Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Mechanech For All Students

The passing of R’ Eli Teitelbaum ZT”L saddens me. I didn’t know the man personally, save for an unforgettable summer in Israel that I and so many hundreds of others experienced.

Like most people, I really got to know him from the Country Yossi articles and the ads for his various projects, not to mention the “How to play Casio and Yamaha keyboards” cassettes that have gathered dust in my basement. What really struck me about the man and his projects was how, as a mechanech, he attempted to reach out to all kinds of students with all sorts of talents.

We live in a time where, increasingly, the chareidi chinuch system is catering to the elite child and leaving the “mediocre” kids behind. If you can’t handle a summer in a learning camp, if you can’t handle 5 years of beis medrash (at least!) following high school, and if you’re even thinking about that four-letter word called “work,” you’ve become second-rate.

The litvishe system in Europe was like that, catering to the elite, and it was a resounding success – 85% of the Jews there assimilated.

One of the lessons of Parshas Vayechi is that each shevet has something different to offer, and that diversity is appreciated by Yaakov. True, there was a Yissachar who learned all day, but every other shevet was blessed for their unique tafkid and talents.

And Rabbi Teitelbaum had something to offer for all students, with all sorts of talents. A kid has a talent for music? Nothing wrong with joining a choir, or learning to play the keyboard. No hand-wringing about “bitul Torah.” A kid needs a break? Nothing wrong with a weekend in Canada, or a summer in Israel, or even attending a concert. He even started a middos contest, iterating the importance of a largely neglected area of Yiddishkeit.

Perhaps his last piece in CY was his most important ever, as he was standing athwart Chareidi Judaism, yelling “stop!” (my apologies to the late Bill Buckley for that one).

Finally, his thinking outside the box led to the Torah Communications Network and Dial-a-Daf, both tremendous services to the community.

If we had more like him in our community, we’d be in much better shape. Yehi Zichro Baruch.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Rinkley said...

Extremeley well-written to man whose Gadlus will continue to be known.
Hopefully people will continue his level-headed legacy and cure the "scariness" of Chareidi schools.

3:48 PM  

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