This letter was addressed to Rabbi Dr. Eli Jung, a prominent Rav and educator in New York.

B”H, Thursday, 3 Iyar, 5704, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessings,

As per your request, we have sent you in a special package, Sifreinu, Vols. I and V, and also samples of our monthly publications (in Yiddish and in English).

Thank G‑d, these texts have had a tremendous positive effect on the elementary yeshivos, Talmud Torahs, and schools that use them. As time proceeds, the circle of students and readers widens. We are certain that you will also employ your influence to publicize them and have them accepted in all the educational institutions that are under your direction or which heed your instructions.

In all countries, the mood that prevails in the school and the purity of the educational texts and reading material [given] youth have a profound influence on the life of the young generation. Certainly, this is true in this country where parents have far less influence over children than in other countries. [Accordingly,] the schools must have the highest quality of supervision and the reading and study materials given the students must reflect principles of purity and holiness in addition to being able to fulfill the pedagogic purpose [for which they were chosen]. Then we can hope that the younger generation will be “an upright generation who will be blessed”1 in all particulars even if the conditions of their setting and their era are not desirable.

I have already stated2 that an allusion can be drawn from our Sages’ statement (Yevamos 114a) that the command to have “adults admonish children” is mentioned with regard to three mitzvos: the prohibition against partaking of teeming animals, the prohibition against partaking of blood, and the obligation to observe ritual purity. This allusion applies with regard to the field of education — [the expression of the] “adults admonish[ment of] children.”

[Looking at] the character of the person who is being educated and receiving direction (who is on a lower level than the educator and the counselor who is more advanced in knowledge), there are several reasons why people hold back and despair that their influence will have any effect on the students. [These individuals] can be divided into three general categories:

a) Those who say that the situation at this time and in this particular place is such that by nature, the people are crude and very materially oriented; they possess no advantage over animals. How then will they accept a concept based on the Torah and the fear of G‑d?

To refute this argument, [the Torah states] the commandment [to educate children] with regard to partaking of teeming animals. A person who partakes of such creatures cannot be considered part of humanity at all. For by nature, man’s tendency is to be disgusted by such creatures (Horios 11a). Nevertheless, we are commanded to educate and admonish [even] such a person. And since our Sages state (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:1) that the Holy One, blessed be He, only asks what is within the potential of the recipient of the command, we must say that an educator has the potential to affect and motivate such a student.

b) Those that say: When is it possible for an educational endeavor to be successful? When the matter does not [run contrary] to the habits which [a person] has developed over the years. If, however, he has transgressed and repeated that transgression for a second and third time until the undesirable conduct and activities have become habitual, there is no hope that he will change.

The invalidity of this approach is indicated by the edict that the elders should educate the children with regard to partaking of blood. As our Sages commented (Sifri) on the verse:3 “Only be strong, refrain from partaking of blood”: the Jews were immersed in partaking of blood. And yet, [from the fact that a command was issued,] we see that even with regard to such matters, education is necessary and can have an effect.

c) Those that say: When is it necessary to be involved in educational endeavors? When it is possible to logically and rationally explain [the concepts] to the learner. When, by contrast, the matter is dependent on the faith in one’s heart — it is a decree without any evident rationale — and [the student] claims that he does not believe, there is no room to enter into discussion with him. What advantage would there be to invest effort into him with regard to such matters?

For this reason, we are commanded that the elders should educate the children with regard to ritual purity. This is not a concept that can be appreciated logically at all, but is instead a decree of the Torah. As Rambam writes (the conclusion of Hilchos Mikvaos): “It is clear and evident that impurity and purity are decrees from the Torah. They are matters that cannot be resolved by mortal intellect, but are, by contrast, included in the chukim.

How will the endeavors and efforts to educate [the students] be of avail in such situations and with such people? This can be understood on the basis of the statement of Rambam (Hilchos Gerushin, the conclusion of ch. 2) that applies to every Jew, without any distinction whatsoever:

A person whose evil inclination presses him to negate the observance of a mitzvah or to perform a transgression... has compelled himself to act against his own will because of his evil disposition.... For he desires to be a Jew and desires to observe all the mitzvos and distance himself from the transgressions. It is just his evil inclination which pressed him.

With the blessing “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee