A Rosh Yeshivah Replies

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….in response to a boy that was expelled from Yeshiva

While I can’t go into the merits of your particular case, since your son has never attended our yeshiva, your strong accusations and finger pointing accompanied with true feelings of deep pain and anguish deserves a proper response.

One of the most difficult and painful decisions Avrohom Ovinu, the father of chesed was forced to make was when he had to send his dear son Yishmoel out of his house because of the bad influence he had on his son Yitzchok. Is was certainly one of the most agonizing and painful decisions of his life. Despite his deep love for him, he did it without delay, even though he knew full well that Yishmoel was sick with a very high fever and sending him out in this condition was life-threatening. He knew that he had no choice.

We are fully aware of the terrible consequences of sending a child out of the yeshiva and do it only when everything else has failed and we assess that his presence is having a very bad influence on the other students. Only after we have given him all the guidance and love we are able to give, and only after trying to work with the parents and getting absolutely no results are we forced to take such harsh and drastic action.

When it once came to our attention that one of our students was renting non-kosher videos and using the Internet to go to forbidden sites, we did all in our power to meet with the parents and try to convince them to remove these dangerous and harmful weapons of mass destruction from the house. Unfortunately, all our pleas were fell on deaf ears. The parents claimed that they could supervise its use and it would cause no harm. It wasn’t until he invited others over to his house and brought this filth to yeshiva, that we were finally forced to expel the child. I wonder what you would say if it were your own child that was being influenced by this particular boy?

Please bear in mind that bringing up a child is not the sole obligation of the yeshiva but is shared by the home and school. When parents are wearing blinders, and both parents work and leave their child to be brought up by their Polish maid, then don’t blame the yeshiva for your problems. When the child has unlimited access to his TV, video, cable or Internet, while they’re busy with more important matters or even learning in the bais medrash, don’t blame the yeshiva for your troubles. When you don’t know where or with whom your son is hanging out during his evening hours, don’t come complaining if he’s experiencing trouble in school.

There are times that the Torah metes out a very harsh punishment for a child referred to as a “ben soreih u’moreh.” Obviously, not every problem can be solved by even the most competent rebbi, and many parents are often in denial and refuse to take their child to a competent psychologist when advised to do so. And even when the parents are finally convinced to seek professional help, they expect miracles. When they don’t see any changes after a few sessions, they call it quits.

What is the yeshiva to do when it has reached a brick wall and has not gotten any cooperation from the parents? Yes, it’s easy to blame the telephone pole when a drunk driver hits it. It’s easy to blame the yeshiva for our own faults and mistakes.

Your suggestion that a yeshiva bring in a mentor or therapist is certainly a valid one, but is very costly. The yeshivas are barely able to cover a rebbi’s meager monthly salary. Where will the extra money come from? Yeshiva’s are struggling to survive and can ill afford this additional expense.

Let’s remember that the yeshiva must carefully weigh the harm done to one child against the harm he may cause to others. Making such delicate decisions doesn’t come easy and are among the most difficult, painful, and heartrending calls that a rosh yeshiva must make. He must sometimes act like a doctor who must put a person with a contagious disease in isolation in order to prevent it from spreading to others. Showing too much mercy can sometimes backfire and destroy many others.

While it may very well be that there are extraordinary cases in which a yeshiva was too hasty in evicting a student and with the proper amount of effort this could have been avoided, accusing all roshei yeshivah and yeshivas of such misconduct is unjustifiable and slanderous and shows your total lack of understanding of the terrible agony and anguish they go through before reaching their decision.