To the Generous Benefactors,
I am writing this letter not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of my entire staff. Perhaps you know how hard it is to be a melamed. But I will take a moment to clarify to you a bit of my experience. I think that by doing so you will better understand me and others like myself, and you will understand how very great the chessed is that you do for us.
I chose to be a melamed for idealistic reasons- I wanted to bestow the rich tradition of yiddishkeit to Jewish children. I needed to work, but did not want to leave the world of Torah. I considered what the Sages say in praise of ‘Melamdei Tinokos’ and I knew that it was a role well suited to me.
Already in my first weeks as a melamed I saw that I had chosen a very challenging profession. My days were not just honey on Alef Beis and smiles. I quickly discovered that being a Melamed means trying to give over knowledge to thirty wild and boisterous kids who are interested in everything- except for learning! It takes all of my powers of persuasion and stagecraft, as well as careful consideration at each moment. You see, if I am a tad too hash I have instantly created 30 enemies that will do all that they can to embitter my life. If I am too lenient I can just lie down on the ground and watch as sixty feet trample on me. That leaves me on a very fine line that must be navigated with much prayer and siyyata dishmaya. You must love with your whole heart each child that drives you crazy. The more difficult the kid, the more you have to love them. At times I need to teach rather cryptic passages in the Mishna or Gemara. If I haven’t prepared some stories and mashalim, I quickly find myself in the middle of a buzzing bee hive.
The truth is that with all of the challenges, I love my job, and the difficulties that I face don’t change that reality. Each day has its ups and downs. I must be careful not to let the troubles throw me off.
There are days that I am in the clouds. I feel the Guiding Hand of HKBH at every moment. The words flow seamlessly from my mouth and the children draw in my words with thirst and healthy curiosity. I feel like the best ‘Rebbe’ in the South. When I come home I don’t need to say anything. From the sound of my ‘Shalom’ my wife already replies, ‘You had a good day, eh?’
Then of course there are gray days as well. Lots of them. On those days it is only the knowledge of the enormity of the task that I am trying to accomplish that keeps me from throwing in the towel and going to look for some other source of parnasa. At times problems with a particular child trouble me to the point that my head hurts and I lose sleep at nights tossing and turning and trying to think up some sort of solution. Other times the little free time that I have is used to run to parents and supervisors to try to straighten out an issue that is troubling a student. Even without any special circumstances my days are filled to the brim with teaching, preparing classes, and looking for new didactic ideas.
I am grateful for the salary that I make, but at times I wish for something more. I wish that someone would notice and acknowledge the effort, sweat and tears that I put into educating the next generation of Bnei Torah.
I get that acknowledgement from ‘Yad Eliezer’. When I first got the vouchers and was told that I was receiving them because I am a melamed, I felt as though I was getting a loving pat on the shoulder straight from heaven. It was only then that I realized how much I needed that acknowledgement- when I saw how very much it meant to me. It created an ongoing internal conversation between me and the benefactor. In my mind’s eye I would thank you for your generosity, and you would look me squarely and ‘reply’, “You know, it is in your merit and the merit of your colleagues that we will have another generation of yeshiva bochurim. I know that you give your whole heart and soul to your work, and that it is not only about parnasa. I know that it is the melamdim that ensure that there will be generation after generation learning Torah and continuing the responsibilities of Klal Yisrael.” I would stand a little taller and my gait would be a little lighter as these ‘discussions’ would take place.
(These talks would take place in my mind each month. I figured it was time to let you in on the conversation.)
The students could feel the difference in my manner. I’m sure of it. How could they not? I was uplifted and more confident. I strove to be worthy of the credit that I was being given, and as hard as I worked before (and I worked hard) I redoubled my efforts.
I am filled with gratitude to you for this change in my life. I don’t consider the help I receive ‘food vouchers’, rather in my mind they are badges of honor. My wife expresses her gratitude for your help as it makes the difference in getting us to the end of each month.
Many gracious blessings to you for your holy work. May HaShem fulfill all of your wishes for the good, and may we merit together to greet Moshiach speedily in our days.
With gratitude from me, my family and all of my dear students,
One of the Melamdim