The Case for Chinuch

Article by Rabbi Mendel Sasonkin: I never wanted to be a teacher. It sounded so lame. No glory, day in and day out the same boring schedule for the most part. Shlichus, on the other hand, sounded ambitious, dramatic and exciting.

By Rabbi Mendel Sasonkin

I never wanted to be a teacher. It sounds so lame. No glory, day in and day out the same boring schedule for the most part. My overachieving talented self would be an absolute waste if stuffed into a classroom with any kids under the age of 18.

Shlichus, on the other hand, sounded cool. There’s ambition, drama, conquest, prestige, and quantifiable “press success”. The very term “chinuch shlichus” almost sounds like an oxymoron.

But, in truth, both of these views were naive and childish, the result of not having enough experience in either field. However, they also can’t be dismissed off-hand, as they are the result of a true distinction between the two.

Shlichus is generally outward-focused, for the most part in sync with the masculine nature of איש דרכו לכבוש. This is much more appealing to ambitious type people looking for “accomplishment”. Obviously, their main drive is the will to serve רצון העליון, but if told that their mission is to be a בעל עגלה it would be hard to swallow.

Chinuch (not just teaching but being a true mechanech) is more inward-focused. Seemingly, this fits more naturally fits with the nature of “nurture,” which is sometimes viewed as feminine. To appreciate the value and importance of chinuch one must first learn to appreciate the importance and value of the human ‘inner world’ in general. Sensitivity and compassion are foundational traits in this field.

That distinction, while perhaps true, is missing a crucial aspect of the chinuch world.

As a boy gets older their chinuch involves much more of the “masculine” side, as expressed within the world of chinuch. Today’s bochur especially wants a role model that is “a solid guy”. Not someone he thinks is a pushover or incapable.

Creativity, interpersonal relationship skills, dynamic communication skills along with being a strong leader, motivator, role model, and guide are the body of what is needed to be successful in chinuch.

Thus, one can frequently use the same talents and feel the greatest sense of accomplishment in a chinuch setting just like from running a successful Chabad House.

With that in mind, let’s address the elephant in the room. The need for more hands in all levels of chinuch is tremendous! Those of us in chinuch already know that much more is needed to be done to reach our talmidim than what is humanly possible for us to do.

The old saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. We are sorely understaffed!

There is no question that one maggid shiur and mashpia per grade isn’t enough. In the yeshivah world, there is a desperate need for caring, talented chassidishe yungerlait to outfit many more roles.

For those trying to find “my shlichus” out there, consider this.

Is there an area in chinuch where you have a strong desire to see change?

Do you daydream of your solutions, if only you could implement them?

Do you enjoy connecting with and guiding young adults or children?

Do you want to inspire others with the passion for Yiddishkait and learning that you worked hard to cultivate within yourself?

If the answer to some of those questions is yes, chinuch may very well be the part for you.

Do you have the courage to try?

Some examples of what can be added to Yeshivos, and what some Yeshivos are actually looking for:

  • Someone to monitor life outside of Seder, especially in the dorm.
  • Someone to provide and oversee extracurricular activities for those that need.
  • Tutoring or managing small learning groups for both the advanced and challenged bochurim.
  • A yungeman to manage the afternoon sedorim with a solid curriculum and incentive programs.
  • Got more ideas?

Essentially each bochur needs a yeshivah program and hanhola tailored for him to some degree or another.

Baruch hashem, there are plenty of yungelait competing over any given shlichus place or demographic. If you are learned, creative and compassionate, our bochurim desperately need you! I truly believe that most mechanchim are exactly that and are doing their best. We are simply maxed out! The amount of diverse positive and meaningful engagement necessary to reach EVERY bochur is endless!

Teaching Torah, yiddishe values and doing so with a geshmak is what Yiddishkait is. It’s what Moshiach and shlichus is all about. 

Do you have the inner strength and courage to have every ounce of your kochos maxed out in this holiest endeavor?

See you soon if you do.

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  1. There is definitely a need for excellent professionals in chinuch. If the salary and benefits would be more realistic, there would be more candidates. Schools and Yeshivas need strong fundraising, it is time to stop the attitude that the parents can carry the burden.

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