו, וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו, שיהיה אדיר חפצנו, להיטיב עם זולתנו, ליחיד ולרבים בהוה ובעתיד בדמות הבורא כביכול…

    “Blessed shall be the Creator, and exalted shall be the Maker, Who created us in His ‘Image’ and in the likeness of His ‘Structure’, and planted eternal life within us, so that our greatest desire should provide benefit others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were).”

    Or, R’ Yitzchaq Volozhiner, speaking of his father, R’ Chaim (haqdamah to Nefesh haChaim):

    והיה רגיל להוכיח אותי על שראה שאינני משתתף בצערא דאחרינא. וכה היה דברו אלי תמיד שזה כל האדם. לא לעצמו נברא רק להועיל לאחריני ככל אשר ימצא בכחו לעשות.

    “He regularly rebuked me, because he saw that I did not participate in the pain of others. And these were his constant words to me, “This is the entire person: One is not created for oneself, but to benefit others to the full extent of one’s potential.”

    But this, this is Rav Aharon’s second petirah — the dream the Alter of Slabodka nurtured all those years ago is truly dead.

    - MIcha Berger (and I will not say something this strong and be too timid to stand by it!)

  21. adstr says:

    “The working father can be ehrlich, koveia ittim, and have all the right hashkafos”. But someone who has internet does not? Are the internet ppl exclusively a negative influence?

  22. differentshoes says:

    The Rosh Yeshiva gave R’ SY Rechnitz a kiss on the cheek! Enough said.

  23. chaimhakoton says:

    Reb sholomoh yehuda Sh’litoh

    you have Clearly shown over many years your pure unreserved love for torah and its learners.All you want is to ensure every child has a “chance”. Having attended many musser shmusen ,including Reb mattisyoho shelitoh , Zol zien Gezunt ,and hearing how we can /should improve ,i dont recall ever hearing “how dare he criticise -point out shortcomings” .Your speech was clearly said from your deep broken heart with no personal axe to grind (non of your relations have been refused school places) Those of you who are now “upset and hurt,” how “UPSET”were you feeling last week when..so and so the one YOU stopped getting into school spent another day at home. How much did you care to try and help.

  24. Gadolhadorah says:

    In simple terms, a school is a business that should be allowed to set the terms and conditions of admission. If there is a deficit of available slots, the market will step in and provide needed incentives for new schools to open. As a businessman, Reb Sholomo Yehuda should know this and not try to dictate how schools set their admission criteria. If they want to be elitist, that is their option and those who disagree should take their business elsewhere. If someone’s yinglach are refused by all, perhaps they should undertake a serious self-examination.

  25. cv says:

    Someone powerful made this man to apologize for the truth. Very sad.

  26. adocs says:

    Regarding his 4th point… I don’t understand.
    How does an “elitist” who is in the minority, who is presumably not working because he’s “still in learning” , hold the school hostage?

  27. Realisticguy says:

    @gadolhadorah you are terribly wrong. School is not a business in fact it’s assur to take money for teaching learning. However we have a loophole which we use because the school’s need support. How many businesses do you know that go around collecting from door to door?? Regardless of that point we are talking about a place that people all around look up to and therefore their standard of behavior must be better than the rest. Schools are a service to the community and being such there is no one person who should ever be yielded that power. We have already seen it abused.

  28. hashviyin chavivin says:

    Dearest Gadol Hadorah,
    A school is a business? I don’t think educating Jewish neshamos is a business.
    It’s a communal responsibility and that is also the reason why mosdos feel very comfortable to schnor money, because it’s NOT their own personal business. They are selflessly working for and on behalf of the klal.

  29. brooklynhocker says:

    Cv- Rav Belsky’s daughter also known as his wife. His intention was not to insult, it was to wake up the world to the ongoing injustice.

  30. lebron06 says:

    @Gadolhadorah-
    A yeshiva is the farthest thing from a “business”. Our children aren’t “merchandise” to be displayed on the shelves for sale, with only the “best quality” available for purchase. Every neshamah is precious, and (if I may be so bold) in the eyes of H’ there is no difference what the color of the shirt is, whether the parents learn full time or go out to earn a parnassah…

  31. socalleddropout says:

    Don’t ask for forgiveness if everything you said was right on point. The Lakewood school system is so screwed, speaking from a person who got kicked out of 2 schools because of parents that didn’t like me because I had a different hairstyle then their kids. Dropout because of all “you” parents. I have so much respects to Rabbi/Mr Rechnitz. One of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard and it was coming straight from his heart. All you people out there trying to talk bad about such a great man, should all get a life and face the truth. I see everyday new kids coming onto the streets because of reasons that he mentioned and guess what, they wouldn’t be doing drugs if they were just accepted!!!

