Matzav Shmooze: What Does The System Want From My Son?

Page of Talmud

I’m writing in response to a letter written here last week about the level of learning in Yeshivos. I read the letter and thought of my son and knew right away where he would have ranked had he been one of the boys tested.

My son is a regular bochur who went through the system, never got in much trouble and mostly shows up to sedarim (to my knowledge.) But I am positive that he would fail to make a layning on a blatt gemarah or be able to differentiate between an Orach Chaim and a Yoreh Deah. A full day of sitting and learning is not something he can do on a consistent basis. It’s not that he has any learning disabilities, he just doesn’t have the zits flaysh for it.

How do I excuse my son for wasting so much of his precious time? Well for one, I don’t think he’s alone in this regard and I think the person who wrote the letter would agree. Second, what can I expect of him? At this point he may be better off in a Yeshiva that diverges from the full day learning schedule but the other options for him are Yeshivos for troubled boys who would only bring my son down.

In your letter you asked why it is that so many bochurim spend years in top notch Yeshivas without the skills and knowledge to show for it. I think the real question is why are there so many bochurim who aren’t cut out for 10 hour learning schedules spending years in top tier Yeshivas?

Why should we expect different results when our children are clearly stuck in Yeshivos that aren’t designed for them? Shouldn’t there be an option more suitable for boys who aren’t capable of putting in so many hours a day of Gemorah learning but are regular frum boys who don’t belong in an ‘at-risk’ Yeshiva?

This isn’t an issue for rebbeim or Rosh Yeshiva to deal with. They’re entitled to gear their yeshiva towards any type of bochur they want. But as a parent I have to ask: What does the system expect from my son?

A.G, Lakewood


  1. So why doesnt those students go to a yeshivah that isnt so demanding? So you dont want to sent to such school because……(fill in). ‘l’havdel, Harvard is to sofisticated, you go to lets say,Turo. You dont go to a lexis car dealer if can only do a ford..

  2. Klal yisroel is blessed with many wonderful mosdo’s H’Torah that cater to all types of bochurim. In your hometown of Lakewood there are many Yeshiva’s with a high level of learning and excellent Rabbaim that break up the sedorim to manageable times. If you look , you will find. You don’t need a brand name yeshiva to produce a Ben Torah.
    Continued Hatzlocah!

  3. The issues are not with the mesivtas. Generally, if your son comes out of elementary school not knowing how to read a gemara, or know the difference between Yorah Deah and Orach Chaim, that means his elementary school failed him.

    It is not the job of a 9th or 10th grade Rebbi to teach a bochur how to read, or to give him basic yedios k’lalios. That was supposed to have been worked on starting in early elementary school.

    It is not the High School s that are failing. It’s the elementary schools. They are so caught up on teaching raid and lomdus, catering to the most advanced in the class, that basic skills are not being taught. Our classes are to large, and the individual is overlooked. It doesn’t become noticeable until the boys are Mesivta. At that point, the boys are too old and do not have the patience to be taught how to read.

    We need more qualified elementary Rabeim, and Menahalim who are really on top of them. If our boys schools would be nearly on par with our girls schools, working on skills instead of geshmake sevaros, many more boys would be matzliach in Mesivta and would enjoy learning much more.

    • You expect an elementary school kid to know the difference between orech Chaim and yoreh daya? You’re kidding!
      For the average and majority of boys, Gemora and especially meforshim is booooring. Learn a little bekius, a little aiyn yaakov, Chumash with ohr hachaim’s, practical halachah and basic mussar and decorum of why we believe in Hashem and why we should be excited about being frum Jews. That would make an interesting and fullfiling day for most upper elementary and high school boys.

  4. There are an incredible number of you she loves that cater to many different kinds of children. Often it is difficult for parents to make the right decision. But please do so.

  5. Chazal (Medrash Rabba Koheles) fortold all of the above and agreed with it. “Elef Nichnasin L’Bais Hamedrash V’Echad Yotzei l’Horah. It is important for Klal Yisrael to have Lomdim in all levels. Nothing to be ashamed of.

