Providence Hebrew Day School, 450 Elmgrove Ave. Providence, RI 401-331-5327
Looking Back - Mesorah
Dear Parents, I hope that you had an enriching and inspiring Pesach with your families. Please share with us some of the nachas that you felt from the divrei Torah, songs, and Pesach knowledge that your children displayed at home. Before Pesach, I had the opportunity to test many of the students on hilchos Pesach and was amazed by the knowledge of all of the classes.
Over the course of Pesach, I had the opportunity to lecture a number of times on parenting-related topics. These addresses and the follow-up questions and discussions proved to me how fortunate we are to have a school with such individualized classes, a low student-teacher ratio, and a staff and administration who are so dedicated to their students.
Before Pesach, I wrote about the idea of mesorah and how important it is for parents to train their children in this fundamental concept. After one of my addresses, a parent approached me and told me that there have been times when he has felt that Torah leaders had made mistakes in their judgment; therefore, he had great difficulty supporting the concept of mesorah and looking to our leaders as Torah authorities who bring a depth and clarity of vision to the Torah that they share with individuals or with the masses. He asked me: “Do you truly follow the halachic decisions of these rabbonim that you ask all of the time? I know of a p’sak that I believe was misguided, and therefore, I don’t believe we can blindly follow these rabbis!”
I answered him by explaining that a p’sak is an individual matter that is tailored specifically for the one who asked the question and is not meant for anyone else. I told him that I often attend school-related halachic question-and-answer sessions that are presented in front of large groups. It is clear that the responses given at these sessions are broad halachic answers from which it is difficult to draw real inferences.
I would like to share with you some simple guidelines to assist you in gaining answers to halachic questions.
- The verse tells us, “Asei lecha rav – Make for yourself a rabbi.” It is crucial for a family to have a rav with whom they consult. We can’t go “rav shopping” to find the most lenient or stringent answers. We must find ONE rav to whom we ask questions.
- Rabbonim answer questions based on the way that they are asked. The variables that are articulated in the question will often impact on the answer.
- Since the variables in a question differ from family to family, do not expect that the answers will be the same for different people. It is for this reason that I recommend that you ask your questions personally, relaying your given circumstances, so that the answers will be custom-made for you and your family.
- Great rabbonim issuing halachic decision are doing so based on their personal study of Torah, but each of those decision comes with Divine assistance to share the correct p’sak.
- In the event that you disagree with a p’sak, it is crucial that your children never hear your complaint. Children who hear their parents criticize rabbonim will grow up with a lack of respect for their teachers and rabbis. You should share your concern with the rav or teacher, but never in front of your child.
A rosh yeshiva, rav or rebbe represents a link in the mesorah that must be transmitted from generation to generation. One of the qualities that sets us aside as a people is our respect for our elders to whom we turn for advice. As human beings, rabbis too make mistakes, but more often than not, we receive answers that reflect experience, Torah study, preparation and, of course, the assistance of Hashem. By continuing to follow our mesorah, we will teach our children that they are one more link in the chain of tradition that protects us as a people.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, Dean