Sunday, November 28, 2010

Yeshiva education causes low self-esteem & susceptibility to Internet addiction

Just noticed this haskoma that Rav Reuven Feinstein gave to "Bringing Out the Best" by Rabbi Roll. The book describes how to build self-esteem based on the wisdom of the Alter of Slobadka. What isinteresting is Rabbi Feinstein stating:
 "In yeshivos today there is literally a pandemic of low self-esteem. An outcome of this most horrible condition, is that once a person has achieved a state where self-worth and self-value are diminished, that person is literally open to all foreign pressures, both within and without our community. Once those pressures are given free reign, the outcome is without exception, negative."
I asked someone who is a principal about this and he said simply it is a serious problem in the litvishe yeshivas but not in the chassidic or Sefardic ones. He said it is an inherent result of the elitist philosophy that if you are not the best in learning you are nothing. He agreed that this is a reflection of the success of the view espoused by Rav Dessler in Michtav M'Eliyahu. See Rav Dessler - producing gedolim at expense of others. In the chassidic and sefardic yeshiva systems it is possible to have self-esteem in ways other than being the top guy in learning.

My question is since the pandemic of low self-esteem is apparently a direct and inevitable consequence of the yeshiva education itself than why is it being lamented? This is akin to the son who killed his parents and then pleads for mercy since he is an orphan. You can't deliberately develop an educational system that inevitably destroys self-esteem and then bemoan the fact that yeshiva kids go off the derech because they have low self-esteem.

This is related to my recent post about the dangers of the Internet. While the yeshiva world is warning of the huge danger that the Internet presents to our communities - they seem to be ignoring the risk factors which make people susceptible to Internet addiction. One of them happens to be low self-esteem.

In short, it is well within the capability of the yeshiva world to build up self esteem in their students and thus diminish the real dangers from the outside secular world - but they chose not to and instead focus on restricting access to the outside world. An exercise in futility.


  1. Chaveirim kol yisroelNovember 28, 2010 at 3:26 AM

    I agree with your very important comment and think this is a worthwhile issue discussing with the torah authorities around the world. The insistence on keeping males in learning (even when they are not built for it by their very nature) is very self destructive. You can't cure it by books or lectures etc. The yeshiva world has become so restrictive that males cannot express themselves anymore. They are forced to learn material that brings them no enjoyment, is totally theoretical (as a lot of gemara and halachos apply only for a working person) and leads to a dangerous path of low self esteem which makes them vulnerable to so many problems. A person who has kvius itim, but is working and supporting his family, providing for his wife and children in the myriad of ways that are available in todays world builds himself, his self esteem and in turn his ability to be dabuk betorah and Hashem. Someone needs the courage to discuss these issues seriously with the likes of Rabbi Salomon, Rabbi Sternbuch and Rabbi Feinstein. Rabbonim need to learn to use the specialist knowledge and opinions that experts in fields of psychology, psychiatry and education have just like they base their psakim relating to medicine on the opinions of doctors. Its time the gedolim addressed the major problems affecting the chareidi world before we lose such an important sector within klal yisroel. We need provide chareidim with access to the outside world, to the self confidence that amasses from being able to provide for oneself and one's family by working and earning money (rather than living off handouts). Rabbi Eidonsohn, if you are able to speak to the relevant people, don't hold back. Or possibly, print a book about the value of working in Judaism, and its psychological benefit.

  2. Chaverim kol Yisroel,

    I disagree with Reb Doniel's comment in that the requirement for achievement in Torah is incumbent on all Jews whether they learn full time or not. A careful study of Rabbeinu Yonah will indicate the high level of requirements for learning Torah that a Baal Habayis is required to fulfill.

    I think that the students should be guided more to achieve accomplishments that would make them feel better about themselves. Those that are achieving by developing quality chiddushim don't need anything else. Others should be guided to achieve by mastering some significant material and becoming knowledgeable in it. A lot of time today is spent by people who learn but don't come out with any quantifiable accomplishment. If this were provided, they would not have to be the top of the Yeshiva in order to feel accomplished.

    Your comment about keeping people learning in Yeshiva does not relate at all to the topic or to Reb Doniel's comment.

    Your comment about learning things that bring no enjoyment reflect a misunderstanding of the beauty and depth of Torah in every discipline.

    The non Torah "experts" have nothing to offer us considering the barren landscape of the unhappy masses of current modern society. Even those that succeed in gaining material success can't match this to the spiritual satisfaction available to those that achieve in the world of learning, proper prayer and self improvement.

  3. "Thou shalt not be a grasshopper" -the lesson to be learned from the meraglim. When we looked at ourselves as grasshoppers, that is when Hashem became angry, and made a Tisha B'Av.

    Rabbi Frand addressed the low self-esteem problem tonight at the Aguda Convention. He told a story about Rav Shlomo Freifeld, ztl, of Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv. One of his bochurim was engaged to a girl from an established frum family. In a phone call, the talmid lamented that he was just a baal teshuvah. Rav Friefeld said, Its a good thing we're just talking on the phone, and you're not in front of me, because I should hit you for saying that. Don't ever talk that way again.

    Yehoshua ben Gamla purchased the right to be Kohen Gadol. As a result, people treated him with great respect. With this sense of self-esteem, he formulated the plan to bring schools to klal Yisroel.

  4. R' Roll was an unfortunate mistake and equivalent to the mistake with Leib tropper. The truth will soon come out...

  5. Chaveirim kol yisroelNovember 28, 2010 at 12:41 PM


    Thanks for your comments. I certainly understand where you come from and the great satisfaction and feeling that can come from learning torah and coming close to Hashem. But again, that's the problem. For those who enjoy learning and have the ability to sit and make sense of and see the patterns and overall structure of our holy Torah, the satisfaction of learning is sufficient to provide enough self confidence to live a healthy lifestyle. However, there are plenty of people whose nature does not provide for this. They feel restricted and suffocated with the Torah and it ends up being poisonous for them. When assessing the situation we need to look beyond ourselves and our nature (ie those that find fullfillment through purely learning) and realise that there are some people who need to express themselves through work and to earn money. By expressing themselves this way, they will also find more satisfaction within the torah.

  6. Why then, since this view took dominance, ie the 1950s, have not Gedolei Torah been produced in those yeshivot?
    There are no real Gedolim around today. R' Elyashiv was born 100 Years ago and a student of Rav Kook.
    R Ovadiah Yosef was not part of this Ashkenazi system.
    Apart from these two leading Poskim, I doubt if there are any Gedolim who were produced by this yeshiva system. Anyone car to refute me?

  7. Gedolim who were produced by this yeshiva system



    Aharon Leib Shteinman,
    Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz,
    Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg,
    Shmuel Auerbach
    Nosson Tzvi Finkel (Mir)
    Aaron Schechter
    Yaakov Perlow
    Gershon Edelstein,
    Meir Tzvi Bergman,
    Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld
    Yitzchok Feigelstock
    Dovid Feinstein
    Aharon Feldman
    Shmuel Kamenetsky
    Aryeh Malkiel Kotler
    Avrohom Chaim Levine



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