Why did the Rebbe Rashab Fire the Melamed?



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    Why did the Rebbe Rashab Fire the Melamed?

    “I see that the teachers put an emphasis on telling stories of Tzaddikim. In my mind, there are two issues with that: firstly, many of these stories can be confusing to children as they deal with things which are above their understanding. Secondly, I feel that this is bittul Torah” • By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Beis Moshiach

    QUESTION:

    “I am a non-Lubavitcher who works in the administration (financial department) of a Chabad cheder. I see that the teachers put an emphasis on telling stories of Tzaddikim. In my mind, there are two issues with that: firstly, many of these stories can be confusing to children as they deal with things which are above their understanding. Secondly, I feel that this is bittul Torah. Please explain the reasoning behind this chinuch approach.

    ANSWER:

    Thank you for reaching out to us and for your willingness to listen and understand. I would like to begin with a story that the Rebbe brings in Likkutei Sichos (Vol. 19 p. 91):

    “When the Frierdiker Rebbe was a child, his father, the Rebbe Rashab, looked to hire a melamed to teach his only son. This teacher had a philosophy that stories of miracles should only be shared with adults and not young impressionable children. When the Rebbe Rashab heard about this, he dismissed the teacher.

    “The reason,” explains the Rebbe in that sicha, “is because the foundation of Yiddishkeit is faith and realizing that our connection to Hashem is beyond our intellect. Even the mitzvos that we do understand, we need to perform with a sense of kabbolas ol. Thus, instilling Yiras Shamayim — which is a direct result of the stories of miracles — is an utmost educational priority.

    Why Bereishis Comes Before Everything Else?

    I would like to share some letters of the Rebbe in which he discussed this important topic:

    (1) In a letter written to the famous chief rabbi of Philadelphia, Rabbi Efraim Eliezer Yolles, the Rebbe writes: “It is with great pleasure that I read your letter which has in it your personal memories from the lives of holy Tzaddikim. The advantage of Sefer Bereishis — called ‘Sefer HaYashar’ — is well known: it is filled with stories of Tzaddikim and therefore comes before all the other parts of the Torah.” (Igros, vol. 21 p. 111; #7863).

    The Making of “Detroit’s Storyteller”

    I would like to share a story that I heard firsthand connected with the above:

    There was a famous educator in Detroit named Rabbi Shmuel Kaufman A”H. He taught for over 50 years and was well-known as the “Storyteller of Detroit.” He was close to my grandparents and when I once met him in Toronto, he told me the following story:

    I was once in need of a personal bracha, so your grandfather Rabbi Meir Avtzon A”H pushed me to go into Yechidus by the Rebbe. When I entered, the Rebbe asked me what my job was. I told the Rebbe that I am a teacher. He asked me if I would tell stories of Tzaddikim to the children. I told the Rebbe that in my opinion, it is bittul Torah.

    According to the testimony of Rabbi Kaufman: The Rebbe stood up and screamed: “Bittul Torah?! Gantz Torah iz meyusad oif Chumash Bereishis, Sippurei Tzaddikim! — the whole Torah is based on the stories of Tzaddikim.”

    The Rebbe continued: “What you will teach your students in halacha and mishnayos, is a doubt if they will retain as they get older. The Emuna and Yiras Shamayim which come from stories of Tzaddikim will undoubtedly remain.”

    Training to Expect Miracles

    (2) To someone that wrote that stories of miracles will confuse the children, as they will think that miracles should be happening to them, the Rebbe responded:

    “When we tell a child a story of a miracle that happened in the past or even in recent times, we are not giving the message that the miracle will take place tomorrow. It is just to empower the child in his Emuna that Hashem can perform miracles and thus it is always good to daven to Hashem and ask Hashem to help you through whatever you are going through and the more heartfelt the tefilla, the better chance of this tefilla being accepted.” (Igros, Vol. 22 page 299; #8492).

    The Moshiach connection:

    On Shabbas Parshas Vayeishev 5752, the Rebbe explained that publicizing miracles helps bring Moshiach:

    “Recognition, acknowledgment and praising Hashem for the miracles He performs, in addition to the concept of expressing gratitude, is relevant to the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu in the true and complete Redemption. For as the Gemara states: Hashem desired to make Chizkiyahu Moshiach … but the attribute of Divine Justice said to Hashem: ‘Chizkiyahu, for whom you did all these miracles (who was saved from Sancheriv and healed of his illness) and didn’t sing praises to You, You want to make him Moshiach?”

    Obviously, in our context, publicizing the miracles which G-d has done in our times is relevant to bringing the true and complete Redemption in actual reality!”

    *

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