Achdus in the Classroom

Every class is made up of a myriad of individuals whose behavior fluctuates
incessantly between individual expression and submissivness to group standards .

No positive individual expression should be neglected, but in
order for a class and its students to maximize their success, they need to
maximize the behavior which creates an aura of achdus (working together).

The same energy which is too often used by one child to
ridicule, belittle or just simply bother another, can be harnessed to give the
students the feeling that they are on the same side, working together to
achieve.

The power of achdus is so great that only when Am
Yisroel
reached a level of achdus, was Hashem willing to give us His
Torah (see Rashi on Shemos 19:2).

The Pele Yoetz, quoting Midrash Tanchuma (Parshas
Tzav, 7), says that even if the Jewish people worship idol worship, if they
do so in achdus, Hashem’s Hand of Justice can not affect them. (See
Hoshea 4:17). So too, continues the Pele Yoetz, the דור
הפלגה
was not destroyed, even though they
sought to fight Hashem (see Rashi on Bereishis 11:1,9), for they
worked in achdus.

Korach was an extremely wise man, says the Midrash (Bamidbar
Raba, 18:8).
Although Aharon had been chosen as Cohen Gadol, Korach wanted
the position for himself. He realized, in his wisdom, however, that it was not
likely that he could attain his goal through direct machlokes with Moshe
and Aharon, for division does not breed success.

Korach was well aware of the concept, as the Pele Yoetz
puts it, that a group that wants to achieve something which will have a
lasting effect has to work in achdus. Therefore, he devised a plan where
he would gather together men of great stature and approach Moshe as a unified
group.

By analyzing Korach’s efforts, therefore, we can get an
insight into how to bring about achdus. And, because the achdus
headed by Korach was artificial, and behind it lurked all the makings of
machlokes, we can learn from here, as well, that which prevents achdus.

Then we will attempt to apply these lessons to the classroom.

  1. The first thing Korach did to create achdus among
    the challengers of Moshe was to find common ground. "All the people are holy"
    (Bamidbar 16:3) attacked Korach, meaning, according to the Midrash,
    that since everyone heard the first two commandments directly from Hashem,
    Moshe had no right to put himself above the people, as Nasi, and Aharon
    as Cohen Gadol.

  2. Although it was practically impossible, Korach gave those
    who aligned with him the feeling that each and every one would benefit from
    their challenge to Moshe, and that each one’s cause was everyone’s cause. One
    way he did this was by using the unifying factor of similar dress. The
    Midrash
    (Bamidbar Raba 18:3) tells us that Korach dressed the 250
    Roshei Sanhedrios with talleisim of pure techeles and
    bought them in front of Moshe to ridicule him.

  3. In addition, the working together on one project, as here,
    gave the people a feeling of achdus.

  4. The Midrash goes on to say that Korach invited them to a
    big seuda, for eating together brings people close.

  5. Also, Korach made his followers feel that Moshe was a
    common enemy and this has the ability to bring even sworn enemies together.
    (See Rashi on Bamidbar 22:4).

From the machlokes of Korach we can also learn
the type of behavior or attitude which prevents achdus, for in
reality, Korach’s efforts to create achdus were founded on dishonest
intentions and this lead to great machlokes and his downfall.

  1. Jealousy – Why did Korach argue with Moshe? For,
    according to his calculation, which was in fact a sound one, Korach should
    have been chosen as the nasi (leader) of his family. Korach, jealous of
    his cousin Elitzafan, who received the position, ignored the fact that
    Moshe chose the family’s leader according to Hashem’s wishes and
    decided to fight against Moshe.

  2. Reliance on future developments and dismissal of present
    reality
    – The Midrash (Bamidbar Raba 18:8) asks, how did
    Korach, who was a very wise man, fall into this machlokes with
    Moshe and Aharon until the point where he was warned by Moshe that of all the
    incense offerings only one would be accepted and the rest of the people would
    perish, and he still went ahead with it? The Midrash answers that
    Korach saw in Ruach HaKodesh (Maharzav) that Shmuel would
    be his offspring, who was equal in status to Moshe and Aharon. (See
    Tehillim
    99:6). Korach put future developments before present reality and
    thus erred in judgment.

