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Tuesday
Oct152019

THE DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITIES BETWEEN PARENTS AND STAFF

By Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Wilschansky

It’s important to remember that the mitzva to teach a child Torah is the father’s obligation. It’s a Biblical mitzva as it says, “and you shall teach your children.” Being that this is so, the father is granted special abilities to accomplish this.

Practically speaking, when a father cannot teach his son, he can pay and outsource the mitzva of teaching his son Torah to a teacher. Today, most children learn in schools.

However, the mitzva of chinuch, as opposed to talmud Torah, is a mitzva that parents have, mainly the mother. In previous times, the division was clear and natural: learning happened whether in school or with a melamed and chinuch was at home. At home, parents would inculcate their children with good middos, nurture within them a love and esteem for Torah and mitzva observance. Today, boruch Hashem, all schools know that they are not just a place to acquire knowledge but are also, primarily, for being mechanech children.

This introduction is important because although a mosad has the tremendous responsibility to be mechanech the children, parents cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility of chinuch. This is not about pointing fingers as happens today after failures occur, but about the question of how to prevent the problems.

We are working with the assumption that parents care about their child which is why they looked for the best school for him; they choose the best chinuch and feel that “we put him in good hands.” But the parents’ concern needs to be ongoing, even when the child is in yeshiva.

When thinking about the obligation of parents to dedicate half an hour a day to thinking about chinuch, of course it is impossible to ask, “Where does my responsibility as a parent end and the school takes over.” Our thinking as parents needs to be constant, about how to improve upon the chinuch of the child in coordination with the hanhala of the school.

On the pasuk, “and he will return the hearts of the fathers upon their sons,” the Rebbe explains that the sons themselves, with their chayus, sincerity and uncompromising desire, will affect us parents. They won’t only “prove” that we bequeathed them the Torah, mitzvos and hiskashrus to the Rebbe but will get us caught up in it. They will sweep up the parents and “refresh” their hiskashrus to Hashem and the Rebbe MH”M so that the atmosphere at home is less “balabatish” and more an atmosphere of Tomchei Tmimim.

Here is where the job and responsibility of the school interfaces with the caring of the parents, with the joint goal being the Chassidishe well-being of the child. In yeshiva, the talmidim need to be taught to be ambassadors of Tomchei Tmimim at home so that family members will feel that a “yeshiva bachur” came home, a Chassid, a yirei shomayim, a lamdan, a mekushar to the Rebbe, and convey the wonderful feeling and tremendous joy in being a Tamim or soldier in Tzivos Hashem.

Parents need to make sure that the son, yeshiva, and the staff have a place of honor in the home and listen to a sicha of the Rebbe with respect and concentration when he reviews it at the Shabbos table, etc. If G-d forbid a child gets the message or even just a slight indication of lack of respect for the educational messages or for the staff in yeshiva, the damage caused to his innocence, to his kabbolas ol and his seriousness, is great.

A person had yechidus in which the Rebbe explained the story about Shlomo Ha’Melech who ordered that the child be cut in two so that each mother be given half. The Rebbe says that of course Shlomo did not intend to have the baby cut in two, but to cut the growth of the child and his chinuch into two. For some time, he would learn and be educated with one woman and then he would be raised by the other woman, and back again.

When the real mother heard this, she was alarmed. She said, “Give her the child!” Better the child should grow up with a different woman, not with his real mother, so that he would not be “torn” between her chinuch and the other woman’s chinuch. Shlomo immediately declared, this is the real mother, one who is willing to forgo raising her child, not to educate him and perhaps not even to see him, so long as his welfare is not impinged upon.

The power of the home in the chinuch of a child is immense, especially when speaking of a child in a Chassidishe family. It is imperative to make sure that the conduct in the home as far as hechsherim, modest dress, having set times to learn Torah, tefilla with a minyan etc, reflect a complete identification with the chinuch the child gets in school. After all, the parents are the strongest personal example as far as the child is concerned. Parents have the enormous power to determine whether the chinuch invested in the child by the school will grow and blossom or whether it will go down the drain and tear the child in two.

The magic potion here is caring. When the child sees that his parents care, when they call the hanhala and ask about him, when they take an interest in how he is doing in yeshiva, the child realizes he is important, that his efforts are appreciated and he wants to continue. The caring of the parents affects the talmid as well as the staff who see that the parents care about the child; it motivates them to provide more attention. I always ask parents to call the staff. When staff members know that parents care about their child, they treat him with more attention.

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