Monday, December 13, 2010

Mussar [rebuke] for rabbis, teachers and parents

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

During mussar seder, I've been learning Chazon Ish's Emunah uBitachon for the past several weeks. I did it almost twenty years ago, but (a) I didn't complete it, and (b) I had no clue what I was reading. [I hope and expect I will feel (b) when I read it again next time...]

Here's a potent rebuke from the book for all educators. [It's my own translation, and I went for a linear read rather than re-structure the sentences to suit English. Compare with the Hebrew I appended at the end.]

One of the most basic agents of destruction is a public teacher whose character is incomplete. The destruction which occurs with an incomplete teacher is twofold:

• He does not know the principles of ethics and he does not know in what areas he should be exacting, and he inattentively directs his students into behaviors which are repugnant according to ethical principles.

• Even if his Torah is good and accurate, his words do not enter the heart of the student because his inside is not like his outside.

Further, his student will learn more from his actions than from his lessons. The mentor-student relationship requires a generous character and refined traits, and one who rebukes his student coarsely and with outraged screams for some impropriety mixes bad and good; even if there is some benefit in this rebuke and the student is awakened to his sin and decides never to repeat it, there is still harm in that the student becomes accustomed to coarseness and anger, as he has received from his mentor by seeing him utilize these repugnant methods in his rebuke. We are taught that serving a scholar is more effective than studying with him, and this student will always emulate his mentors. And, generally, the rebuke itself will be defective for it will be accompanied by negative traits.

Also: When this student continues to stand before an incomplete mentor, he continually inherits bad traits from the mentor. And because the mentor considers himself complete and full of all good traits, and he performs repugnant acts in arrogance and in a derogatory way, his student also becomes accustomed to practice repulsive things with ‘the purity of terumah.’ This mentor will bear fruit and multiply others in his form and image.

And because this mentor is empty of the Torah wisdom that comes from struggling in halachah, he stumbles into the depths of opposing others who have struggled in halachah, and he bequeaths the fruit of this sin to his students as well.

And the Hebrew:

מן המפסידים היותר עיקריים היות מלמד לרבים בלתי שלם במדותיו, המחנך הבלתי שלם הפסדותיו כפולים, בצד אחד אינו יודע תורת המוסר ואינו יודע על מה להקפיד, ומשגרם בהנהגות מגואלות על פי תורת המדות בלי משים, ואף אם לקחו טוב ונכון, אחרי שאין תוכו כברו, אין דבריו נכנסין אל לב החניך, ולא עוד אלא שלומד ממעשיו יותר משיעוריו, והתיחסות הרב לתלמידיו דורשת תכונות תרומיות ומצוי המדות, וכאשר מיסר את תלמידו בביטוי גס וזעקת רוגז על העול אשר עשה, מתערב כאן רע וטוב, אם יש כאן תועלת תוכחה והחניך מתעורר על חטאו וגומר בלבו שלא לשנות חטא זה, יש כאן ענין רע שהחניך מתרגל בגסות ובקפדנות המקבל מרבו שרואהו משמש במגונות אלו בשעת תוכחתו, וגדול שמושה יותר מלימודה, והתלמיד מחקה תמיד את רבותיו, ועל הרוב גם התוכחה לקויה כשמתלוה עמה ממדות הלא טובות, וכאשר חתמיד החניך לעמוד לפני מחנך בלתי שלם יתמיד לנחול מדות הרעות מן המחנך, ובהיות המחנך מחזיק עצמו לאיש השלם, כליל מדות הטובות, וכל גנותות שעושה הן נעשות בגאוה ובוז, גם חניכו מתרגל בתעתועיו לעשות תועבות על טהרת תרומה, והמחנך הזה יפרה וירבה תולדותיו כדמותו וכצלמו, ובהיות המחנך ריק מחכמת התורה בעמל ההלכה ונכשל על ידי זה בצללי התנגדות לבעל ההלכה נוחל ומנחיל גם לחניכיו פרי עונו.


  1. I started learning the sefer about a year ago. Not so easy. Will ponder this post over a shot of bourbon.

  2. This post really spoke to me, as someone looking to go into (and who has had some experience in) education. Thanks for posting