It’s Time to Adjust Our Yeshiva Curriculum

Oped by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: As someone involved in Chinuch of young bochurim for almost two decades, I noticed something – while initially inspiring – very disturbing: Young Mesivta bochurim are being encouraged to join the three-perakim-a-day track. 

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati

Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5783 is coming and with it will be the finishing of another cycle of the Rebbe’s special takanna of the daily learning of Rambam. Here is not the place to go through the history of the Takanah, yet suffice it to say that learning the daily Rambam, and encouraging others to learn Rambam, is one of the greatest expressions of Hiskashrus today.

We all know that the Rebbe created three “tracks” of daily learning: 1)Three chapters a day (finishing the entire Rambam about every year). 2) One chapter a day (finishing the entire Rambam about every three years). 3) Sefer Hamitzvos (which follows the three-chapters-a-day track) for women and children.

As someone involved in Chinuch of young bochurim for almost two decades, I noticed something – while initially inspiring – very disturbing: Young Mesivta bochurim are being encouraged to join the three-perakim-a-day track. 

While there is no question that this is the ideal track, and the Rebbe always spoke Sichos on the Rambam from that track, to me it is clear that this track is mainly for older bochurim. We, as parents and Mechanchim, should be encouraging the young talmidim to reach the ideal track by going through – at least – one cycle of the one Perek a day track.

This has many benefits, which include:

1 – The young boy now has the time to properly learn the foundations of the various topics that the Rambam teaches. There are so many new, and unfamiliar, topics that his Cheder education (even the Chidon) did not fully prepare him for.

2 –   He will not fall into the habit of “Reading (or “doing”) Rambam for Hiskashrus”, because he really does not have the time to properly learn the three peraking, which is very difficult to stop.

3 – Most of the year, the bochur is in Yeshiva and must learn all his shiurim (Chitas and Rambam) on his own time, outside of seder. A boy who is learning three Perakim at that age, will be left with very little “down-time” for productive recreational activities or to just relax and catch their breath between Sedarim. While to some, including various educators and Talmidei hashluchim, this may seem ideal – it has a negative affect over the long term health (mental, physical and emotional) of the talmid.

In addition: As there are many parts of Rambam (think of Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh, Eiruvin and Taharah) that bochurim would have a hard time learning on their own, I would strongly encourage, and I feel  it would be truly beneficial for our bochurim, if there is a three-year Rambam learning program in Mesivtas which focus of the hard parts of the Rambam that they will be learning their entire lives.

While we know that the Rebbe is against learning the daily Rambam as part of Seder, this would not be learning the daily Rambam, rather learning thoroughly – in a proper way – the difficult parts of Rambam.

This Rambam-seder will have many benefits, including: 1) Getting a firm understanding of the Yesodos of the Rambam, and improving their Yedios Klalios. 2) Shortening the standard Iyun Seder (which is an entirely different discussion) by a half-hour a day (at least a few times a week).

[On a side note, but no less important, I feel – and we have implemented it in Yeshiva – that we need to put a big emphasis, and find opportunities, to give shiurim on Yedios Klalios in Yeshiva. Many of our bochurim spend 6 years in Yeshiva and lack the basic knowledge about many basic and core concepts in Yiddishkeit, Jewish History and Minhagei Yisrael and chassidim.

Here are some of the ways we have implemented this approach: 1) Motzei Shabbos seder: While in many Yeshivos, it is a de-facto baby-sitting seder, we have a rotation of our Hanhalla giving shiurim on general topics. 2) Every Thursday, there is a shiur Klali on general topics of Yiddishkeit and Minhagei Chassidim. 3) In the weeks that we learn Pirkei Avos, to give an in-depth shiur on a Mishna a week which includes a full background of the life on the Tanna that is in the Mishna.]

This leads into another very important topic: There are two major complaints leveled against the teachers of Gemara in Yeshivos: 1) Lack of time spent investing in the individual Talmid 2) The lack of curriculum, and investments in worksheets and review papers, in Yeshivos. In my opinion, it boils down to one thing: We are committed to the 8-year cycle of the official Yeshiva Masechtos.