  32. YLebovic says:

    The problem is more complex than the elitist element. One has to get to the real root of the problem. Here is an article which I wrote many years ago dealing indeed with the root of the problem:
    MY SON IS NOT A “LEARNER” or TIME FOR CHANGES IN THE YESHIVA EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

    Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic

    Yeshiva Education on the Rise

    Over the past several decades Torah-true Judaism has made tremendous strides
    in America and elsewhere. Jewish schools are flourishing, some of them
    bursting at the seams. Jewish life is vibrant and pulsating. The Torah
    community keeps growing and the Yeshiva system of education is becoming the
    norm for more and more families. As with any other state of expansion and
    development, there are birth pangs and labor pains. I would like to address
    this article to certain attitudes that need to be re-evaluated in order to
    solve some problems.

    How It Used To Be

    Throughout the centuries, Yeshiva higher education was reserved for those who
    possessed the intellectual capacity for intense learning. It was they who
    followed the eventual path to kollel. Young boys would generally get a good
    cheder education, become fluent with chumash, many sections of the Mishnah,
    and perhaps a few masechtos and selected chapters of gemoro. At a certain age
    they would then enter various fields of work, eventually marry and set up
    exemplary Jewish homes. If they were not especially gifted, or perhaps simply
    didn’t have enough “sitz-fleish” and perseverance to join the ranks of
    Yissochor, the learners, they’d join with Zevulun to become supporters of
    Torah institutions and Torah scholars. Their own learning meant keeping a
    seder with which they were comfortable. Such has been the Jewish way for
    hundreds of years, each individual recognizing his place in Jewish society.
    Those who did not learn full-time did not feel inferior. Of course, there was
    always the temptation for Talmidei Chachomim to give way to feelings of
    conceit–but that is a human weakness and not a direct result of the Torah-
    learning system.

    The Problem

    Transferring the European Yeshiva system to these shores requires adaptation
    to the special requirements of a new and different situation. One of the many
    new factors to be considered is that in America most everyone goes through
    mandatory high school education, translating into an additional 4-5 years of
    frustration for many students. By the time the Jewish boy reaches high school
    age, he may already find himself in a problematic situation. In most
    Yeshivoth, students are not tracked according to ability. Students are
    directed along one track, with the result that many of them fall by the
    wayside, unable to keep up with the learning. They have special difficulty
    with the analytical reasoning process of Gemoro, for which not everyone is
    readily suited.

    This engenders a feeling of inferiority and a lessened self-image in the
    child. As the years go by, the problem increases; such teenagers often get
    “turned off” and sometimes leave Yiddishkeit altogether. Such is human
    nature: people like to do that at which they succeed, and avoid activities
    that demonstrate their mediocrity. They will certainly avoid that in which
    they fail.
    Why is this so? One factor is the lack of funds. (This is sometimes an
    excuse given for the scarcity of yeshiva trade schools.) It is also a result
    of general attitudes of Jewish parents: “we are the “People of the Book”, with
    a definite scholarly bent. Why should my Yankel be deprived of the best that
    yeshiva education has to offer”? Also, they exclaim, “if Yankel doesn’t learn
    together with everyone else, he might get an inferior shiduch!”

    We must realize that just as an army has its different regiments, each with a
    separate, specific and valuable function. so it is with students. There are
    those who are gifted and/or have great perseverance to till in Torah study,
    who should be encouraged in every way and put in an academic environment that
    will tap and develop their full potential. And there are those whose have
    neither perseverance nor ability, who ought to be put on a different track (
    with the possibility to switch track at a later stage if the situation
    warrants it).

