A Proud Parent

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Ya’akov’s blessing to his grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe, is counterintuitive, the exact opposite of what is generally considered a blessing. A parent or grandparent wants a child to be successful. When someone, on introduction, says, “Oh, you’re Ephraim’s grandfather,” you can only be proud at your grandson’s accomplishments and renown. If, on the other hand, the grandson is not noteworthy and is only known as Ya’akov’s descendant, that isn’t a tragedy but also isn’t a source of pride. Why, then, does Ya’akov bless his grandsons with, “May they be called by name and the names of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak” (Gen. 48:16)? Why declare that they be known as the descendants of their ancestors? He should have blessed them that they be so successful that the forefathers will be known by the grandsons’ names!

The answer lies in the two elements of Jewish education. As Ya’akov descended to Egypt during the famine, he first sent Yehudah to show/teach the way (Gen. 46:28). The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 95:3) cites two opinions on what Yehudah was sent to accomplish: 1) prepare a home for Ya’akov, 2) establish a yeshiva. These two elements — the home and the school — are the pillars of Jewish education. They represent text and tradition, learning from books and from examples. The student learns in yeshiva an abstract Judaism and at home an applied Judaism, not just guidelines but a way of life. The yeshiva teaches a one-size-fits-all Judaism and the home conveys a religion fit to the family’s personality. Both are necessary for communal survival. As Ya’akov left for an exile he knew would last several generations, the midrashic sages envision him focusing on the need for establishing both pillars — home and school — to ensure Jewish continuity.

The Gemara (Yoma 86a) explains the mitzvah to love God as including leading others to love Him. If someone learns Torah and deals with others pleasantly, people will declare “Praiseworthy is the parent who taught him Torah and the teacher who taught him Torah.” The parent and the teacher are the two elements of Jewish education — the home and the school. Each work together to raise a child who will learn Torah and deal pleasantly with others.

You can be a good Jew with only one of these two elements. A simple Jew with no yeshiva education can be very holy, as can a convert or ba’al teshuvah with little Jewish family background. But a tzadik ben tzadik has a unique place in Jewish society, as someone with the training and merit of prior generations (e.g., see Yevamos 64a).

When these two elements work well together and a person succeeds, the parent/teacher are praised on behalf of the child/student, their names are called onto the child. That is Ya’akov’s blessing to Ephraim and Menashe — that they should follow in the ways of their ancestors, causing their names to be praised as the models and educators for their wonderful descendants. Praiseworthy are Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov for the wonderful Ephraim and Menasheh. You don’t have to be a Torah scholar to merit this same blessing for your children and grandchildren. You have to maintain a home that educates toward a life infused with Judaism, that teaches by example how to live a life full of Jewish practices and values, that leads your family — following the above Gemara’s example — to learn Torah and deal pleasantly with others.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Gil does RHS shlita support mehadrin buses in EY? He seems to be saying so in the latest OU webcast? What happened to RMF ZTL’s teshuva? Public Buses!! Now you know why there is a lwmo. Please find out from his talmidim.

  2. I have no idea what Rav Schachter holds but if you read Rav Moshe’s teshuva, he is clearly dealing with the unfortunate reality that we sometimes are forced to squish with women on crowded trains and buses. He is not saying that it is ideal. In fact, he says explicitly that if one cannot avoid hirhurim while doing so he should avoid public transportation. Is there any textual support for the idea that given the option, men and women should squish together on crowded buses? Of course, there is an important distinction between a religious bus company setting out rules, and people taking over buses run by a public bus company where such rules do not exist and are considered sexist.

  3. I doubt RHS actualy said that.

    Note that RMF was talking about when you touch. But if there’s no touching then there’s certainly no problem. On the other hand, with the way people dress today, particularly in the summer, you still end up seeing half naked women on the bus and subway even if you stand.

  4. See the webcast
    I think the Gaon should have said this is up to the poskim in ey
    Please post what DL roshei yeshivas said including a ry from gush
    and a ry from har bracha too much sexualizing of woman. Very suprised at the response from the Gaon. He did not say his answer was for a private bus company. The ou should stick to kashurs. It is very clear that the gaon is BTHWY talmid I believe RSA ztl used egged buses why did he not insist on mehadrin for evryone. Please get a clarfication from the Gaon RHS

  5. and i recall a big dl posek just saying this is a new chumrah and prevnts families from sitting together or husband and wife talking or travelling in a PUBLIC BUS. He says the woman could sit in the front and men in the back. The RY and R Kollel and OU posek from YU?? Please get carification a five minute answer on a webcast is not fair. The olam is starting to talk about this. Please speak to him and get the Gaon’s complete answer

  6. Ploney Almoney

    Completely unrelated –

    164 mp3s of the Rav in English here: http://tinyurl.com/82pgvfn

    Your welcome!