Think of the following scenarios: 1) Would you have the willpower to invest hours of your own time in worksheets that you will only use in eight years? 2) If you constantly had to be preparing a new sugya (at home, after dealing with your own children, after your day of teaching) – and you were given time in Zal for Hachana of Chazara – would you call over a Talmid to see how he is doing in learning or would you try to finish preparing the next sugya?

By allowing, and encouraging, a Maggid shiur (especially in Mesivta) to focus of one Masechta for many years, we would gain so many things: 1) The Teacher would actually thoroughly know the material and the confidence comes out in the shiur. 2) The Hanhalla would be able to demand the investment in curriculum and worksheets etc. 3) The teacher would have the time and ability to personally oversee the growth of each Talmid. We have done it in our Yeshiva for many years and seen tremendous success. 

May we all be gebentched with much Yiddishe and Chassidishe nachas from our children and merit to see the Hisgalus of the Rebbe, NOW!

If you have comments, questions or ideas, please write in the comment section below or email me directly at [email protected]

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      1. Mesivtos learning the yeshivishe masechtos is a relatively new development.

        If someone will argue to you that 8 masechtos prove that it’s for mesivta through zal, you can remind them that bochurim would (and BH still do) learn the mesechtos in 770 until age 23-24.

    1. B”H

      Here are some interesting answers from the Rebbe that seem to imply that the 8 year schedule is a relatively new development. :

       בחירת מסכת ללימוד בישיבות

      בתשורה שפרסם המזכיר הרה”ח הרה”ת הרב ירחמיאל בנימין הלוי שי ‘ קליין (לרגל נישואי בנו הרה”ת יעקב הלוי שי’) נחשף המענה שלפנינו, שנרשם על ידי הרבי על גיליון מכתבו של הרה”ג ר’ מרדכי ע”ה מענטליק (ראש ישיבת תומכי תמימים המרכזית בברוקלין), מכ”ז בתמוז תשמ”ג. הרב מנטליק כתב כך:

      לקראת שנת הלימודים הבאה – ה’תשד”מ. בקשר לבחירת המסכת אותה ילמדו בישיבות “תומכי תמימים”: במונטריאל, כפר חב”ד, תורת אמת, אוסטרליה, מיאמי ו-770 הסכימו ללמוד מסכת בבא בתרא (בראשון-לציון נוטים ללמוד בבא קמא, ומצרפת עדיין לא נתקבלה תשובה).

      הרבי כתב במענהו:


      ואחרי רבים להטות ויהא בשעה טובה ומוצלחת

      ויהי רצון שבקרוב ממש יחזיר הקב”ה האבדה – ואבדתם בגוים – דא בבא בתרא

      (זהר חלק ג’ קצח, א) – תליתאה למקומה ולבית – המקדש תליתאה.

      בהמשך לכך שאל הר”מ מענטליק בפתק “אם להוסיף (– ציון למענה הנ”ל) – פירוש הזוהר עיין בלקוטי לוי יצחק [=לאביו של הרבי] שם ומתרץ קושית ניצוצי אורות שם”. הכוונה ל’לקוטי לוי יצחק’ הערות לספר הזהר פרשת בלק (עמ’ תא ואילך); והרבי דיבר מספר פעמים על עניין זה (בין השאר בש”פ בלק תשל”ז).

      הרבי מחק את המילה “אם” בתחילת השאלה באמצעות ציור חץ, והיינו – להוסיף

      The above is from Nitzutze Rebbi fro. Hitskashrus (there is also pictures of the answer)

      Also in the link here is explanation why the yeshivas learn the same masecta and who chose it ect.

  1. I was encouraged in mesivta to learn 3 perakim even though it was hard for me , and because of that I didn’t learn it properly and now years later I still have never learned it properly, I really what rabbi avtzon wrote, and I think that is the way it should be done

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