A Fight for Survival

A brokenhearted set of parents came to the Chofetz Chaim to seek his assistance. They informed him that their teenage son had taken leave of his senses and had begun acting in an insane manner. They hoped that if the Chofetz Chaim would speak to their son, he could influence him and aid in his recovery.

When the Chofetz Chaim entered the room where the bachur was, he observed the boy walking over to the sefarim shrank with a knife in his hand. In a fit of anger, the teenager proceeded to slash the pages of a maseches Brachos, and then cut into maseches Shabbos and into two of the chapters of maseches Chullin that deal with the kashrus of meat. The Chofetz Chaim looked on in deep anguish, but with the youngster holding a knife, judged the situation to be too dangerous to interfere.

Seeing that no one was stopping him, the boy continued his rampage, this time turning his sights on an infant lying in a crib in the same room.

At that point the Chofetz Chaim could wait no longer. The teenager now had the halachic status of a rodef, and he was obligated to do everything humanly possible to stop him and save the life of the infant. The Chofetz Chaim rushed towards the teenager, seized him and forcibly grabbed away the knife.

Later, the Chofetz Chaim used this story to illustrate a very relevant lesson. He said that there are segments of Jews who have trampled on the teachings of Chazal. They have slashed into maseches Brachos and have stopped observing the halachos pertaining to blessings. They have trampled on maseches Shabbos and stopped keeping Shabbos. They have cut deep into maseches Chullin and stopped keeping the laws of kashrus. But these groups are downright dangerous, and to speak out publicly against them entails pikuach nefesh, so, reluctantly, the Torah world is forced to remain silent.

“But when they seek to harm the chinuch system, it is forbidden to remain silent!” the Chofetz Chaim declared. “For in this case, they are considered to be rodfim! When they seek to thrust a knife into the children, we are obligated to be moser nefesh to save them!”

This moving teaching is as relevant today as it was when the Chofetz Chaim first related it.

As we report elsewhere in the paper (A5, D26), the Israeli Education Ministry is quietly trying to convince the principals of the Chinuch Atzmai and El Hamaayan schools of the Shas party to join a state-chareidi school system that will be completely funded — and controlled — by the government.

This is a thinly disguised attempt to destroy Chinuch Atzmai and El Hamaayan, Torah networks that have been spiritual lifesavers to tens of thousands of children.

Over the decades, Gedolei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and the United States were moser nefesh on behalf of Chinuch Atzmai, recognizing its pivotal and unique role in transmitting a Torah education to the next generation.

Chinuch Atzmai is answerable to the Education Ministry when it comes to fiscal and administrative matters, but when it comes to its curriculum and methods of learning it is answerable only to Gedolei Yisrael.

This is what Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) is so determined to change. In a meeting held last Thursday in the offices of the Israeli Education Ministry in Yerushalayim, a contract was offered to the chareidi principals gathered there which, if signed, would effectively cede total control of their schools to the government.

The contract, which was conceived as the legal instrument for the establishment of a mamlachti-chareidi, or state-chareidi, school system, would give the ministry authority not only over the setting of curricula, but also over the hiring of principals and teachers.

Rabbi Avraham Yosef Leizerson, chairman of Chinuch Atzmai, insists that legally the principals of these schools don’t even have the right to decide on their own to join the state-chareidi system. “These aren’t their schools,” he said. “The buildings, the students, the teachers, aren’t theirs.”

But in their rampage to stab Torah-true chinuch, in the eyes of Yesh Atid and their cohorts, such legalities are irrelevant. So is the fact that the secular education system has proven to be a miserable failure, while the independent chareidi schools have been highly successful.

As the Chofetz Chaim taught us, there are times we watch in horror as Shabbos is desecrated and the laws of kashrus are violated, and we are forced to remain silent.

But when it is the chinuch of our children that is being attacked, we are obligated to be moser nefesh.