Rebbe On Chinuch

The Rebbe On Chinuch

Proper education is not an independent and theoretical study; according to the Rebbe, education must permeate a child’s entire life.

At OYYL, we integrate the Rebbe’s directives into every facet of our school. From the religious instruction and spirit of the school to general academics, from our approach to students’ physical and mental health to their personal growth and development.

This notion that education needs to permeate every aspect of a child’s life, capturing their entire being is displayed in the following excerpt from the Rebbe:

“חינוך תינוקות של בית רבן, צריך להיות באופן שהתינוקות נעשים חדורים לגמרי בתוך תוכם עם הענין והנקודה של ‘משיח’, כך, שכאשר רק מעיפים מבט על ילד יהודי, מה רואים? – משיח! כל מציאותם היא ‘משיח’ – הגילוי ד’אתה הראת גו’ אין עוד מלבדו.’”

שיחת שמחת תורה תשנ” ב:

“We must educate Jewish children in a manner in which they become completely saturated and imbued with the concept of Moshiach. Thus, just by looking at a Jewish child, we will see Moshiach! In truth, their entire existence indicates Moshiach, an expression of ‘You have been shown… that there is none other besides Him.’” 

Sicha Simchas Torah 5752

What does the Rebbe say about Chinuch Al Taharas Hakodesh

The Education (Chinuch) of Jewish Children:

For many years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke about the importance of giving children, at least up to a certain age, a chinuch based on taharas hakodesh, a Torah-only education. He reasoned that secular studies confuse a young child’s mind by instilling their pure minds with secular ideals that are not beneficial to their soul or spiritual development. 

The following are several translated letters which the Rebbe wrote on the topic of chinuch, in particular as it applies to limud hachol:

An excerpt from a Sicha of Simchas Torah, 5715:

The correct way is that wherever a Jew goes, he has to lead the (spiritual doings, which is the true reality, of the) entire city, surrounding area, and country. Instead, what happens is that person loses himself, and not only does he not influence others, but worse, he is influenced and imitates the foolish behaviors of the country, the surrounding area, and the city.

Instead of looking for guidance in the Shulchan Aruch and ensuring that the Shulchan Aruch should be the decider for every case within his surrounding areas; instead, the surroundings dictate his decisions. The one “next door” (the neighbor) has the last word upon which he establishes the conduct of his house.

It is said regarding the Jewish people (when they were in Egypt, the most challenging exile,) “They were outstanding there, in that they did not change their name, language, and clothing.” However, nowadays, we do not have such courage; we seek methods to ensure that a child is not recognized as a Jew. We cover his peyos if we cannot cut them off completely; we hide his tzitzis; we use all different tricks so that it should not be recognizable that he is Jewish.

It should be that when a Jewish boy walks in the street, it should be recognizable from miles away that it is a Jewish boy who is walking because the name “Yisroel” is an admirable title. Instead, we are embarrassed because of it.

We fear that when he walks outside and asks someone for directions, he will speak English with a Jewish accent, and he will be recognizable as a Jew. To alleviate this fear, we learn English and other secular studies to adulterate his innocent child’s mind with him.

The first three years of a child’s learning are the foundation for his future success. Yet, we take the child and contaminate his mind with English, grammar, etc.  It would be preferable that adults would not know of such topics, how much more so a child until the age of nine or twelve, and I would dare to say even older, but “when you take on too much, it does not last.”

G-d says that He does not need Gan Eden, He does not require the Beis Hamikdash; instead, He only wants “to dwell among them”: in the brain of a Jewish child is where He wants to be. Yet instead, we take this mind and adulterate it with secular sciences! 

In truth, we would prefer to learn with the child only these secular sciences, but, since there is a “zaidy” (who wishes for the child to learn Jewish studies), or we fear a Jew in New York (the Rebbe alludes to himself), we also teach the child Torah. Where is the Jewish pride?

Regarding the claim that teaching a child English and the like will benefit him materially by enabling him to settle easier and make a living, this claim is completely invalid. No one is a foreteller to know what will happen later; therefore, all conduct must be according to the Torah.

