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Parshas Bo 5784


והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר בעבור זה עשה יהוה לי בצאתי ממצרים ... (יג-ח)

A number of years ago, while speaking at an educational conference in Eretz Yisroel, the renowned Mashgiach of Knesses Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chasidim, R’ Dov Yaffe zt”l, publicly stated that yeshivos must be careful not to “clip the wings” of bochurim who have an original approach to learning. Often a student finds “his way” by learning things outside the yeshivah curriculum and this is not to be discouraged. As an example, he pointed to two Gedolei Hador who may have been lost had they not been allowed to follow their own paths. One was the Rosh Av Beis Din, R’ Nissim Karelitz zt”l, whom the Ponevezher Rav zt”l left to his own devices as he methodically learned through Shas and Poskim together with the Chazon Ish zt”l. The second was none other than R’ Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, who already began his taxing schedule of learning through massive quantities of material while still a bochur in Petach Tikvah’s Lomza Yeshivah.

R’ Yonasan Aber shlita, a well-known mechanech in Eretz Yisroel, and son-in-law of R’ Dov Yaffe, relays an interesting story that happened many years ago when he was newly married at his father-in-law’s Shabbos table. He had gone to shul on Shabbos morning and started davening Pesukai D’zimrah in a side room, intending to proceed to the main shul thereafter. While he was there, two very young children sat down and were pretending to learn. They had taken out Gemaras, although they were too young to read and certainly to understand the Gemara language. Their discussion went like this: The first one questioned his friend, “Assur?” The other nodded vigorously and responded, “Assur!”

The first requestioned, “Assur? Assur?” The other affirmed with even more vigor, “Assur! Assur! Assur!”

For several minutes, this was how their dialogue continued, each time an assurance coming that whatever the first was asking about was definitely “Assur!” It was adorable to watch these two young boys shuckling back and forth, pretending to be locked in a heated scholarly debate. People who walked by smiled and patted their heads.

After davening, R’ Yonason returned to his in-laws’ home for the Shabbos seudah. As they were waiting to begin, he mentioned to his father-in-law what he had observed about the boys he overheard before davening. R’ Dov became full of trepidation and was greatly disturbed. He asked his son-in-law for the names of the boys. “I need to speak with their parents immediately! The seudah will have to wait.” With that, he headed for the door.

His family tried to dissuade him, but he was very determined. “This is a matter that cannot wait. I must resolve this right now.” His wife, though, convinced him that the family he wished to speak with wouldn’t take his words too kindly if he would address the issue with such forceful urgency, so he agreed to wait until after the seudah to go.

Immediately after the seudah had concluded, his son-in-law asked R’ Dov why he was so persistent about this. Why was he willing to postpone the start of the seudah for it? Was it a matter of pikuach nefesh?

The Mashgiach responded with a heavy sigh, “With a child who hears ‘assur,’ ‘assur,’ and more ‘assur,’ the prediction for such a child is that he won’t continue serving Hashem. If everything in Yiddishkeit is only ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I can’t do that,’ his future is at stake. That makes it a very critical matter.

“Serving Hashem is the most enjoyable thing, and if it’s not presented in this fashion, children are at great risk. It’s so fundamental that it’s worth the entire seudah being postponed so that they won’t have this wrong impression.” R’ Dov shook his head with emphasis. “Children must see and feel that serving Hashem is the ‘best thing’ in their lives - the only thing that brings true, intrinsic happiness. By planting this idea in this manner, over time they will mature to truly feel that and continue serving Hashem. Not by pretending to learn and deeming everything ‘assur’!”

The sad ending of this story is that the father didn’t take the Mashgiach’s words to heart and didn’t do enough to change his children’s mindset (or his own). Sadly, over the years, neither of those boys continued on the proper derech.


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