    As long as the number of such students was not that extensive, they were able
    to be swept under the rug, with most people just accepting this as a
    unchangeable phenomenon. (“After all not everyone is an iluy –talmudic whiz”
    they would say). Now, however, we are about to be swept off our communal feet
    if something is not done soon. As time goes on, Yeshiva education is becoming
    more and more the norm for an ever increasing number of students. According
    to a survey I made among many educators, a full 30% of students have the
    difficulties described herein. Thus, the more the student-body grows, with
    the percentage of this type of student remaining a constant given, the greater
    will the problem grow to be: 30% of Yeshiva students may soon translate into
    thousands (!?) of students, who definitely require a separate track.

    We don’t expect adults to sit through classes that are beyond their reach, so
    why should we expect our kids to? Our schools should respond to kids’ needs.
    Successful and responsible educators know that material must be presented
    differently according to the students’ capacities and requirements. Many
    educational systems in force today throughout the world (and throughout
    history, for that matter) all operate with various tracks, so that all
    students can function efficiently, with a sense of accomplishment and growth,
    each according to his level. Students do tend to acknowledge their respective
    intellectual levels and inclinations, and “don’t fall apart” if they can’t
    make it, or are not interested, in the Advanced Math and Science classes. Why
    is the Yeshiva system so different, not really catering to the specific needs
    of each student?

    Do we believe that we can push our children beyond a reasonable point, with or
    without an array of private tutors?

    As a result of the prevailing system many young men in their twenties stay on
    within the yehiva walls only because it is a stigma for them to be outside of
    them and in the hope that doing so might land them a “better” shiduch. There
    is, of course, something to be said in favor of remaining within the Yeshiva
    atmosphere even if the young man is goofing off and not truly learning. Such
    an atmosphere is very important in this day and age of materialism. These
    young men, though, grow listless for lack of accomplishment, for the reasons
    mentioned above.

    What Is The Solution?

    The educational approach must have the flexibility to treat this high
    percentage of students differently than “mainstream” . These children (a
    full 30% of the Yeshiva student population, as mentioned) who are normal in
    every respect but who find it difficult to keep up with the rigorous demands
    of the yeshiva learning schedule, should be put on a different track. A
    general pedagogic rule of thumb is that the goals and standards set for the
    student must be slightly beyond his immediate reach, so that he have both the
    challenge and the ability to eventually reach them. If they are too easily
    within reach, the challenge isn’t there, and if they are totally beyond his
    reach, he will sooner or later give up and stop trying. These children must
    have a less demanding and rigorous academic schedule, so that they can feel a
    sense of accomplishment. and not give up on themselves. They can sense that
    others have “given up” on them and they will easily comply in a self-
    fulfilling prophecy. There are now so many yeshiva students who fit this
    description that we can no longer ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t
    exist.

    Furthermore we musn’t forget that the main function of early education is of a
    preparatory nature. We want to prepare the child for life, with good learning
    skills and habits. But it is not half as important what and how he learns
    during his formative years as to what effect this education will have on the
    rest of his life. What is the benefit of a learning experience that leaves him
    confused, lacking self confidence, unproductive and disillusioned? The
    learning process has to be gradual and a special schedule of studies has to be
    established for such students.

    I once heard about a young yeshiva boy who had difficulty learning Gemoro with
    the commentary of Tosafoth (usually quite complex), and try as he would he
    just couldn’t get into it. An elderly talmid chacham encouraged him to keep
    on learning just with the simpler commentary of Rashi. The student did so for
    many years, and eventually became a great talmid chacham himself.

    In education there are short-range and long-range goals. The short range goals
    are limited to the scholastic years, while the long-range goals must be
    projected into the decades ahead. This is reflected in the verse “train the
    young so that he not depart (from this training) even as he grows old.”
    (Prov. 22:6) The words “as he grows old” can be understood “as he grows older”
    into adolescence and adulthood, but it also means that it will last well into
    his ripe-old age. This is the barometer of good chinuch: how long and far
    reaching will its results be?

    Thus our yeshivoth and day schools have to cater to the individual needs of
    each student, and certainly to the needs of a sizable percentage of their
    student population, who share the common denominators stated above. They
    cannot and should not be geared solely to an elitist small segment who excel
    scholastically (unless they are specifically designed as such). The Midrash
    (Vayikra Rabbah chap.2) states that only ten out of a thousand students grow
    to be fully proficient in Gemoro and one out of a thousand in halacha decision
    rendering. This certainly doesn’t mean that the educational system was geared
    mainly for these few. On the contrary, every single child was educated
    properly and thoroughly, “al pi darko”__each according to his particular
    needs.

