Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Education of Children and Students
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Chaim

The Educational System’s Failure and its Reasons

For generations, the Jewish people have given scholarship precedence over all else. This is lacking today. Parents who, today, lead a life of freedom and irresponsibility should not expect their child to turn out honest, educated, and intelligent.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Elul, 5763
Not too long ago, the results of a comparative study between the level of education in Israel and in other advanced countries were published. They were unimpressive to say the least. The educational level of Israeli students is on the downfall in comparison to other advanced countries.
In response to this report, popular media analysts focused their attention, as usual, upon irrelevant factors. For the most part, they opted to blame the impending cuts in the education budget rather than make an effort to get to the roots of the problem. For one thing, cuts have not yet taken effect, while the results of this study reflected last years developments; furthermore, the education budget in Israel is comparatively higher than those in most Western countries.

The truth of the matter is that the problem is a social-ideological one, and not connected to Israel’s spending budget.
For generations upon generations, the Jewish people have given scholarship precedence above all else. The scholar was considered the most honored individual in society. The wealthy considered it a privilege to have their daughters marry scholars. Jewish education was never based upon schoolwork alone; it was first and foremost a family affair - the Jewish family has traditionally related to scholarship as the most important of values. Even non-observant Jewry, during its first and second generations, continued to relate to study with honor. Yet, now, in the third generation, things have changed.

When the life objective becomes going out on the town, buy clothing, traveling abroad, gourmet restaurants, dancing all night, and returning drunk in the early hours of the morning, it should come as no surprise that the majority of our youth prefer television, movies, drinking, dancing, partying, and unbridled freedom over study.

Parents who lead a life of freedom and irresponsibility, expressing themselves in vulgar language and adorning themselves in immodest clothing, chain-smoking, drinking beer and coffee, and wasting their time with self-centered leisure and all sorts of nonsense, should not expect their child to turn out modest, honest, educated, and intelligent. The child merely imitates his parents. Adults who are insolent towards those who are better and wiser than they and laugh at jokes which desecrate all that is treasured and sacred, are later shocked that their children are disrespectful toward them and their teachers and are unwilling to accept authority. They do not hesitate to blame the government for not investing enough money in "education."

In the past, Torah teachers were poor. The children would gather in the teacher’s house and he would educate them from morning until night. This "classroom" also served as the bedroom, kitchen, and living room of the teacher’s family. In the center of the room the children sat and studied Torah, and on the side, the teacher’s wife would sew, cook, and take care of the small children. Sometimes even the goat and rooster would come inside the very same room in order to warm themselves and eat the scraps of leftover food....In the midst of all this, Jewish children studied Torah and grew to become learned, pious, and gentle Jews. Though they lacked adequate formal conditions, they possessed respect for scholarship.

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