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Monday, May 22, 2006

Torah Umesorah Tidbits

Krum links to Still Wondering's dispatch from the Torah Umesorah convention that took place last week. SW reports, and I have subsequently heard from another source, that one of the bits of advice given to Rebbes and educators at the convention was that Rebbes should refrain from ball-playing with their Talmidim, as it "takes away from Yiraas hakavod". To quote from Krum's response:
Putting aside their failure to address the countless other problems facing yeshivas and their students, these eitzas reflect an utter cluelessness about what is going on outside the monasteries of Lakewood and Bnei Brak. Ask any yeshiva graduate which of their high school rabbeim actually inspired them, and I gaurantee they were the ones who played ball with them rather than those that though ball playing was bittul torah. And the issue here is not Modern vs Ultra-orthodox, but rather how best to inspire and educate American yeshiva students.

I agree. Far be it my place to criticize the words of a Torah scholar, but it is clear that in this era of at-risk kids, this sort of advice is not necessarily relevant to American Yeshiva students. Playing ball with Talmidim during the infrequent breaks given during the long Yeshiva day is something that I think is healthy on an emotional as well as physical level. On an emotional level, because these Rebbes who spend extra time with their students tend to be the ones that create a real Kesher with their Talmidim, and are able to influence them in other, more important ways. On a physical level, because there is precious little time to get exercise during the long Yeshiva day. In today's day and age, when obesity is an epidemic among American youth, it certainly can't hurt for a Rebbe to set an example for "V'Nishmartem Meod L'Nafshotechem" ("be verey protective of your lives") by getting some much needed recreation with them. I'm not saying every Rebbe should do so, but I certainly doen't see why the ones who do should be stopped.

Related: DovBear has a harsher take.

29 Comments:

Blogger LkwdGuy said...

Reposting my comment from DB.

His opinion with regard to ball playing is based on traditional torah sources (the picture that I have of a malach hashem tzivakos does not involve swinging bats) and there have been many, many succesful rabbaim that have influenced thousands of students without playing ball and rather by acting the part of a link in a chain going back to moshe rabbainu. That being said, a rebbe that can't recognize when a situation calls for him to use other methods with specific students is not really up to the task of teaching, and RALS surely appreciates that.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

This comment was already ridiculed at DB. Now you're back for more?

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to remember that in the Rosenbloom biography on R' Pam, R' Pam is quoted as being of the same opinion as RALS, ie., he didn't believe a rebbe should be playing ball with his talmidim. Another out of touch Gadol??

1:25 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember that in the Rosenbloom biography on R' Pam, R' Pam is quoted as being of the same opinion as RALS, ie., he didn't believe a rebbe should be playing ball with his talmidim. Another out of touch Gadol??


Well, as I said in my post. I think in today's day and age, if certain Rebbeim are able to create a Kesher with their Talmidim that allow them to influence them in other arenas, maybe it makes sense not to make a blanket statements against certain types of behavior. I'm just not sure that the type of behavior that applies to the Rebbe/Talmid relationship in Bnei Brak may not be applicable to every Yeshiva stateside.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but R' Pam is contemporary American. Also, he generally was considered a moderate.

1:59 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Anonymous said...

Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but R' Pam is contemporary American. Also, he generally was considered a moderate.


I am certainly aware. As I noted in my post, though I am not one to criticize the words of a Torah Scholar, I am allowed to question whether blanket statements are appropriate advice in an era where the Kesher between the Rebbe and his Talmid is sometimes al that's keeping the Talmid from closing off to Judaism completely. My comment re Bnei Brak was referring to the advice given at the convention, my comments re the age we live in were relevant to Rav Pam's comments.

2:09 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

These comments point to a more general problem, seeking advice from those who are unfamiliar with American children. As of late, it seems that we send our shaylot overseas, instead of having community Rabbis (the lost long ago LOR) deal with issues as he sees fit at the local level.

I think that in general the actual education policies should be dealt with at a local level. I don't think B'nei Brak should set educational policies for Memphis and I don't think Columbus, OH should set educational policies for Baltimore.

