I am a bachur in Beis Medrash and Baruch Hashem is involved in learning. I am a little frustrated by the fact that the Hanhalla puts such an emphasis on tests. I understand that children need tests and possibly bachurim in Mesivta (high school). I feel that we are old enough to be learning for the sake of learning without the pressure of tests. What is the Rebbe’s approach to this?
While I understand your question,you may be shocked to find out that – not only is the Rebbe not against the testing of the older boys – The Rebbe was the one that initiated and pushed the idea of having tests and reports of progress for the Talmidim.
Let us review a few letters of the Rebbe on this topic:
1. In 5712, the wrote to the famous chassidic Askan, Rabbi Eliezer Karasik: “Thank you for the good news that the testing of the students of Lod has begun…I am suggesting that the same should be done in the Yeshiva of Toras Emes (Yerushlayim) that we find someone fitting to test the students and young married men that are learning there.” (Igros volume 6 page 283 #1789).
2. The Rebbe followed up with an official letter to the Hanhalla of the Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel: “It has been for a while that I have had the will and desire to know the capabilities of the Yeshivas students in Nigla (Gemara, Halacha) and Chassidus. Just as it was in Lubavitch that there were tests from time to time (usually at the end of the zman), therefore I request that the same should be for the students in the Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel.”
The Rebbe adds some detailed instructions: “The testing should be done by two committees. A committee for the NIgla tests and a committee for the Chassidus testing. One teacher of the two Yeshivos – plus an agreed upon third person – should do the testing and even the older boys should be included in this testing process, which should not be done in a public setting.” (Ibid page 360 #1864).
3. In 5718, the Rebbe responded to a student that had a medical issue and there were conflicting diagnoses from two doctors. After addressing the medical issue, the Rebbe adds: “I am using this opportunity – of correspondence – to point out that upon your recents visit here, there were a few things which were inappropriate that occurred: A) You once came without the permission of the Hanhalla B) You once failed to show up to the test of your learning of chassidus and nigla, which are done according to my request (the bold is in the original letter) C)The test that you were by, you did not do well.
It is understood that none of the above is appropriate at all. This is especially true of a student of Tomchei Temimim in our generation. A Tamim has the obligation to be a positive lamplighter to those on the outside and this is only possible if the person himself is acting properly in their personal development.” (Igros volume 16 page 95 #5873).
On the subject of testing, I would like to share a lesson that the Rebbe taught from the testing of the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek: In Hayom Yom (8 Teves), the Rebbe writes: “The Tzemach Tzedek instructed all the tutors of his young grandchildren that in addition to the regular studies, they should also teach the plain meaning of the words of the prayers. Once a month, the children would come to the Tzemach Tzedek to be tested.”
In a letter (Igros 24 page 48 #9071) written to the participants in the dinner for Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in 5726, the Rebbe points out: the Tzemach Tzedek was a world-renowned scholar and authority in Halacha, and was very busy with communal affairs, yet he personally tested his grandchildren (and rewarded them if they did well). This shows how dedicated we need to be to Torah education.”