    What is the Right System of Torah Education?

    The sequence in the above-mentioned midrashic statement also gives an insight
    into how the educational system ought to be set up. The statement reads :”It
    is the norm that 1000 people enter into the study of Tanach, from whom 100
    enter into the study of Mishnah, from whom 10 enter into the study of Gemoro,
    from whom one enters into halachic decisions; this is the meaning of :”one man
    from among a thousand I have found (Koheleth 7:28)”.
    This statement can be aligned with the statement in Pirkay Avos 5:22 : ” at 5
    years of age ( a child is brought) into the study of Chumash and Tanach, at
    age 10 into the study of Mishnah, at 13 into the full observance of Mitzvoth,
    and at 15 into the study of Gemoro.” We see that this system of study had all
    students study Tanach to proficiency for 5 years, followed by another 5 years
    of intense Mishnah study (those who did not have the ability to fit in the
    Mishnah program must have been directed to the trades and agricultural
    endeavors at an early age) and only at age 15, after being fully knowledgeable
    of all of Mishnayos, did those suited for it engage vigorously in the life
    long study of Gemoro.
    In the educational system of old, most students were able to do well, at least
    passably well, in the study of mishnah until age 15. They would commit that
    knowledge to memory and retain it for the rest of their lives. Today new
    Masechtos of Gemoro are learned every year but not easily retained, for the
    reasons spelled out above. Only the bright students who can easily relate to
    gemoro study do well, while many others fall by the wayside with the negative
    symptoms described above.

    Suggested Solution

    I think that the time for action has come, and I will hereby delineate a
    practical suggestion.

    What I will herewith advocate may seem revolutionary to some, but I believe
    that nothing short of this, a new and fresh approach to our entire educational
    system, can avert the monumental problems which may soon engulf us! The call
    of the day is to develop an educational philosophy that will enable every
    single Jewish child who desires a Yeshiva education to obtain one. Let it be
    made very clear that students who require “special education” are not under
    discussion here. These indeed require altogether different approaches and
    programs. We are talking about completely normal kids who just find it very
    difficult to engage successfully in intensive analytical Talmudic study.
    These are the kids who, by and large, waste their time in Yeshivos and many of
    whom gradually fall by the wayside.

    Now, one may ask, the multi-track system is fine and well with regard to the
    wide array of secular subjects. But how can we possibly do this with Torah
    education: isn’t it all based on Gemoro? We just can’t bypass it: either
    you’re in (real Torah education) or (if you just can’t or won’t make it)
    you’re out!

    In truth, the greatness and beauty of Torah is that it addresses itself to all
    Jews of all levels and of all walks of life. There is something in it for
    everyone, not only in terms of a good Torah thought or saying here and there,
    but also in terms of a complete Torah curriculum adaptable to all levels.
    Herein lies the power and versatility of Torah. It simultaneously addresses
    the greatest Torah scholar and the young student.

    After discussion with educators of note and repute I am hereby presenting the
    gist of my educational proposal :

    It indeed is an incontrovertible fact that the Talmud, and especially Gemoro,
    is the basis of Jewish learning and it is inconceivable that it should be
    deleted from any “track” of a Yeshiva curriculum. However, for students who
    cannot, for whatever reason, follow Gemoro the way it is presently taught in
    Yeshivos, it should and can be presented at the child’s level of absorption.

    This track should consist of a four-pronged program:

    1) Greater emphasis should be put on the student gradually acquiring mastery
    of the entire Mishnah. Many great educators, including the great Maharal of
    Prague in his commentary to Devorim 6:7, hold that this should be done, in any
    event, by all students; this paves the way for a more thorough and well
    grounded understanding of the Gemoro. In most of today’s yeshivoth, Gemoro
    study is started at an early age without the benefit of extensive knowledge
    and overview of Mishnah. While Gemoro skills are thus gained at an early age,
    they are not built on the firm foundation of a systematic and gradual
    educational progression. This is comparable to first studying the secondary
    and tertiary roads of a map without being first fully conversant with the main
    arteries. The great Gaon of Lublin, author of Toras Chessed responsa, was a
    chosid of the Tzemah Tzedek, and whenever he would come to his Rebbe, he would
    present him some of his recent Chidushim (new thoughts) in Torah study. This
    would be his “gift” to the Rebbe. On one such occasion, the Rebbe told him
    that, though his Chidushim were well thought out, they ran counter a certain
    Mishnah. The Toras Chessed was taken aback and started to run through all of
    the Mishnah in his mind, but without discovering his error. He asked the
    Rebbe to give him a “hint” and tell him in which “seder” this mishnah was to
    be found. The Rebbe told him it was in the order of “Kodshim”, but still to no
    avail. The Rebbe then expounded on that particular mishnah and demonstrated
    by analysis wherein lay his mistake. The Toras Chessed was “bokee” in all of
    Shas: if even he was able to make an error for lack of insight in a certain
    Mishnah, how great is the lack of so many today who do not even know
    altogether so much of the Mishnah.