At least in my American suburbia public high school the teachers with the best repoire with the students tended to be sports coaches or club supervisors. This may not be the case in Japan or China. But, it is here in America, I believe, and I think it would be sad if a teacher turned his nose up on a group of third grade boys who wanted to enjoy a game of kickball.

2:53 PM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

we used to have our annual lag bomer games with our rebbim playing as well. one year we still played but our rebbe did not participate, his reason was " i am your rebbe not your friend" by the way he was hands down the best rebbe in yeshiva, and you could always speak with him about anything.
there is a lack of respect that comes with the ball playing as are halachik shailos that come up.
i have seen the ball playing rebbis and the talmidim. let me tell there is no respect there.
at risk students are not at risk b/c during the break the rebbe did not play ball them. but when a rebbe does pick up that bat or ball there is somthing lost in the eyes of the talmud.
as far as the convention goes this does not seem to be an epidemic, and there are a lot more pressing issues the must be discussed.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just recently came across this blog. well written and very interesting.

personally, this is a classic example where rigidity necessarily leads to failure. In other words, some rebbaim should not play ball with students as it really will detract from student's respect for, and fear of, them. Other rebbaim should absolutely play ball with their students as the bond it forms and trust it inspires is unnatainable in most any other form.

some factors to consider:
1) age of students (by the time they are, say, 16, the rebbe seems to be playing more for himself than for them)
2) age of rebbe (if he's old it can seem odd to the students and they may not respect him)
3) athleticism of rebbe (yes, it really matters that he is at least decent)
4) most obviously and most importantly, as orthomom said, is the environment. are these kids in an atmosphere where sports is encouraged (e.g. their school has a team, they watch games at home, by sports memorabilia etc.) or only 'tolerated.'

i'm sure there are other factors as well, but as is the case with most techniques used in education, common sense is the only hard and fast rule that must be followed absolutely and without variation.

p.s. this comes from a guy in his mid 20's who went to a yeshiva where some rebbeim played ball with students and some did not. some of the rebbeim who played ball with students were extremely popular and well respected, while others who played ball were looked down upon. the same could be said of those who did not play ball with the students. in other words, as i said above, the playing ball itself was most certainly not the salient factor.

3:03 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

The comments made seemed to show a disdain for extracurriculars in general, be it a game of ball or a trip to the science museum.

3:35 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Far be it my place to criticize the words of a Torah scholar,

Why?

(1) If he is wrong, he's wrong; and

(2) Even if you would (correctly) defer to his knowledge and experience on questions of Halacha and hashkofa, why would you also defer to him on question of, say math, or history, or education? Excellence at everything, doesn't nec. follow from excellence at Torah.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Boruch said...

1) If he is wrong, he's wrong; and

(2) Even if you would (correctly) defer to his knowledge and experience on questions of Halacha and hashkofa, why would you also defer to him on question of, say math, or history, or education? Excellence at everything, doesn't nec. follow from excellence at Torah.

3:50 PM

This is a question of hashkafa, not math or history

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read DovBear, Krum, SW, etc. I choose to post here, because I believe OM and her audience have the most balanced and thought-out opinions(sorry guys, that doesn't detract form your blogs).

A few thoughts:

1) Someone mentioned that Rav Weinberger play baseball at his Lag B'Omer outing. First, did Rav Shteinman's words apply to a Shul Rov, or only younger students? Either way, can someone from Aish please ask RMW if he intends to follow Rav Shteinman's words in this regard on a going-forward basis?

2) Does anyone know if a transcript of "the speech" is available?

3) LkwdGuy reports that Rav Shteinman did in fact speak about abuse:

"Hitting has no place in a classroom. A Rebbe that hits will only teach kids to hit."

If this is true, an argument can be made that his statement on ball-playing is even worse. All the "defenders" are telling us to lay off the great Rabbi due to his age and the fact that he correctly based his words on the Torah.

If RALS truly cannot adapt his views to the today's day and age, why did he miss Gittin 36a and Bechoros 46a in his travels through Shas?

5:52 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

anonymous 5:52

I cannot speak for Rav Weinberger in terms of what he would do were he still in a classroom but I expect him to be smacking the ball on Memorial Day. I can only say that he would play ball with the boys periodically during his many years at Ezra Academy.

