Dean's Letter Lech Lecha

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Dear Parents,

I Am a Telzer.

I would like to continue with our ideas for parenting and focus on one specific area of chinuch that relates to this week’s parshah.

For those of you who may not know, I am one of the few people with a strong personal connection – spanning four generations beginning in the 1940s – with the Telshe Yeshivah. My father zt”l left the streets of New York as a young bochur to attend the Telshe Yeshivah of Cleveland, one of the few European-style yeshivos that existed then. Eventually, he married and moved onto the campus of the Telshe Yeshivah, where our family lived for close to seventy years. Over the course of those years I merited to see the greatness of the Telshe Roshei Yehivah, including my Rebbe Harav Chaim Stein zt”l, who was nothing short of a malach in all aspects of Jewish life. The lessons he imparted to me are sure to last a lifetime. Following in my father’s footsteps, I learned in both the Telshe Yeshivah in Cleveland and in Chicago, which were both steeped in the mesorah of Telshe. It was therefore no surprise when our son Yosef Yehuda made the choice to attend the Yeshivah of Telshe Alumni, and later to serve in the Riverdale Kollel, ultimately taking a position as a rebbe and menahel in Yeshivas Me’on HaTorah (Roosevelt), founded by his rosh yeshivah, Harav Avraham Ausband shlit”a, in Riverdale, NY.

Over the course of my upbringing I learned a great deal about the mesorah of Telshe, the nusach of the Yomim Noro’im, whose tunes never changed from year to year, as well as the minhogim, customs, of the yeshivah and the ideals they stood for. In the early days of the yeshivah in Cleveland, the Roshei Yeshivah encouraged their talmidim to become educators. My father zt”l took on this role and taught talmidim until six months before his petirah at the age of 91. Our house breathed chinuch, the ideals of his rosh yeshivah, and the ideals of serving the tzibbur. It would therefore come as no surprise that all his children except for one served as mechanchim and mechanchos and impacted thousands of talmidim over the years.

This week’s parshah speaks about Avrohom Avinu, known as the father of Klal Yisroel. Each year we remember Avrohom, and through Sefer Bereishis we learn about his life and the lives of all the Avos Hakdoshim. If you think about it, Avrohom Avinu started the first outreach agency and was a master mechanech. His treatment of all Jews was legendary, as was his hachnossas orchim and so much more. The mesorah of Avrohom Avinu and all our avos is deserving of annual repetition in our Torah, through reading these parshios each year. The reason for this custom is obvious, as we hope to learn from the qualities of our avos and the mesorah they transmitted to us and that we in turn transmit to our children.

We see that mesorah is crucial in raising our children. Many have the custom of making a yahrzeit seudah, where we remember the qualities of parents or grandparents who left behind a rich tradition for us. One of my roshei yeshivah in Chicago, Telshe, whom I was close to, was Harav Chaim Schmelczer zt”l and just this week his daughter called me on his yahrzeit and asked me to share some words about her father a”h. Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky z”tl, one of the past Gedolei Hador, was once asked by a priest, his seat partner on an airplane, the following question: Both of our children were on the same flight. Your son kept checking up on you while my son didn’t approach me once. Rav Yaakov explained that we and our children have a mesorah that was transmitted from our zaidies, parents and Roshei Yeshivah. We transmit the concept to our children that prior generations were greater than us while societal values today suggest that the current generations are better and smarter.

One of the most important aspects in the chinuch of our children is this concept of mesorah and to constantly relate some of the values they learned from their parents, the divrei Torah that they heard from their rebbeim, and the concept that our lives are run by a mesorah that goes back for so many generations. I can recall my father retelling certain divrei Torah and stories repeatedly throughout the years, always referring to them as ones that he heard from his father, rebbe or rosh yeshivah. It obviously comes as no surprise that I too recite these very same divrei Torah at my seudos. The warmth and caring that we got from or that we currently feel for our rebbeim should be shared with our children. In Telshe it was customary to visit the roshei yeshivah in their homes on the afternoon of Yom Tov, where we got a brochoh, but more important, we reinforced a mesorah. I still recall today as a young child visiting Harav Mottel Katz z”tl on one such Yom Tov. He lovingly pinched my cheek and I can feel that warmth today, fifty-five years later. Not everyone here has a tradition that goes back to the 1940s, but we all have rabbonim we look up to and it is crucial for our families to have a relationship with rabbonim and roshei yeshivah. Our children should see us asking them questions, repeating their divrei Torah at our seudos and encouraging our children to feel comfortable themselves in talking to them and sharing their own life questions and concerns.

Just as Avrohom Avinu and our avos hakedoshim transmitted values to us, we too must continue to transmit the values, stories, and Torah thoughts that we received from our parents and rebbeim. We live in a generation when we cannot help but be affected by the negative societal values that we all face daily. By constantly referring to mesorah, we inoculate our children from societal values and allow them to grow as shomrei Torah umitzvos, steeped in the values of their rebbeim and, of course, integrating their rich mesorah and family heritage.

I am a proud Telzer, and my personality and values are very much part of the mesorah and chinuch that I received as a child.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman
Dean