    For the kind of student described herein, it is an absolute must and it can
    span all the years of elementary grades and high school. Just think, how
    would this student feel, having mastered all of Shas (the Six Orders) in
    Mishnayos as he finishes high school. How does he feel currently, having
    uneasily plodded through several masechtos (tomes) of Gemoro (and, at that,
    only a very limited amount of pages in each tome), having mastered none, and
    having developed a negative attitude towards learning along the way?

    2) The Gemoro is divided into two parts: a) the halachic part which
    analytically discusses all the halachos and opinions mentioned in the
    Mishnah. This is the part with which this type of student has difficulty.
    b) The aggadic, non-halachic parts of the gemoro, which contain homelitic
    expositions of the Chumash, stories and maxims, whose depths are brought out
    by various commentaries. Aggada is usually very interesting and “draws the
    heart” of the student. With a well planned out, sequential curriculum, it
    becomes an immensely valuable tool of learning. A great many basic principles
    of Torah Hashkofo are discussed in these passages. Among them are:
    A) Ethics and Middos, with elaboration on humility vs conceit; truth vs
    falsehood, the binding element of verbal commitments; acts of kindness, such
    as honoring the dead and visiting the sick; peace vs quarrel, war and
    differences of opinion, and the need to achieve peace and harmony; developing
    love and awe of Hashem.
    B) Beliefs and Attitudes, with elaboration on Divine Providence; reward and
    punishment; miracles; how Hashem is especially attuned to the requests of
    tzadikim ; the phenomenon and nature of prophecy; freedom of choice; what is
    meant by the different Names of Hashem and the heavenly Merkovo etc…
    C) Service of Hashem , as performed in the Bais Hamikdash and its meaning; as
    performed today through heartfelt Tefilo, brochos and constant cognizance of
    Hashem.
    D) Torah, with elaboration on the importance of its constant study with a set
    daily schedule; its greatness; the greatness of its truly dedicated students
    E) The Judicial System, its high level of integrity; the prohibition of
    bribery and corruption; of the honor accorded to Jewish judges and the
    authority they exercise.
    F) Teshuvah , with elaboration on its importance, its effectiveness and
    details.
    G) The Messianic Era, incorporating many details about Moshiach, his name, the
    Resurrection of the dead and Olam Habo (the future world on earth after
    resurrection).
    H) The Greatness of the Talmudic Sages, whose lifestyles can be vividly
    visualized by the young student and striven to be emulated.

    Such a curriculum could just provide the very educational elements which many
    parents feel are lacking in most Boys Yeshiva curricula today! Why not obtain
    them first hand from the original Gemoro text?
    All these aggadic sections have been long ago collected, in their original
    text, from all the books of the Gemoro and have been printed separately in Ein
    Yaakov. They are easily accessible to all students who would benefit from
    this track. Nowhere does it say that everyone has to devote the largest
    segment of the day to the study of the analytical parts of the Gemoro. On the
    contrary, the Gemoro (Kidushin 30a) states that one should divide his learning
    time in three, devoting only one third to Gemoro study. This is the psak of
    the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh De’ah 246:4. Although the Remo quotes there the
    opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, to the effect that Talmud Bavli automatically
    includes the other 2 thirds (Tanach and Mishnah), both the Taz and Shach quote
    there the Drisha, who qualifies Rabbeinu Tam: only those who study 9 hours a
    day don’t have to divide their time in equal 3 hour shifts and can spend more
    time on Talmud Bavli. But baalei batim who study only (!) 3-4 hours a day,
    should spend more time on the codes (Rif, Rosh, Rabbeinu Efraim) and less on
    Gemoro. This applies all the more so to young children and teenagers.
    Furthermore, the above-quoted Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah states that only 10
    out of 1,000 students become fully proficient in intricate Gemoro study. The
    implication there is that only a portion of the many Mishnah students get into
    Gemoro study altogether (presumably at age 15, as mentioned in Avos 5:22). If
    anything, then, students who initially don’t fare well with “classical” Gemoro
    classes should postpone their getting into its study, and prepare themselves
    for it by first increasing and broadening their knowledge of the Mishnah etc..
    as mentioned above. A complete Ein Yaakov curriculum could be developed, to
    span many of the scholastic years, with special student editions of the text.
    Imagine a student knowing thoroughly all of Ein Yaakov in the original, culled
    from the entire Shas– no small accomplishment and still within the reach of
    all students. And what a difference it would make in terms of the attitude
    and warmth towards Torah that the student would develop as a result. This is
    in stark contrast to the frequent negative attitude generated by years of
    aimlessly shifting from school to school in the hopeless search for the school
    where the child will fit and where he will feel a sense of accomplishment in
    his Torah studies.