And, please, don't anyone be foolish enough to try to take an extra base. He'll gun you down!

6:20 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

I hate to say this, but Iread that "extra base" thing all wrong...oops

9:51 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'I am allowed to question whether blanket statements are appropriate advice '

Are blanket statements are appropriate for anything other than clearcut issurim in the halachah?

'it seems that we send our shaylot overseas, instead of having community Rabbis (the lost long ago LOR) deal with issues as he sees fit at the local level.'

There are two remaining Orthodox communities in the Bronx. In one, the day school has never been willing to provide the community with the kind of education that the parents desire. As a result, the community is dying. In the other, parents took responsibility for the day school and created one that fit their philosophy. That community is growing -- and it would be growing even more except that a lot of folks are making aliyah.

'are these kids in an atmosphere where sports is encouraged '

That second community started a MO high school 3 years ago. I davened shacharit there this morning. At the end of the service, the rabbi announced with great pride and enthusiasm that four of the school's sports teams had won their matches this past weekend (against four other MO high schools).

12:00 AM  
Anonymous meeyus said...

Who really cares about what one rabbi suggests? To each his own; if a rebbi feels that playing ball will help his talmidim, who is one to judge?

What upsets me is that the real issues are ignored, like abuse in Yeshivas...rebbeim playing with talmidim's balls...

I know it's crass but I couldn't resist - the pun that is. :)

9:55 AM  
Blogger thanbo said...

As my (Maimo-educated) friend said when teaching the Rambam's Shmoneh Perakim (intro to Pirkei Avot), "And now we come to the chapter that most yeshivas pretend doesn't exist." - the one about physical activity as a necessity for keeping the mind clear and in shape.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous norm depalma said...

boy, tough topic!!!
let's see:
how bout this:
if a rebbe is a good ballplayer or likes to play ball, he should play with his students...maybe through sports, he can teach them such arcane topics as derech eretz, kavod guf etc...but he shouldnt be playing just to be known as that rebbe who can dunk and was drafted by the Bullets in 76...that sends the wrong message

oh yeah, yeshiva kids should get more exercise...and not only standing around a basketball net in shabbos shoes and tzizis out lamely trying a jump shot...but actual exercise...in proper outfits...like, even, rachmana letzlan, shorts!!!

10:47 AM  
Blogger OrthoKrum said...

Doesn't Journey's have a song (two actually) about Brooklyn Yeshivah guys who played ball - with their Rebbi - on Lag B'omer???

11:06 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Yes. 'The ninth man' from Abie Rotenberg.

A classic song, with a follow up "sequel" producedtwo years ago and featured in a music video at this year's HASC concert. Evidently, the concept of rebbeim playing ball with students is deeply ingrained within american Yeshiva lore. And the idea that's pasht nisht is, well, pasht nisht.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I'm noit mekabel that R' Aryeh Leib Shteinman missed such an offenah rayah fun a Journey song. It comes out from this that the song must be a forgery.

11:47 AM  
Blogger OrthoKrum said...

Maybe there should be a Kol Kore to prevent a third version of the song!

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quote from Rav Pam was that the rebbe should only play ball with the students if he is a decent ball player. Otherwise it will only make them dissrespect the rebbe (sort of like the Journeys song)

7:17 PM  
Anonymous played ball with rebbe and loved him! said...

I think we have to read into this ball playing thing a little. When I was in 10th grade I drilled my rebbe in the ribs with a curve that forgot to curve. I felt really terrbile but when he laughed it off with a joke I learned a whole bunch from him. To this day he was one of my favorite rebbeim and while we dont live in the same city, I try to send regards to all the time.

I would hope if a rebbe plays ball with his talmidim, he could be on the court or on the field showing proper midos and haskofos. That would be a good rebbe. A rebbe that stands on the sidelines just to make sure there is no celebrating or emotion shown when you score a goal or get a key hit, is missing something.

Chas V'sholom far be it from me to critique g'dolim but Es La'asos LaShem may apply here. Its up to the rebbe to decide how to "get" the talmid.

3:00 PM  
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