  7. Why are we talking about buses? Anyway, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t themselves been on these buses should be commenting about them for three reasons.

    1. The facts about how the buses are set up, which buses we are talking about, and what buses are available are greatly distorted by the press and people talking about them.

    2. People need to be clear of exactly which type of bus they are talking about. There are three, maybe more types of buses. Long buses (they look like two buses put together), normal inter city buses, and intra-city buses. (everyone faces forward with smaller isles). Obviously, what is proper, and what the halacha is/should be, and what is good for a “ben Torah”, differs with how the bus is set up. Without direct experience, how can they know what is reasonable or not for normal people to do?

    3. The lack of direct knowledge, makes applying decade old statements sound foolish to people who do know the situation, because of how inapplicable some statements are.

  8. I wish someone would explain why Yosef was not allowed to be his own tribe, and why the other brother’s children were not directly blessed by Yaakov.

  9. Because Yosef was the bechor and thus got a double portion in the form of his two sons becoming shevatim. It wasn’t a punishment for Yosef or for the other grandsons.

    (Reuven lost the bechora, which went to various other sons- Levi the Kehuna, Yehuda the Malchut, and Yosef the traditional double portion.)

  10. iirc r’hs said it wasn’t a bad idea.

  11. As Ya’akov left for an exile he knew would last several generations,
    did he?

  12. r’pa,
    are these different from the ones up on bcbm?

  13. does the gaon read a newspaper? Does he think this is a good idea on a public bus? How come RSZA ztl whp took the bust to yeshiva did not sign on to this madness? Please Gill get clarity from your Rebbi on this. The olam is talking

  14. Avi: It all depends on the specific question he was asked and the specific answer he was given. I still haven’t listened to it.

  15. R’ Avi,
    As I said, he thought it was a good idea. Very much sounded like any general eitzah (e.g. don’t go into medicine because it causes you to confront problematic halchic situations) which can only be actionable in the context of all the facts and circumstances.

  16. Reb yosef’s son “stupid idea” why doe not rhs shilta feel the same for buses.
    can one yu rosh yeshiva stand up for the dl olaam in Bs. Is it because the rys are part of the CHAREDI olam in bs who refuse to sign any letters in support of the school?

  17. Avi: It depends on the context. No one asked about about Beit Shemesh, and if they did he would not be talking about Mehadrin buses because that isn’t the problem in Beit Shemesh!

  18. For those who don’t want to access the video, I have clipped the 1 and half minute question and response as an audio excerpt as http://soundcloud.com/uwsih/rhs-bus-response

  19. Sometimes R’ Schachter seems to forget that there’s a real world context to a question and seems to think he’s speaking on a purely theoretical plane. Not a criticism, an observation. That’s the way his mind is- pure halacha. Few like him.

  20. Thank you, IH. RHS says he’s in favor of separate sections but doesn’t think women should be in the back. He didn’t discuss family seating.

  21. Do you agree with him, Gil?

  22. Since our policy suggestions are theoretical and have no chance of implementation, I suggest three sections — men in the rear, then women and mixed in front. In times of crowding, riders spill over to the closer section and when really crowded spill over anywhere.

  23. Men in the back won’t work. They have a “men in the back” train on the light rail, because the cars are far enough apart that you can’t see the people in front of you. But when riding in the bus, the men can “stare forward” at the women.

    If you say, “then don’t look”, then you can say “don’t look” while it is mixed as well.

  24. IH, I think he means “people not in Israel” or even “people not running Egged and/or the Israeli Police.”

    Avi, come on. There are seats facing backwards on a bus. And with Rav Kav, despite all the pashkivils, you now have to board in the front. The men see the women no matter what. (And, horrors, they see women as they walk down the street!) This is about something much different than seeing women.

  25. And with Rav Kav, despite all the pashkivils, you now have to board in the front.

    Only if you plan on paying the fare. On the bus today I think I saw women boarding in the back.

  26. Actually, sections for men,women and families can be found at no shortage of chasunahs in the US under the identical rationale.

  27. Rafael Araujo

    Why does RMF’s teshuvah preclude separate seating buses? I suspect that RMF would not be opposed to Mehadrin buses, only that for those (like myself) who use NA public transit systems to get to and from work, we are allowed to do so. Believe me, with the way Toronto women dress in the summer, Mehadrin transportation would be preferable!

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