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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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Losing Our Children: Who Is Responsible?


I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?

So many of our children are lacking inspiration and connection to Judaism, causing some to leave the ways of their ancestors and embrace other lifestyles. Does it actually help to attribute blame?

No. A more useful system would be one that acknowledges those responsible for educating our children and their success in forming our nation’s future. Then we can guide these people and hold them accountable for their roles in cultivating inspiration, connection, and motivation in our children.

What is a more stable investment–gold or oil? One might suggest that both have their advantages – during different stages of economic cycles. The one fact that separates the two is intrinsic value. Most applications of gold can be replaced, and if the world were depleted of gold, there would not be a dramatic impact. The value of gold is determined by investors and the market, but gold itself is not a commodity we can’t live without. Presently, oil is so much a staple of our daily lives it has become irreplaceable. If oil would disappear tomorrow, it could not be immediately replaced in our cars, heating, and electric grids. Oil is a prerequisite for the smooth running of our daily lives, as it has value that is specific and unique.

Each child has a unique value that is irreplaceable. And so our educational goals for each child must be unique and special. Hashem gave each child a distinctive set of talents and gifts with which he is supposed to make an inimitable contribution to the world. Our job as parents and educators is to assist him or her in finding those talents and traits. After we find these individually tailored set of gifts, we must teach him to develop them and find a way to use them to make his world and the world at large a better place. That is part of our unique role. Chazal tell us that just as each person has a different face, so too are their thoughts and qualities different. Every child should feel like a commodity that the world cannot live without.

The longest parsha in the Torah is Naso, for it repeats the sacrifices brought by the nesiim, the heads of Shivtei Yisrael, 12 times. The sacrifices were basically the same; why does the Torah, always so careful with choice of words, spend 12 paragraphs repeating the details of each one? The Torah could have easily mentioned the details of the sacrifice in one paragraph and listed all the names of the princes. This would have spared 11 paragraphs of precious Torah real estate!

Chazal teach that each prince and his sacrifice was unique and special in the eyes of Hashem, even though each sacrifice was the same. This lesson is the key to success in today’s chinuch. Each child must feel special and important. Each child must realize that he is an integral and irreplaceable member of his family, classroom, community, and the world at large. Each child must be nurtured to identify his gifts and appreciate his individual greatness. It is not always easy for parents or teachers to find the G-d given uniqueness in each child, and it is even harder to cultivate them. A good teacher can hear the same answer being given by multiple children and make each child feel good about his response. More important, perhaps, is finding a way to make a child feel positive after giving an incorrect answer, giving encouragement for his effort and thought. Chazal tell us that there are 70 unique faces to the Torah, each with a different approach and answer. We should strive to see the diverse faces in our classrooms and homes, even though each face presents with a different style, attitude, behavioral presentation or life view. Different does not always mean wrong; it can be valued and appreciated.

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Frieman is the pulpit Rabbi of Jewish Center Nachlat Zion, the home of Ohr Naava. He is certified as a shochet, sofer, and has given lectures in the United States, Canada, and throughout Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Frieman is currently the American Director of seminaries Darchei Binah, Afikei Torah, and Chochmas Lev in Eretz Yisroel, and teaches in Nefesh High School, Camp Tubby during the summers, and lectures weekly at Ohr Naava. In addition, Rabbi Frieman teaches all tracks in Ateres Naava Seminary. He is a highly anticipated speaker on TorahAnytime.com where he speaks live most Wednesday nights at 9:00pm EST.

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