You may have heard that the New York State Education Department recently published proposed Regulations about “substantial equivalency of instruction” required for students attending nonpublic schools.

This can have severe ramifications for yeshivos and day schools across the board in NYS, so we wanted to provide some answers to common questions we are receiving about this serious development.

Q: How might the proposed regulations affect my child’s yeshiva?

A: The Regulations, on their face, may require schools to make major adjustments to their limudei kodesh and secular programming. 

For example, the proposed regulations specify 1) the number of required hours – as many as 4-5 hours per day, depending on grade level; 2) more than 12 required subjects, including, at the lower elementary level, consumer and family science, visual arts, theater, media arts, career development, occupational studies, etc.; 3) assessment of teachers to an undefined standard.

Results, grades, competencies, graduation rates, or other factors regarding equivalency to public schools are not taken into account for these purposes. 

To view the proposed Regulation click here.

Q: Didn’t the court already strike down the SED Guidelines 3 months ago?

A: Yes, those Guidelines were thrown out by the NY State Supreme Court in response to lawsuits brought by Agudath Israel, PEARLS, Torah Umesorah, and other groups. However, the court struck down the Guidelines because the State Education Department failed to comply with the technical requirements for new rulemaking. By publishing its “proposed Regulations” in the NYS Register, SED has now started an “official” process in compliance with those requirements.

Q: How do the new proposed Regulations differ from the previous Guidelines??

A: The new Regulations are substantially identical to the previous Guidelines.

Q: What happens now?

A: There is a sixty day public comment period (until September 2) when individuals can voice their concerns regarding these proposed regulations. At the conclusion of the process, the Regulations come before the Board of Regents for a vote, expected this fall.

Q: I heard that State Education Commissioner Elia resigned earlier this week. Does that mean this is over?

A: No. The impact of Commissioner's Elia's resignation on this issue is still to be determined, but the proposed Regulations have already been published and the comment period is in place.

Q: What is being done to fight for parents who choose, and sacrifice dearly, for their children to attend yeshivos?

A: The Agudah has been working with organizations in the community - PEARLS and Torah Umesorah, among others - to oppose the newest incarnation of the state's attempt to control yeshivos. It should be noted that the Catholic and NYSAIS independent schools (which, together with Jewish schools, form the majority of nonpublic schools in NYS) also strongly oppose these regulations.

Q: Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes! SED is required, by law, to read comments submitted. While many have previously signed petitions, which is important, these comments are required to be read by law. We have set up a system, where, with just a few clicks, you can voice your opinion on this critical matter.

Q: I live in Chicago, but the overreach of these regulations concerns me. May I register my comment?

A: The regulations do not restrict comments to NYS residents. 

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Parsha Hashavua
Bnei Noach

In Bereishis (2:15) the posuk tells us that Hashem commanded Adam not to eat from the Eitz Hadaas. The gemara in Sanhedrin (57b) learns from this posuk that goyim have a chiyuv to keep the zayin mitzvas bnei Noach. At what age is a goy mechuyav in the zayin mitzvos Bnei Noach? Is it from the age of thirteen, or is it from a younger age?

The Chasam Sofer in the Teshuvos Yoreh Deah (184) and in Teshuva (317) Shin says that the concept of a Jew becoming Bar Mitzva at thirteen according to the Rosh (16) and Mishna Berura (55) is a halacha l’Moshe miSinai. The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (9:9) says that shiurim were only given to Jews. It would therefore stand to reason that a goy, even as a koton, would be chayev in the zayin mitzvos. The problem is that the Rambam (10) in Hilchos Melachim (2) says that a goy does not get punished while he is a koton, a cheresh, or a shotah. That is why in Parshas Vayishlach the posuk says that all male adults were killed while the children were captured, not killed. We see that a koton who is a goy does not get punished.

The answer to this query could be that really a goy is chayev in the zayin mitzvos, but as a koton he is just pattur from onesh because he is considered an Ones since he does not have daas. A goy who reaches the age of ben daas is punished if he does not do the zayin mitzvos. This is based on the Shailos U’Tshuvos Maharya, Yoreh Deah (1) and in Minchas Chinuch (190). The Chemdas Yisroel (1:23) argues with this position and says that a goy becomes a bar chiyuva at the age of thirteen.

We can ask the following question regarding the shittos that a goy becomes a bar chiyuva as soon as he becomes a bar daas. The gemara in Nazir (62a) tells us that according to one shitta, the following concept applies to both a Jew and non-Jew. This concept is mufla hasamuch l’ish; a year before a person is Bar Mitzvah he could make a neder;  so too, a goy will have the same halacha. But if a goy is already a bar chiyuva when he is a koton bar daas, how could he be chayev a year before when he is not yet a bar daas? The answer could be that the halacha that a goy is a bar chiyuva on mitzvos even while he is a koton is only applicable to mitzvos that are from the zayin mitzvos Bnei Noach. Regarding a mitzvah that is learned from a Jew, like the concept of a neder, the same halacha will apply to a goy as to a Yisroel; he will be responsible a year before age thirteen and not before.

The following question is based on the above premise that a goy is chayev in the zayin mitzvos even at the early age of being a koton. We have a klal in Sanhedrin (59a) that there is nothing that is forbidden to a goy that is muttar for a Jew. Would a koton who is a Jew be responsible for the zayin mitzvos Bnei Noach since there is nothing that is assur for a goy, but muttar for a Yid?

Most achronim including the Ohr Sameach, Nachal Yitzchok and the Minchas Shlomo, to name a few, are of the opinion that a Jew who is a koton is mechuyav in the zayin mitzvos Bnei Noach. The Chelkas Yoav and the Shevet Halevi disagree and say that since he is not a bar daas, he is not mechuyav and the rule of something that is a chiyuv for a goy can’t be muttar for a Yisroel does not apply.

May we be zocheh to be mekayem all mitzvos at the right time, the right age, and the right way. 

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