Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real Education

Over at Mevakesh Lev, Reb Ally posted a wonderful story about Reb Shimon Skop OBM, and what being a "real" rebbe means. It's a must-read, and Reb Ally had the courtesy to cross post it over to B'nei Machshava Tova where Reb Micha took the opportunity to share his own memories of a student of Reb Shimon's (and a phenomenal Torah personality in his own right) in a subsequent post.

I read these stories and several thoughts strike me. The first is regret that I never merited the chance to meet these giants and learn from them (I've referenced numerous times in the past an ever-growing list of great people who I would have loved to have met and basked in their presence). The second thought is another sad observation about the seeming scarcity of true Torah educators whose primary concerns are their young students' wellbeing in spiritual, physical, and emotional terms - an issue that many realize exists, but don't know how to fix the problem. The sad reality is that our system focuses on rote learning, with unmotivated teachers devising ways of simply imparting information...

My last thought is a word of thanks to God for helping me find my rebbe, the Rosh Yeshiva of the little yeshiva that I have called home for nearly ten years now. Like Reb Shimon and Reb Dovid OBM, what sets this man apart is his genuine concern for the boys under his tutelage. And as they progress, move on, and continue into stages of life beyond the confines of the "four walls of the beit medrash", he remains available to give advice and encouragement, to share in joyous times and be a source of support during times of distress and pain.

When I came to that yeshiva, I was going through an especially dark period in my life, struggling with all sorts of things. The yeshiva high school that I had attended was really not the ideal environment for me, for numerous reasons, and I needed a very special place to even have a chance of succeeding in any meaningful way with my spiritual searching.

The first day of yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva called me into his office. After sitting me down, he told me that he realized that sometimes a guy needs to let off steam, to get away for a few hours and decompress. As long as I let him know ("not ask for permission," he stressed) beforehand, and assured him that I wasn't going anywhere unsafe, and that I would be refreshed the next day to learn - "go ahead, do what you need to do!" My rebbe treated us as adults, capable of making our own choices and coming to the beit medrash because we wanted to, not because we were compelled by a strictly enforced system of rules.

Because we knew that he trusted us, and cared for us, we tried very hard not to disappoint him. Of course, boys will be boys, and we got into trouble from time to time, but the specter of the possibility of hurting him by betraying his trust kept us in line.

His interpersonal dealings left us spellbound as we saw true humility. Today, I can count on the fingers of one hand (and have plenty more fingers on that same hand) how many times I have seen him truly angry. Constantly smiling, he always has something warm and friendly to say, and when he gives mussar, he does it with warmth and care.

While I may not have met any of the giants of yesteryear, I am proud to have the opportunity to know a giant in my own personal life.

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