Is a Teacher Responsible for Confiscated Items?
March 15, 2019
Beis Moshiach in #1158, Chinuch

In connection with Parshas Vayikra the parsha which begins little childrens Cheider experience, we present a collection of halachic articles from
on the topic of Chinuch. By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun,
Mara D’asra and member of the Crown Heights Beis Din

Guidelines to Accepting and Expelling a Student

While a community has an obligation to set up a school where all Jewish children and adults can receive an education, the halachah is that one should not teach a talmid sheeino hagun (an unworthy student). On the other hand, we are told, “Hamaor shebah machziro lmutav (the light in the Torah has the power to bring a person back to the right path). The basic guidelines are as follows:

1) It is only when we know for a fact (kim lan) that the student is a talmid sheeino hagunthat we may reject them; we have to assume that any talmid is worthy unless we know otherwise. Furthermore, where it is not immediately apparent that the potential student is a talmid sheeino hagun, it is unacceptable to have someone investigate this matter. This is derived from the incident in the Gemara where it was deemed inappropriate to have a shomer (guard) investigate whether the students were tocho kbaro (the same internally as outwardly).

2) Some poskim maintain that a child under Bar/Bas Mitzvah is never considered a talmid sheeino hagun, and therefore a teacher, or a school, must usually accept all students under that age regardless of their reputation.

3) The Alter Rebbe ruled that the halachah of not teaching a talmid sheeino hagun applies only if we are convinced that not accepting the student will cause them to improve, and once they improve we will be able to accept them. In all other cases, the teacher should go lbeis hasafek (give the student the benefit of the doubt) and accept them based on the premise that attending the yeshivah will help them mend their ways.

4) Sadly, there are some situations where a student will unquestionably be a negative influence on the others, and the serious harm that would undoubtedly result outweighs the potential benefit to that student.

Expelling a child from yeshivah is a much more serious issue, and allows even less room for leniency than not accepting them in the first place. Nevertheless, since toeles harabim (benefitting many) outweighs toeles hayachid (benefitting one), if we know with certainty that this student will have a negative influence on the other studentsthen, but only then, the student should be expelled. However, since the impact of expelling a student is so severe, and the decision so crucial, it should not be based on daas yachid (the opinion of one individual)—but rather many people should be involved in the decision process. Its uncommon that a school should be unable toget a hold of the situationand prevent a student from negatively influencing the others; therefore, every avenue must be explored, and all options must be exhausted before expelling a student from yeshivah, which should be done only as a last resort and according to the consensus of many. ( #337*)

Testing Unprepared Children

It is written in Sefer Chassidim that a host should not ask their guest questions in Divrei Torah (matters of Torah learning) unless they are certain that the guest knows the answers; otherwise, they should do so privately, so as not to embarrass the guest in the presence of others.

It would follow, therefore, that it would not be proper to subject children to a farher (quiz or test on Torah subjects), even if done in a bantering, friendly manner, since the child is often unprepared, does not enjoy it, and it can entail onaas devarim (hurtful words), or embarrassment to the child in front of other children or adults.

However, parents, who have the obligation of chinuch (teaching their children Torah), and teachers in a school setting may certainly ask the children questions in order to gauge their progress. Nonetheless, when testing in the presence of others, its important to set up the test in a manner that will minimize, as much as possible, potential feelings of embarrassment on the part of the child being tested.  ( #330*)

Answering Amen to a Preschoolers Blessing

When children reach gil chinuch (the developmental age for instruction) their parents are obligated to train them in mitzvah observance. Among other milestones, it is the stage when the Shulchan Aruch authorizes elders to begin answeringAmento their brachos. But the prevailing custom is to teach immature childrenthree or four, or even youngerto recite blessings. May we answerAmento the blessings of a toddler, even though the Shulchan Aruch seems to rule it out?

Our purpose in teaching little ones brachos is to educate them, even though they have not officially reached the maturity of gil chinuch. AnsweringAmento their brachos is likewise enacted as a form of education, and is therefore permissible even for brachos recited by very young children (when they are in earshot). This is so even if we are in the midst of davening, at a point where we are not permitted to speak outexcept to answerAmen”—and even in a situation where the toddler reciting the brachah has a soiled diaper (but only if the parents are in such a position that they are unaffected by the smell).

Such is the extent to which we guide our youngest in proper chinuch. ( #600*)

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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