    3) This track should also study the halachic parts of the Gemoro as they are
    presented in the RIF on the entire Shas (see Drisha quoted above). Rabbeinu
    Yizchak Alfasi (known as the RIF), culled all the final Halachic decisions,
    using the very text of the Gemoro, but deleting all the differences of
    opinions and the rigorous analytical reasoning and discussions behind these
    rulings. He was the very first codifier of Jewish Law and is one of the 3
    pillars upon whom the author of the Shulchan Aruch based his halachic rulings
    ( the other 2 are the Rambam and the Rosh). This would also familiarize the
    students of this track with many gemoro expressions, phrases and technical
    terms and make them comfortable with them, even as they are getting very
    gradually exposed to “classical” Gemoro learning.

    4) A very gradual entry into classical Gemoro learning should also be
    undertaken, with emphasis on developing reasoning skills, and placing no
    emphasis at all on the amount of material covered. Under this program, the
    student will have the feeling of accomplishment by covering extensive ground
    in the other above-mentioned areas. These reasoning skills should be
    developed gradually and sequentially, much the same way that, l’havdil, math
    skills are developed, with each successive lesson resting on proper absorption
    of the preceding one. The classical Gemoro learning should fill only a small
    segment of the daily schedule and should be geared to the medium ability level
    of each particular class. Pushing Gemoro to the point of generating feelings
    of frustration should be avoided at all costs.

    It should also be stressed that no student should ever be locked in a given
    track. A student might be able to shift track down the line for any one of
    several reasons: he may be a late bloomer; precisely by spending efficiently
    several years in the track described herein, he would have thus been well
    prepared, not having had the possibility of being turned off and developing a
    negative attitude, and being then being ready to tackle the challenge of a
    different track; his thirst and love of learning have become so strong as to
    highly motivate him to put forth intense effort which, as we well know, can
    generate unexpected results!

    Furthermore, integrating Ein Yaakov in the Yeshiva curriculum would yield yet
    another advantage. Mothers (usually so involved with their children’s
    chinuch) would thus find it possible to help out their children and
    demonstrate an interest in that which they are studying in Yeshiva. With
    regard to intense Gemoro study , it is an impossibility to expect a mother to
    intelligently discuss it with her son (as it is often quite abstruse,
    technical and complicated; a mother’s day is complicated enough as it is).
    With Ein Yaakov, however, it is a probability: besides being easily
    accessible, it is also very interesting.

    It may be up to the parents

    I also believe that the kind of sweeping modification of Jewish education
    which I am advocating will not necessarily start from the educators: they’re
    often too caught in and locked into the prevailing system. But it can be
    brought about by a ground-swell of mothers and fathers (and some concerned
    teachers) who have witnessed the anguish of their educationally deprived
    children and of their friends’ children, and the inexorable ripple effects
    this has brought about ___ and who will demand en masse that such changes take
    place. I think that concerned parents in every Yeshiva in which this problem
    is definitely present should organize themselves into a strong and viable
    group (numbers do speak). They should appoint articulate and persistent
    spokesmen (or spokeswomen) who would forcefully present their case to the
    school administration. They should expect and demand results in no uncertain
    terms, and apply the necessary pressure to obtain them fairly swiftly. It is
    high time to act. OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE IS AT STAKE.

