“It is critical that we recognize the wisdom of Shlomo Hamelech, “Chanoch le’naar al pi darko” – train a child according to his way. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch
Having a summer camp for girls, doesn’t just last through the summer, and so recently I found myself driving some high school aged girls to a camp wedding. As the chatting began I heard my wife ask one of the girls how school was going. The girl’s response was overwhelmingly positive. She praised the teachers, praised the assignments; she had nothing negative to say. Impressed with what I was hearing, I turned to my wife and mentioned that in light of this incredible response, we know where our daughters will be attending school some day!
Rabbi Boruch Chait inspiring our teenagers with music.
When my wife questioned the second girl, the response was almost exactly the opposite. The teachers didn’t know what they were talking about, the curriculum was stupid and so on. At that point I again looked at my wife and said, “…and that’s one school our daughter won’t be attending.” My wife then shocked me by letting me know that they are both in the same school. I responded how some teachers were just so much better than others. Again I was wrong when she informed me they were both in the same class!
So what was going on here? These were two great kids. Different personalities, yet both excel at what they do. What’s seems so contradictory is really quite simple, in parsha’s toldos Rav Hirsch enlightens us to a major malfunction in the educational system. Yes, the school and teachers were doing an excellent job, but only for one part of the students.
“What are we to make of Yaakov and Esav?” Rav Hirsch asks. “they were twins; they had not only the same father but also the same mother. They were carried together in the same womb and born at the same hour, reared and nurtured in the same home by the same parents. And yet the two grew up to become so unlike one another that even their remote descendants were separated by a gap that could never be bridged.”
Recreational time with Rabbi Adelman.
The answer, Rav Hirsch explains, is in the words of the pasuk “When the lads grew up, Esav was a man who understood hunting. He was a man of the ﬁeld, and Jacob was a single-minded man in his quest for moral perfection, living in tents.” Only AFTER the twins had grown up did Esav become a hunter and a man of the ﬁeld while Jacob became a man bent on spiritual development and inner perfection.
The Torah is telling us that while they were young, the differences in their behavior were not recognized. No one paid any attention to the differences in their tendencies. And because of that, when they reached the age of thirteen, one devoted himself to the house of study and the other to idolatry. It’s from the story of Yaakov and Esav that Rav Hirsch makes an analogy to all Jewish education:
“We see how Chazal interpret the implications of the Torah’s words. They tell us that Yaakov and Esav alike would have both turned out just fine if their parents had noticed the difference between them at an early age. They could then have reared and educated them both for the same goal by following a different approach in each of them. But this is not what happened. As long as they were lads, they were treated as twins. It did not occur to anyone that, even though they were twins, they might be completely different from one another in their inborn character traits. Both were sent to the same school, both received the same instruction, both were given the same course of studies to pursue. They were educated as if both of them possessed the same abilities and personalities. But, in fact, these two brothers were simply not suited for the same studies. In view of the basic differences in their skills and inclinations, they should not have been expected to engage in the same activities or be held to the same requirements.”
So often that I see that the teenagers that have tremendous talent are being cast away, simply because they don’t fit into the ideal model of their school. Some of these students excel at grades, and others have great things to offer, but they are not recognized for that. It’s almost as if we are denying them the Torah lifestyle, or at least telling them that their personalities contradict the Torah, when that is blatantly not true. The most common complaint I hear from teens is that their school doesn’t accept them for who they are. I printed such a letter from a fantastic girl, but she speaks for so many more.
|TorahLive.co.il presentation to our boys by Dan Roth.|
There is a quote from Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky that says “Every yeshivah is to some extent a S’dom bed — cutting each bochur to the shape of the particular institution in which he finds himself.” When a Yeshiva doesn’t have the kind of students they want they go through a “crisis”. How often do we hear of a yeshiva that is going through a change, ridding itself of their talmidim and bringing in a new crowd. They are looking to change their name. But is that what chinuch is about, the name of the institution? Why don’t we take the students Hashem gave us and work as best as we can with them.
Jewish education is so much more difficult to achieve, and that’s because how a child feels emotionally is sometimes more important than the day’s lesson. It would be much easier for us if school was just about knowledge and facts, but for us religious Jews, it’s not. So the responsibility of educators is that much greater. We need to realize the difficult job a Rebbi has, as everything he says is being interpreted in multiple ways by each and every talmid. The same statement, while turning one child on can be turning off another. Like Rav Hirsch goes on to say…
We need to remember the words of Shlomo Hamelech “Chanoch le‘naar al pi darko”. This R’ Hirsch says is the golden rule of education of which the Torah requires of us. A parent that sees their own child turning out different than they imagined or expected can sometimes fall into the same trap. Instead, we have to evaluate each child and see where his/her strengths are and then equip and train them early for that which they will practice when they have outgrown our guidance. Whether it’s the path we envisioned for them or not. It seems that Yaakov Aveinu was well aware of this when he gave the brachos to his children. Instead of blessing them all to grow up and be talmidei chachamim, like we do, he looked at the character traits and blessed each one in accordance with them. We need to do the same, to look at each child and prepare them for what their journey will bring. Read the words carefully “teach them according to their future path” not ours! We shouldn’t focus on changing our kids but working with them. Only then will they all grow up and live a true Torah life.
Summer camp has the added advantage of being a place where kids can express themselves in so many ways. I am always amazed that my staff can form such strong bonds even with the toughest of campers. I think it’s in part because no one handed over the child’s life plans to the counselors and in part because there was no room in the suitcase for the mold they were cast into outside of camp. It’s time we broke the mold.
Director, Camp Sdei Chemed International
“A summer camp in Israel for boys and girls (two separate programs)”
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