Thursday, March 10, 2005

Education Can Be A Matter Of Life And Death

Yesterday I read a very sad post by Yingele, "Rosh Yeshiva, The Sacred Job", one that every educator should read! What he wrote reminded me of a story that I heard/read a long time ago (Disclaimer: I don’t remember the source of the story and I cannot guarantee its veracity.):

The saintly Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen Kagan from Radin, a.k.a the Chafetz Chaim was one of the great rabbis of his generation, and Jews from all over the world came to Radin to seek his counsel. The Chafetz Chaim would receive everyone warmly. Once a very distinguished looking Torah scholar came to see the Chafetz Chaim. The Chafetz Chaim received him but refused to look at him. Instead, he stared out of the window as he talked to the visiting rabbi.

After the visitor left those who were present asked the Chafetz Chaim about his strange conduct. Why was it that he did not look at the visiting Torah scholar? What did this rabbi do to receive such a cold reception? The Chafetz Chaim answered that the visitor was the head of a Cheder (Jewish elementary school) in Russia. Many years ago he had a problematic pupil, and instead of rehabilitating the student, he threw him out of the Cheder. That young student's name was Leib Bronstein, who was later known as the infamous Leon Trotsky.

We all know what Trotsky did, and what the communists did to the Jews living in Russia and later on to the Jews living in all of the countries that came under the Soviet Union's influence. The Chafetz Chaim held this rabbi responsible for little Leib's spiritual demise and did not want to look at him. We learn from this story the great responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of an educator. He must make every effort to make sure that all of his students succeed. The educator who takes the easy way out by expelling problematic students from his institution is not really an educator.

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