All matters that benefit a person are stated in the Torah. If there were some material benefits to learning secular sciences, there would be a law in the Torah stating that we should learn such sciences. However, since there is no such law in the Torah, on the contrary, the Torah explicitly says that we are not allowed to do so and that doing so adulterates the “chabad” of one’s soul, this proves that there is whatsoever no material benefit in learning such subjects, but on the contrary.

We imagine that we can outsmart G-d by disregarding the methods He gave us in His Torah to succeed. Instead, we will use our methods to succeed by learning English, thereby succeeding.

We have to remember that G-d created the world 5714 years ago, and He rules the world as He sees fit, and He will continue to rule the world as He wishes, according to the Torah.

G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people over 3000 years ago; it is evident that this “batlonish” (simple) nation without grammar, etc., remains strong. With all their sciences, all the other nations have no remnants, yet the Jewish people, without any sciences and “beriah shaft” – a “batlonish” nation – through following the Torah, remain strong.

Accordingly, the claim of gaining material benefit from learning secular studies is unfounded since something not in line with the Torah cannot bring any benefit, not spiritually nor materially.  Yet parents rob their children of their years (by dedicating time to learn such subjects), a part of their children’s life. 

The children are not at fault since they do not have an independent opinion; their parents direct them. Their parents take and rob their life. With what liberty do parents come and deprive their children of their years? Did G-d grant us children so that parents can take away their children’s years?   Is it fair that since a person has a yetzer hara that he cannot contain, he should let it out the child’s head, affecting their years?

(Unlike usual, the Rebbe spoke this sicha with much emotion. He also said quite a few strong statements that were not transcribed. Multiple times throughout the sicha, the Rebbe noted):

I am speaking this way on the basis on which the Rebbe Rashab said that Simchas Torah does not hurt, so may it be with kindness and mercy.

An excerpt from a letter to the Hanhollas HaYeshivah in Montreal, 2 Shevat, 5712:

“In response to their numerous questions and suggestions, I would like to propose the following:

It would be appropriate to organize the study curriculum so that those who want, especially the international students, should not learn secular studies. Additionally, there are cases when although the students want to learn secular studies, the staff-body should make an effort to persuade them against it”.

An excerpt from a letter to Rabbi Raphoel Kahan of Tel Aviv, 16 Sivan, 5712:

To address his question regarding secular studies in their yeshivah: in general, such studies are from the matters that one does not need to be scrupulous about doing; (furthermore,) being extra careful about such studies is reprimanded. It is difficult for me to give a detailed response since I do not know the existing studies’ schedule until now, nor do I know its requirements. That being said, the time has come for people to be more confident in themselves and their beliefs. Truthfully, it is only fitting that they should begin this movement (to learn only Jewish studies) since in the verse of “G-d is with us” (Bamidbar 14:9), it concludes, “Do not fear them.” Especially as they witness how successful they are in everything they do with sincerity and without any self-interest. Even in circumstances when all the “knowledgeable people” supposedly, and more importantly all prominent people, said that the matter is impossible to attain at the onset, and the result was that it was successful. So, how much more so, we should behave with more courage in these areas, especially in matters our Rebbeim consider vital. The above text suffices for those who understand.

An excerpt from the Rebbe’s letter to a particular teacher regarding her brother, 4 Shevat, 5715:

“In answer to her letter in which she writes about [her brother] that his teachers are unpleased with his academic performance because he prefers to play than study, especially during secular studies classes. It is normal behavior for youth to like playing over studying, even at an age older than her brother. Therefore, no further fuss should not be made. That being said, we should aim to positively influence him, primarily through means of competition and comparison with friends of his age group that are more studious than him.

In addition, it would be beneficial to lessen the hours in which he studies secular studies if it is impossible to completely annul the studies since his behavior may be an indication that he does not want to learn secular studies (even though now he does not understand the subconscious meaning of his instincts.) Concurrently, this decision will also influence his devotion to Jewish studies.”