  6. As another Lakewood parent, I agree with you. I sent my son out of Lakewood for high school. Had he remained in the Lakewood school system he wouldn’t have ended up learning anything because of the limited options in Lakewood for someone who is not at risk but not holding by learning like a metzuyan .

    • There are thousands of yeshivas in Lakewood. Many are geared to this type of boy. You didn’t send him away for his own benefit, rather because you would be embarrassed from your friends. If he went to a lower tier yeshiva in Lakewood you you wouldn’t be able to handle it. So you sent him away.

      • What a stupid comment.

        You can not imagine how much flack I got for sending my son to a Yeshiva out of Lakewood. And the Yeshiva he goes to is no higher tier nothing. Everyone knows it’s for boys who need more help.

        There are no thousands of yeshivas in Lakewood. I am not going to CH’V say anything against any Yeshiva but there are very few Yeshivos that a boy like this can SHTIEG in, in Lakewood

  7. הוא היה אומר, בן חמש שנים למקרא, בן עשר למשנה, בן שלש עשרה למצות, בן חמש עשרה לתלמוד. Source: מסכת אבות · פרק ה · משנה כא.
    There must be a very good reason why חז”ל chose the age of 15 to start learning גמרא. Can it be mental/intellectual maturity? Could it be the educational background? Why are our kids, who are weaker than then (ירידת הדורות) starting to learn גמרא at 10 or even 9 years old? Maybe it’s time to make a shift here. Yes, I know that some, perhaps many, can handle it, but there are many reasons why it’s no longer the ideal option. Classes are too big, teachers and fathers have less time and patience to help weaker students, the pressure and competition are more intense. Students who don’t taste success in learning are unfortunately prime candidates for dropping out, of school, yeshivah, and hence Yiddishkeit. The risks are too great to fool around here.

  8. Sorry buddy. I feel bad for you but you are around 10 years too late.
    First of all, you are the child’s parent. ‘The system’ is not your child’s parent.
    To wait till your kid is out of high school and then say, “Why isnt this working?”, is very lazy on your behalf.
    You didnt catch that your son is doing nothing in yeshiva for 12 years?
    Secondly, did you set goals for your child to accomplish? Somehow magically he is supposed to feel empassioned and goal oriented yet at no point did the parent even contemplate that its something important to teach their child.
    Lastly, why didnt you learn with him on a nightly basis. My father never said, “I’ll rely on the system”. He studied with us nightly, he farhered us on mishnayos and gemara ball peh, he taught us another mesechta differently than the one we were learning in school, he sent us to a night program twice a week learning mishnayos, shabbos afternoon we went to a learning shiur given by a neighbor.
    And guess what, I do similar for my children.
    To sit their and say, “I’m sending my son to yeshiva and then I’m closing my eyes until he graduates” is completely the wrong way to approach chinuch.
    (I’m not defending the school, I dont know which school you are talking about.)
    But you had years to address this situation.
    Please, my dear fellow fathers, learn with your kids a few times a week, give them goals, and prizes, teach them your goals and qualities. Dont just sit there and say, “The system will take care of them”.
    P.s. I’m not a ‘mechanech’. I’m a regular working baalabos.

      • Definitely nothing to be jealous of.
        My father was a rabbi and brought us up on a Rabbi’s salary.
        Mine is not much better.
        I dont know how that is relevant.
        The letter writer claims that he stuck his kid in school at age 5, closed his eyes, and then reopened them after his kid left 12th grade.
        The he ‘blames the system’

        That is the issue.
        My bank account, (which is nothing exciting) had no relevance to any issues discussed in the op-ed, nor in my response.

  9. Matzav Sheli

    An entire post of “assumptions”.
    Glad your recipe worked with your ingredients, did your father also teach & model “EMPATHY & understanding” & thinking out of the box.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here