Friday, October 22, 2010

A Breslov Approach to Education

Photo by Roman Vishniac, 1938

Translation by Dovid Sears

Rabbi Shimshon Barsky, a descendant of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, was one of the foremost teachers in Uman's Breslov community in the decades before the Stalinist purges. This letter was written in the early 1930's, immediately prior to the breakup of the community and the murder, imprisonment, or forced exile of its members. After Reb Shimshon passed away in 1935, his family escaped to Poland, and a number of his descendants now live in Eretz Yisrael and in the Chassidic community of Brooklyn, NY. The letter below is printed at the beginning of Reb Shimshon's classic Breslov work, Likutei Eitzos Ivri-Teitch ("Rebbe Nachman's Collected Advice Explained in Yiddish"), reprinted in 1978. A Hebrew translation recently was published as Gevuros Shimshon. Reb Shimshon's message remains as relevant as ever today.

Reb Shimshon Barsky's Letter

May G-d be blessed

To my dear son, Noson, and his entire family, may they live:

Please tell me about my precious, esteemed grandson, Yisrael, may he live long: if he now goes to cheder (school), if he knows the Hebrew letters and vowel points, and if the melamed (teacher) has taught him the blessings for the various kinds of food and drink, and so forth.

Let there be no excuses: the melamed should treat him pleasantly in every way, and never frighten or threaten him at all, for any reason. The mind of a child is extremely sensitive. Therefore, one must never frighten a child or threaten him for any reason, so that he should come to no harm, G-d forbid.

Additionally, tell the melamed that he must never display anger or rage. No excuses! He must not inculcate fear in the child, neither while teaching him the siddur (prayer book) nor while teaching him the blessings, etc. Rather, he should relate to the child in a calm, pleasant manner, without anger or harshness, so as not to upset him.

Without any excuses, he should fulfill everything I have written in this letter, and may G-d help you to raise all your children in the ways of Torah and good deeds, with material blessings and nachas (emotional gratification).

Your father,


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