An excerpt from aYud Shevat sicha, 5737, edited by the Rebbe and printed in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 16, p. 145-147:

“….The second issue which concerns today’s era, is the education of “infants of the house of their teacher” (a Mishnaic and Talmudic expression regarding children). As a result of the laws of this country (U.S.) and similar countries, a frightening state has transpired. 

The current system is that a school day does not pass wherein a child does not study secular studies, not only a five-year-old who learns Mikrah but even at the age of ten when a child studies Mishnah and a thirteen-year-old who is obligated in mitzvos and a fifteen-year-old who studies Gemara. 

We must learn a lesson from the Baal Hillula (the Previous Rebbe) regarding this situation. He actively endangered his life and encouraged other Jews to sacrifice their lives to establish chedorim for Jewish children. The curriculum in these chedorim were solely based on taharas hakodesh, not to chas v’shalom change the education that Jews have established for generations.  

It follows that certainly in our times and situation, in such a country and similar countries, where there is no physical danger chas v’shalom to live a Jewish life, we have to put a significant effort into ensuring that the education of Jewish children should be based entirely on taharas hakodesh, not intermixing any secular studies; unless the law does not allow such a possibility. And if one must learn such topics, there should not be any extra investment therewithin.

Even those who cannot withstand such a challenge without incorporating any secular studies can fulfill their requirement with only a minute amount) and on a smaller scale. There is no need for the current quantity and quality of secular studies as they are presently conducted in schools under the direction of G-d fearing men and women.

All we need to do is call the attention of such schools and encourage them to direct their efforts away from being so scrupulous in executing the statutes and laws of the country, and instead, invest them in fulfilling mitzvos and decrees of G-d, of which we are “committed to from Har Sinai,” even before the country’s statutes existed.

Even though we must follow the laws of the government, (firstly, in matters of  Yiddishkeit, we have no authority except for Hashem Himself. Secondly, even someone who cannot withstand the challenge of only learning Jewish studies) within the limitations that the statutes of the country allow, they need to ensure that more of a boy and girl’s time, and definitely more of their attention, should be invested into Jewish studies, and only the amount of time and energy that is absolutely necessary should be given to secular studies.

(In addition to the fact that secular studies should not be in the morning, at the beginning of one’s school day. , It is not unlawful that the first “of one’s dough” “you shall raise it as an offering for Hashem:” to begin the day with educating a child about G-d, through the study of His Torah, and only then, once the child is already tired, dedicate a limited amount of time towards secular studies, because of government regulations.

 Since “I (G-d) only request… according to their capability”, it is inevitable that with the slightest effort and with proper attentiveness, we can immediately reduce the time in which Jewish children study secular studies and devote quantitatively and qualitatively more time for Jewish studies. The only thing necessary is that the resolution should be made so that we feel that the matter is an utmost necessity since this is the ruling in the laws of Talmud Torah. And with this mindset, it will indeed be carried out.

Just like we have seen by the Baal HaHillula (the Previous Rebbe,) that notwithstanding the situation in his time, where according to nature there should not have been any success in his efforts in education based on taharas hakodesh, nevertheless we now see the fruits of those efforts with our own eyes.

When we go out onto the streets across big cities in the U.S. or elsewhere, we meet grandchildren who descend from parents who were twenty or forty years ago in Russia. We see how the grandchild is going in the path of Torah and mitzvot; we wonder how are they holding onto their Yiddishkeit?

And as we investigate the matter, we find out that their father, educator, or grandfather had a relationship or were in touch with one of the shluchim of the Baal Hahillulah, which influenced him (the father, etc.) in matters of Yiddishkeit, and learned with him and learned with him while hiding in the attic or cellar; we realize that this is why he stayed with his Yiddishkeit.

Accordingly, the same thing applies to all those who “walk in his paths forever and eternally” that through their efforts in the work as mentioned above, to strengthen education based on taharas hakodesh, they will surely succeed in establishing the “Tzivot Hashem” which will very soon leave this last golus, to the true and complete Geulah, through our righteous Moshiach, very speedily.

