The following is a freely-translated excerpt from a
letter written by the Rebbe in the summer of 1963 to Shalom
Levine, an Israeli educator of international renown:
After the long interruption since our meeting, it will surely
come as a surprise to you to receive a letter from me. Yet
my hope is that just as our meeting, and the content of
our discussion, remain in my memory, the same is true regarding
yourself, especially since our discussion was on matters
that concern the greater public, and is thus worthy of having
My immediate reason for writing you now is the notice in
the press that you have been elected chairman of the international
teachers association, IFTA. I would like to express
my heartfelt wishes that you should optimally utilize the
new opportunities that have been extended to you toward
their ultimate purposethe establishment of proper
education in all countries of the globe, and in our Holy
Land in particular. A new position always entails new responsibilities,
and divine providence surely provides the ability to fulfill
As a continuation to our aforementioned discussion, allow
me to speak of a certain matter which might seem inappropriate
to the occasion because of its distressing element. But
the verse has already said that Every sadness should
have an advantagethe advantage being the lesson it contains.
And it is the lesson that I have in mind...
Education has two basic purposes: a) to impart a quantity
of knowledge to the student; b) to educate the student toward
proper conduct in his future life. Each of these areas is
obviously comprised of many fields; regarding the behavioral
aspect of education, there is the field of interpersonal
relations, and the field of the students individual
personality developmentthe manner in which he will
regard his own drives and desires.
One who contemplates the results of the public school system
in the United States and in a number of European countries,
and, from what I am told, the situation is similar in the
Land of Israel, reaches the conclusion that these schools
have had considerable success in the area of education that
concerns social relationsin reducing the divisions
that separate people and bringing them closer to each other,
and in training the student toward what is nowadays called
democratic behavior (this, in addition to their
success in imparting knowledge). Of course, there are always
exceptions to the ruleplaces where the schools have
been utilized, maliciously or not, to the very opposite
endsbut the above is generally true in the majority
Howeverand this is the distressing pointthe
same contemplation also brings the realization that the
public schools have not succeeded in the area of
the students personality development, in training
him to curb his desires. It is only thanks to the influence
of the home and religious instruction that this generations
youth have not completely cast off the constraints of civilization
and turned the world into a jungle.
The result of this is that in those places where parental
influence has been weakened for whatever reason, one sees
a disproportionate rise in juvenile delinquency in comparison
with other places, though the quality of the schools is
more or less the same.
I dont have the statistics to support this conclusion
with numbers, but since you are an expert in this very field,
there is no need to prove any of this to you.
The above should come as no surprise. Regarding the expansion
of the students knowledge, there are many ways to
waken and encourage his will to advance and achieve, by
explaining its usefulness to him now or in the near future.
The same is true regarding his social and democratic sensibilitiesindeed,
the very fact that the student must interact with other
boys and girls contributes much toward this end. Not so
is the case regarding his moral self-discipline. This cannot
come from within the person, as in the famous analogy that
a person cannot raise himself by pulling upwards on the
hairs of his head. Rather, it must come from a point outside
of the person.
In our generation we have seen, to our great distress,
the ineffectuality of relying on the sense of justice and
righteousness imparted by the teacher, or on the influence
of the students elder brother, or even on his fear
of the policeman. From year to year, the youth come up with
new devices to circumvent the policeman and the judge, and
the plague of criminality keeps on spreading. As for the
civilizing influence of the humanities, we have
seen what has transpired in Germany, whose superiority in
philosophy, and even moral philosophy, was world-renowned,
but in actuality, that country produced generations of beasts
in the form of men.
It is clear that there exists no other way to implant in
the hearts of children and youth a true and functional self-discipline
except through the fear or love of a force greater than
man. Only in this way can they be truly trained to exercise
control over their will and desires. And this is something
that cannot be postponed until the child reaches the age
of 18, or even the age of 13, while allowing him until then
to follow his hearts vagaries, in the hope that the
fear of human institutions will direct him along a good
and righteous path.
One sees no other way than to instill in the hearts of
the children, from their earliest years, a strong belief
in Him Who created the world and continues to rule it and
direct it. In the words of our sages, there is an
eye that sees, and ear that hears, and that all ones
deeds are recorded in a booka book that cannot be forged, an eye and an ear that cannot
be bribed or outsmarted by any schemes or deceptions.
According to our Torah, the law of life, belief in the
Creator and Ruler of the world is binding upon all peoples
of the world. Furthermore (and in certain circles, this
must be the primary argument), it is a rational necessity.
So any school, if its program includes educationmoral
as well as socialmust set as one of its foundations
the above belief, not only as a subject for theoretical
study, but as something that concerns day-to-day life...
While there are schools that do not have the word religious
in their name, it is obvious, based on the above, that the
difference lies only in the amount of hours devoted to religious
matters. But if the school is completely devoid of religiosity,
G-d forbid, it lacks what, especially in our generation,
is among the most primary functions of the school: to educate
the student to be a human being worthy of his nameas
distinguished from a mere beast. And the primary difference
between man and beast is that the human being is not subservient
to his natural instincts, desires and tendencies, and, at
the very least, endeavors to restrain them and control them.
I remember your saying to me, in our conversation, that
you are merely the secretary of the teachers association
in our Holy Land, so that the things [we discussed] are
not in your jurisdiction. I believe that my reaction, back
then, was that I am not addressing you in any official capacity,
but appealing to you as one who has been given the opportunities
and abilities to find ways to correct the existing situation,
which, to our great sorrow, is not improving, but the contrary.
In any case, now you are chairman, and of an international
Perhaps it seems strange that I am addressing such a request
to a person who is not a member of any religious party,
and is actually a member of a Socialist party... But surely
it requires no elaboration that the present circumstances
in no way resemble the way things were during the formative
years of Socialism, especially since, even then, there was
no truth in the assumption that Socialism necessitates a
conflict with religion.
My hope is that even if my appeal seems somewhat strange
in your eyes after a first reading of this letter, that
you nevertheless, out of consideration for the great importance
of its subject, examine it again, without prejudice, point
by point, in which case you will certainly discover many
ways in which it might be implemented...
I would also like to take the opportunity to again express
my thanks for your continuing to send me the publications
by the teachers association, and my hope that you
will continue to do so in the future, for which I thank
you in advance.
. Ethics of the Fathers 2:1.
. Igrot Kodesh, vol. XXII, pp. 494-497.