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Beit Midrash Family and Society The Education of Children and Students

School's Out

The concept of "summer vacation" really deserves a closer look. If we were to ask parents, many would describe the school vacation period as nothing but trouble. Yet, It also has its positive side and it is important to acknowledge this.
Dedicated to the memory of
Rabbi Meir b"r Yechezkel Shraga
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We find ourselves, at present, in the heat of summer vacation. Yet, the concept of "summer vacation" really deserves a closer look. What is its purpose? If we were to ask parents, many would describe the school vacation period as nothing but trouble. The summer vacation, they would tell you, is the most difficult time of the year. The children lose their routine, throw off their responsibilities, and become unruly. As a result, it is extremely difficult to control them. This problem is not restricted to parents of young children alone. It is the unfortunate inheritance of the parents of teenagers as well. During summer vacation teenagers lose their normal routine: They sleep during the day, and are awake at night; they simply do as they please. The parents offer up fervent supplication to the Almighty: Please allow this vacation to come to an end! What good is all this madness, idleness, and apathy. If we were to ask teachers, we would find those who say that everything, which they worked so hard, to build during the course of the school year is destroyed in a matter of weeks during the vacation period. There are even some learning institutions that, before the break, warn their students of the dangers of the vacation, of the negative effects that can come as a result of the break from studies. What, then, is the purpose of this vacation if both parents and teachers consider it educationally destructive?

The truth must be said, though, that all of the above is only one side of the coin. There is another side of the coin that, despite its importance, often goes overlooked. The school year, with all of its merits, does not erase the need for freedom. Study frameworks are important; they guide and protect the student - but they also restrict him. Human nature is such that it demands occasional periods of rest and relaxation. Relaxation is necessary not only for the sake of gathering strength for future study or work; it is needed in order to create new capacities, to allow for advancing to new and more elevated levels. In order to break into a new course one must leave the old one. Freedom removes man from his previous situation. It "airs him out," liberates him, and allows him to develop in a new direction - a different and better direction.

When parents see their children sleeping a lot during the summer vacation, they should not thing to themselves, "What terrible laziness. Such extreme apathy." Parents should not become alarmed. Apparently the youngsters are in need of this deep sleep. It may very well serve to release all sorts of inner tensions that have accumulated. Sometimes, it is precisely exaggerated freedom that gives one strength and helps one to elevate to new heights.

Clearly, my intention here is not to give legitimacy to things that are forbidden. Any breaking of routine constitutes a sort of decline. It slows advancement and contains an element of risk. Yet it also provides new possibility. There is nothing that says one must return to the old order. It becomes possible to embark on a new and better path.

This, then, is the positive side of the summer vacation. True, it is accompanied by a number of pitfalls, and possesses some dangers; one should certainly be careful, and warn others to be careful about them. However, it also has its positive aspects. It is important to know and acknowledge them. Have a pleasant and healthy vacation. Let it be liberating, refreshing, and invigorating for all of us.

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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