    In conclusion, it is thus suggested that the present educational system
    requires adjustment in order to accommodate what is now a good percentage of
    the student population . This can be done by developing multi-track
    educational programs, as done in so many other educational systems.

    There is a Yiddish saying:” a guast oif a vile zet oif a mile”( a guest for a
    while sees for a mile). A guest who comes to town will often assess a local
    problem better than the inhabitants who are in the thick of it. The reason is
    that those close to the situation lack the objectivity to properly assess it.
    This is especially so when a situation warrants a change . There is
    psychological inertia which would rather go on with the status quo rather than
    make waves: if it has worked fairly well till now, let us continue with it.

    In its own time 70 years ago, the innovative idea to have girls receive a
    thorough formal Jewish education was not readily accepted in all quarters as
    there was resistance to change . Today it has become such a norm that one
    wonders if and how it could ever have been different. Just because any system
    has worked fairly well for some length of time does not mean that it is beyond
    periodical reassessment.
    Let us have nachas from all our children and may we soon greet Moshiach with
    children who are ALL permeated with the love of Torah, with the 30% leading
    the 70% with the enthusiasm and “gechmak” they will thus have achieved in
    their Torah studies.

    _________________________________________

    Rabbi Lebovic has been in Chinuch for 25 years, both on the
    elementary and the Bais Medrash levels, and is thoroughly familiar with the
    situation he describes in this article. He presently is the rav in Cong. Ahavath Zion Maplewood NJ

  33. JewBoy9999 says:

    Rabbi Rechnitz,

    You are the person that has the power to solve this very big problem.

    You had to apologize?!!!!!!!! Mamish unbelievable.
    Let all these so called bnei Torah who do nothing better then lashon hora go to work. And by the way, this problem is the hardest in Lakewood because of the geiva that is there a lot more then anywhere else.

  34. clarification18 says:

    It was a symbolic apology but entirely missed the point. Let me ask you a question. Why did Rechnitz have to add his own opinion in the same letter that he states that he no longer will state his opinion?
    My point is clear: we can/should ask pointed and direct questions, but who is Rechnitz to give over his opinion? Klal Yisroel only has the gedolai torah that can shoulder Klal issues. Anyone else who has the audacity to present their opinion in front of the Gedolim is mafris al hamida.

    In an earlier post someone compared Rechnitz to Pinchas. However the only difference is obvious. Before Pinchas acted he first asked Moshe rabbeinu about the halacha of Kana’im pogim bo.
    It is unfortunately clear that Rechnitz didn’t get his speech proofread by any of the gedolim who were sitting in that room.
    Bezras Hashem , Rechnitz will put out another apology that actually apologizes for his true mistake.

  35. dnetsk says:

    I had to bail out of this mid article. My head is spinning.

    Let’s keep it simple. How can you develop a “reputation” or be fearful of a “reputation” if people are not talking about each other. The answer is, you can’t. Lashon Hara is not complicated. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t mention anyone else’s name to anybody else. There. Now you don’t have to read any sefarim on the topic. Pashtus, people are talking about people, and the need to keep their mouths shut. Let’s see you darshan your way out of that one.

  36. sachirub4 says:

    just to reply to Y lebovic. I am not sure where you have acquired your erroneous overexageration of the utopian yissachar zevulun balance of pre war europe. this forum is clearly not one to be lengthy about our history,and so i leave it to you to research the facts. rest assured the pre war situation was nothing short of dire. bochurim starved, were subject to extreme living conditions, dealt with internal corruption in the yeshivos due to the enlightenment, could not get married due to the despise cast upon them. many people enjoy dreaming up fantasies about the pride of torah pre war in the “stetl” where every baal habus knew shas, or learnt hours and hours a day. the truth is quite the opposite, holocausts do not occur spontaneously.
    regarding your thesis, why do you waste your time theorizing how to change the world in a forum such as this? you suggest educational differentiation, this is a project that proves most difficult, many educational experts have theorized about this. it is simply impractical due to unrealastic requirements of data accumulation,capital employment, and simply- funding. so it’ll have to wait ’til moshiach. for the meanwhile, klal yisrael will just have to believe in the one above, as I do agree with you that the situation is dismal and unsustainable from the human perspective.

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