How many mechanchim do you know of who can boast to being appointed by Rav Shach zt”l himself to lead the first-ever yeshivah for “off-the-derech” kids? Probably none—unless you happen to know Rabbi Moshe Goldstein, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Shaare Yosher in Eretz Yisrael. Now if that doesn’t say something about Rabbi Goldstein’s credentials as a veteran mechanech, I’d like to know what does!
But you won’t find this talented educator boasting about anything. He’s far too busy doing other things, such as bringing thousands of disillusioned young people back to Torah and educating parents and teachers on how to prevent their children from going astray to begin with.
Rabbi Goldstein has been doing this for forty years, and believe me, when I read his book, UpGrade, I could almost feel those four decades of experience pulsing through each and every page. Having been “in the industry” for so long, Rabbi Goldstein has pinpointed exactly what leads kids “off,” and he has incredible knowledge about the steps we parents must take in an effort to do our best at keeping our children on the right path at all times.
UpGrade is a chinuch book about prevention. In this volume, Rabbi Goldstein shares his vast wisdom and experience with us, so that we, as parents and educators, can b’ezras Hashem avoid the pitfalls that lead children astray. UpGrade does not rewrite the chinuch methods of generations past; rather, it shows us how to adapt our cherished mesorah to modern-day challenges, to today’s generation of children and teenagers. In this way, we can all hope that, with Hashem’s help, we will be successful at raising doros yesharim u’mevorachim and always have nachas from our children.
Click here to purchase online.
Below is an excerpt from this rare treasure of a book:
We must have a keen awareness of all the possible dangers of tailoring our messages to suit our students’ perceptions, so that we can avoid misconceptions or problems that may emerge from this approach.
One of the things that we must take into account is that children’s perceptions change as they develop and mature. The truth itself does not change, and an adult’s perception of truth today should remain the same tomorrow. But in order to convey the truth in accordance with a child’s conception of it, we must project how the child’s developing comprehension will change over the course of time. The correct message for him today may not work for him tomorrow, and in tailoring our messages to his perception, we must determine what the message we teach him today will mean to him a few years down the line.
A third-grade rebbi in a renowned cheder in Yerushalayim noticed that some of his better students began to speak in an unrefined and unbecoming manner. They weren’t saying anything that was forbidden, but something about their style of speech was not suited to the atmosphere of the cheder or to their respective homes. The rebbi decided to pay more attention to the boys while they played at recess, hoping to trace the phenomenon back to its source. He noticed that the boys mentioned the name Aharon over and over again while they played: “But Aharon said,” “Aharon did this,” “Aharon didn’t do that,” and so on. When he nonchalantly asked them who this “Aharon” was, he was surprised to learn that he knew him quite well: Aharon was the school’s devoted security guard.
Although Aharon was an observant Jew, he wasn’t what anyone would consider a role model for the children. In fact, the administration attempted to avoid having the boys develop a warm relationship with him. The rebbi was surprised that such a powerful bond had formed between these young boys and the security guard, and he did not know how to deal with the problem without speaking negatively about Aharon, which would not have been justified.
The rebbi, in conjunction with the administration, began to delicately probe the matter, until it became clear how this undesirable relationship had developed. It seems that three years earlier, when the boys had been in preschool, the rebbi had discussed Birkas Hamazon and how important it is for a person to try to bentch out of a siddur with kavanah. “Someone who bentches out of a bentcher,” the rebbi exclaimed, “is a tzaddik!”
Upon hearing this, two children excitedly related that they often saw Aharon, the guard at the entrance to the school, reciting Birkas Hamazon out of a siddur. “Is he also a great tzaddik?” they asked their rebbi.
“Of course Aharon is a very great tzaddik,” the rebbi replied. “Although he sits here all day guarding the school, he never forgets to bentch out of a siddur.”
The rebbi even went so far as to add, “We should all learn from him!”
The boys took that message literally. From that day on, Aharon the security guard became a respected and admired figure in the eyes of those innocent, young children. “He is actually a hidden tzaddik,” one would whisper to another with childish authority.
The boundary between the children and the security guard was now removed, and they began to grow closer to him. Two and a half years later, the boys had gotten to the point where Aharon’s bentching was not the only thing about him that interested them—now they began to imitate his style of speech and adopt his outlook on life as well.
This anecdote shows just how potent our messages are to our children, and that we must take into account not only the words that we are saying today, but the effects that those words may have on them years later.