An excerpt from a Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev sicha, 5716, printed in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 2, pg. 482:

Chassidus explains the inner meaning of the war against the Greeks as a war against external sciences. Meaning to say that although one should not cease to learn Torah – the study of Torah is important – yet when Torah and secular sciences are placed in the same vicinity, “Greek” sciences are compared to the Torah by claiming that Torah is an intellectual pursuit like all other sciences, this is a tameh (impure) perspective. 

 The rationale behind tameh (impurity) and taharah (purity) is as the Midrash explains, quoted by Rambam, “The dead do render impurity and not the waters do no purify; instead, it is a statute that I (Hashem) have instituted and a decree that I have decreed.” It is a matter of “chukah” (statute) that is beyond “seichel” (rationale).

Accordingly, we can understand the words of Chazal, “The Greeks defiled all (of the Temple’s) oil.” In Kabbalah and Chassidus, oil refers to “Chochmah” (wisdom). When the study of Chochmas HaTorah is allowed, but it is intermixed with “Greek,” meaning that secular sciences are permitted into the reality of Torah, and they are given equal importance; this is is called “defiling all the oil.” This issue is so grave that Mesiras Nefesh is needed to stop it.

The lesson we can take from this: Some claim that the Torah is a rationale study with intellectual pursuits, as it says, “She is your wisdom and intelligence in the eyes of the nations.”  So why should one care if secular sciences are intermixed into Torah study? What damage could there be in several hours of learning the Torah alongside several hours of other sciences? (If both are rational and academic studies).

This is what the miracle of Chanukah teaches us:

When we follow this path of equalizing the Torah and the sciences, not only does the pure oil not purify the impure oil but on the contrary, “they defiled all the oil,” and the pure oil becomes impure.

This perspective does not only cause spiritual and G-dly destruction, it also leads to materialistic devastation; G-d should save us. As the Rambam recounts to us about Chanukah, the Greeks abused the Jewish people’s property and daughters, which resulted from “they defiled all the oil.”

In truth, a non-Jew cannot have any rule or dictatorship over a Jew. So, how are there situations when they do? It is because we allow the Yevonim to approach: “Your breakers and destroyers will go out from you.”

But when we do not allow the Greeks to come close, meaning to say, we do not place the Greek sciences into the space of Torah, then the oil remains pure.

An excerpt from a letter dated Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5717:

In answer to his letter in which he writes the reasoning of those who oppose the belief of not clogging the brain of children with secular matters, to which our sages say, “To the contrary…to feed them (with force) like a bull (is forced to accept the yoke on him (Bava Basra 21:A, Rashi)  Jewish studies.”

The reasons mentioned (to refute the belief in only teaching children Jewish studies) are strange since they are irrational; instead, as it seems, their motives are founded on their desires, and their desires bribe and err their rationale, especially the humanistic intellect of the Nefesh HaBehamis.) 

It is self-understood that he is right in his conduct (to advocate for only Jewish studies), but it is necessary to ensure that they (the children) will not be left unoccupied from any matters; instead, they should occupy themselves with Jewish studies and with revising their studies, and the like. Hashem Yisborech should make him meritorious and grant him success to “break the ice,” which seems to exist regarding this matter in their religious community. He should transform the cold to warmth and light of Kedusha (holiness), to Chassidishe warmth and light.

With blessings for good news in all the above.

A response of the Rebbe regarding reading newspapers:

The Rebbe said: It has been a minhag (custom) amongst Jewish women throughout the centuries not to read newspapers, not to study secular subjects, and not to put on makeup, etc. Have they been careful in these areas to follow the above-mentioned tradition? Or at least not to publicly go against the tradition? If we add in areas of spiritual darkness, surely it is also necessary to add in spiritual light. For example, everyone should light Shabbos candles, regardless of their family’s previous tradition not to light.
Dvar Melech, p. 102
(This was a response to a girl who wrote the Rebbe that her lighting Shabbos candles is against her family tradition. )