Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Coke Classic Metaphor

I am a Coke addict. Not the powdery kind. The liquid kind. That’s why I was one of those who were extremely upset when the Coca Cola Corporation changed the formula of its famous product back in the mid eighties. Fortunately for me a ‘few’ other people felt the same way I did. But they were Kanaoim. They zealously ‘forced’ Coke to change the formula back to the ‘original’ one. But to save a little face Coke called the ‘new’ product ‘Coke Classic’. They continued to produce ‘regular’ coke too - but at least we Coke addicts could continue to have our daily fix, thank goodness. Today - I don’t think that the new improved Coke even exists anymore.

So what has this got to do with the price of tea in China? Read on.

There are major flaws in the current system of Torah Chinuch. Many of these flaws have been discussed here. Some of those flaws are based on ‘improvements’ in the system. In other words the formula was changed. It now does not ‘taste’ anything like it used to. In fact I think Chinuch has ‘improved’ itself into many of the problems it now faces.

Were our parents and grandparents better at communicating Torah values than the current generation? Read the following.

My yeshiva-educated generation, for all the right reasons, and with the best of intentions, introduced a ‘new and improved’ brand of chinuch – with longer hours and progressively elevated standards (read: pressure) in academics, dress codes, and social norms for our children, with increasingly more and more emphasis on gemarah b’iyun at the expense of other limudim, general studies, hobbies, and exercise.

It is humbling and difficult to come to terms with, let alone say this publicly, but I think that your generation had a far better recipe than ours, though both generations have their successes and failures. You prepared us for secular culture whereas we shelter our children from it. You played offense; we play defense. You celebrated the enrollment of each and every Jewish child to a Mesivta or Bais Yaakov; we send rejection letters. You raised children; we tried to raise gedolim.

Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly felt that the most effective way of reversing the exploding number of kids and adults abandoning Yiddishkeit is to revert to the old-fashioned “Charedi Classic” education my generation was fortunate to receive from yours; and pass on those core values to our children and grandchildren.

The above words are not mine. They are those of Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. This yet again shows how accurately he perceives reality. The rest of his article entitled ‘Charedi Classic’ is available at his website. And - as always - it is thought provoking and well worth reading.