Shloshim of Rabbi Yeshaya Schtroks
Custom Tailored Homework: My Teacher Who cared
By Dov Greenberg / Chabad.org
In Shmuel Bais, after the deaths of Shaul and Yonoson, Dovid HaMelech cries out, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Rabbi Yeshaya Schtroks, beloved father, husband, community builder, remarkable teacher, was swift like the eagle, strong like the lion, and now he has passed away at the young age of 55.
The eagle bears the next generation on its wings; the lion never yields his ground. Rabbi Schtroks was our teacher. He soared above, lifting a generation of students with his inspired and lively instruction. And he stood his ground in the classroom with firm and gentle discipline, reminding young Jews of their responsibilities born of Jewish history. Eagle and lion, Rabbi Schtroks embodied the grace and courage of a great Torah educator.
This was no ordinary man. He was a Chassid, in the most profound sense, who spent every extra moment of his 26 years in education helping students, and bringing out the best in them; who by the sheer force of his example became a mentor who transformed many lives.
He was foremost a teacher of Torah. In his hands, the Chumash, the Bible, opened itself up to those for whom it was closed — his elucidations making an obscure text alive with meaning.
He loved to teach, and he did so as few have or will. With vitality and vigor, with substance and style he held us — his students — in his nurturing hand.
He perceived his student in two dimensions: He saw what the student was at the moment, with all his shortcomings, and at the same time, he saw the greatness in each student and challenged him to grow. When a teacher only sees the flaws, the child feels worthless. When a teacher only embraces the student the way he is, the teacher fails to allow the student to become what he is capable of becoming. Rabbi Schtroks had that perfect blend. He taught his students the power of possibility, and helped them become better than they thought they were.
I was one of those students who was lucky to have learned Torah from him. It has been years since I left school. But I still remember much of what he taught.
I was eight years old. We were studying Breishis. One day he noticed that I was sad and asked why. “I don’t like Chumash and Rashi's commentary,” I said. “It’s too difficult.”
“The problem,” he said, “is not Chumash, it’s the language barrier.”
You see, in our school —Cheder Lubavitch Morristown — we studied the Chumash in the original Hebrew and translated it into Yiddish. Unlike the rest of my class, neither language was spoken in my home.
Rabbi Schtroks said to me: “All you need to do is learn the language, and Chumash will be a delight for you. I know it.” Then he walked away. I was baffled. Now it seemed to me the problem was worse than I had thought. How was I to learn two new languages? That evening, however, glancing at my homework, I realized under the new and difficult words, he penned in the English translation. This continued for months. He must have sacrificed countless hours of his own time on my behalf. He always handed the custom tailored homework to me discretely, so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of others.
Twenty six years have passed since that day, and now as I study Chumash with my son, we do so in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. A tribute to a caring teacher who gave of his time soa child could learn to understand Torah and love it, cherish it, and in turn pass it on to his children. For many, he was the one teacher who hit the light switch and changed their life.
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