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Reality Check
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Reality Check

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

In the past two columns, we began to outline some of the cultural changes and initiatives that need to be proactively taken in order to address the broader issues that I have been raising over the past few months. In this column, I will begin to address the need to properly train our dedicated mechanchim and educators.

There is much that needs to be done in the area of teacher training for the educators of our elementary school-age children. The issue of proper training for educators before they embark their careers in chinuch, (often referred to as ‘pre-service’ training), and ongoing, on-the-job (or ‘in-service’) training for our dedicated elementary school rebbeim and moros is one that needs to be one of our highest communal priorities. A relatively small amount of money invested in training our educators can accomplish so much. Sadly, this is simply not the case.

For now, I will limit the focus of this article to the issue of educating and sensitizing high school and post-high school rebbeim and teachers to many of the matters that are uniquely related to the series of columns that I have written over the past three months.


Let us begin with the understanding that it is highly unrealistic – and counterproductive –for us to assume that there is anything in the background of a mesivta rebbi or high school morah that would prepare him or her to deal with the many challenges that he or she will face with a (growing) percentage of their high school students.

This is not to suggest any flaw in the education of our rebbeim/moros nor in their preparedness to assume the sacred role of the teachers of Torah and the disseminators of our holy traditions. It is the simple fact, however, that superior knowledge of Gemorah prepares a rebbi to deliver a shiur that conveys the profound beauty and majesty of a K’tzos HaChoshen (a Talmudic commentary). It does not prepare him to understand the nisyonos (temptations) that his talmidim face. And with the rapidly changing landscape of these challenges, I would suggest that even the thirty-something rebbeim are feeling the effects of the generation gap. (Many outstanding mechanchim who are quite a bit younger than myself have made similar comments to me over the past years.)


In one of my previous columns in this space, I asked parents if they knew that a bottle of Visine (eyedrops) in their child’s pocket is often a telltale sign that their son or daughter may be substance-abusing (some drugs cause red and scratchy eyes). In the weeks following the publishing of that particular article, quite a few parents emailed or commented to me that they had never been aware of this before they read it in the Jewish Press. In fact, they found the entire gamut of symptoms and red-flags that I pointed out in that column to be totally foreign to them. (Visit my website for “Recognizing Signs of Substance Abuse,” and for some excellent articles on this subject written by Dr. Bentzion Twersky.)

This lack of knowledge should not be surprising to any of us. How should parents know? Well, for that matter, how should your son’s rebbi, or your daughter’s morah recognize symptoms of substance abuse? How should they know how to carefully look for signs of depression? Or eating disorders?


Sorry to repeat myself, but this is not a complaint, c’has v’shalom, leveled against the heroes of our schools, our dedicated rebbeim and moros. It is simply one of the many realities of our times.

Spending years in the virtual Gan Eden of learning the Holy Torah of Abaya and Rava (two great Talmudic sages) creates an ideal role model, a talmid chacham, and a ba’al middos. It does not necessarily equip this wonderful Mesivta rebbi to properly acclimate himself to the myriad challenges that he will face as he teaches, guides and direct his talmidim.

One of the themes of this column over the past three months has been the need to come to terms with the fact that we as parents are often, to quote the children, “clueless.” As well intentioned as we are, we – collectively and individually – have not fully grasped the reality that the boundaries have changed and that we need to be well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

© 2003 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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