  3. ויקח
    קרח
    -Korach
    was a taker. He yearned to bring everything into his domain and under his
    control. Rav Dessler z"l says in Michtav MeEliyohu (vol. 1 page
    32) in Kuntras HaChesed, that Hashem made man a giver and a taker. The
    ability to give is of the most holy origins, explains Rav Dessler,
    while the ability to take, where man puts his personal interests as
    all-encompassing is the source of all bad. Why was Korach given such a
    terrible punishment? For he was the epitomy of a taker, the source of all bad.

  4. גאוה (Haughtiness)
    – The Midrash (Bamidbar Raba
    18:10)
    calls Korach and his followers haughty people which prevented them
    from accepting Moshe’s words.

  5. Lack of Yire Shamayim – The Midrash (Bamidbar
    Raba 18:3
    ) says that Korach challenged Moshe’s rulings in the Torah which
    obligated putting one techeles string on tzitzis and a mezuza
    on the front door where the whole talis was made of techeles
    and the house was full of seforim. However, Moshe explained that in all
    cases, the single string of techeles was required, as well as the
    mezuza
    on the door. We can say, perhaps, that the requirement for a string
    of techeles and a mezuza remains in all situations, for they are
    a sign of remembrance. See the Kesav Sofer in Parshas Shelach, that
    the
    main purpose of this remembrance is to remind ourselves of Hashem Who
    commanded us to do His mitzvos. Thus, a string of techeles and
    mezuza remind us of Hashem and represent the need for Yirei Shmayim.
    Korach,
    with all his grand wisdom, lacked the basic ingredients of a Jew,
    Yire Shamayim.

  6. Lack of communication Although the
    machlokes
    had gone into full swing, Moshe sent a message to Dasan
    and Aviram that he was willing to make peace with them. (Bamidbar
    16:12 and Rashi there). However, they refused to head Moshe’s call.
    Also Moshe, upon seeing Korach and his followers dressed in pure techeles
    gowns and determined to assault him with their arguments, attempted to
    appease them, but to no avail. (Midrash Raba Bamidbar 18:3) (see also
    Midrash Raba 18:9).
    The refusal to communicate, prevents the two sides
    from developing means to overcome their differences, and keeps the
    machlokes
    in place.

  7. Lack of Hakaras Hatov (Appreciation) – In
    posuk
    16:6, after seeing that Korach was not about to do teshuva (Midrash
    18:9), Moshe began to extol the great merit the leviim had to serve
    Hashem and to have a closer relationship with Hashem than the other tribes, as
    an attempt to ward other leviim away from Korach. This teaches us that
    lack of appreciation for the good or the opportunity one has, can lead to
    machlokes
    and destruction.

  8. Asking without thinking – In posuk 16:5, Moshe
    told Korach that in the morning Hashem would reveal who was right. See
    Rashi
    there, who explains that Moshe actually intended just to push off
    Korach and give him a chance to reflect on his actions and do teshuva. In
    addition,
    Moshe warned Korach and his followers time after time, in effect
    telling them not to act out of haste or emotion, but to carefully consider
    their actions before doing them. One who doesn’t think carefully about what he
    intends to do before doing it, will cause division with others.

  9. Taking things out of proportion – In posuk 16:13
    Dasan and Aviram complained that Moshe had taken them out of
    Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, comparing Egypt with all its pain
    and suffering to Eretz Yisroel. This exaggeration lead to another where
    they declared that even if their eyes were torn from their sockets they would
    not come to talk to Moshe (posuk 16:14). Exaggeration removes one from
    reality and prevents reconciliation.

Back to the classroom. We have learned from the episode with
Korach a number of steps which can be taken in order to develop a sense of
achdus
in the classroom.

  1. Find common ground among the students. Make each one feel
    he is considered an equal to the others, in his classmates’ eyes and in his
    teacher’s eyes.

  2. Have a dress code.

  3. Have the students work together on projects. Especially
    beneficial is when each individual’s input is indispensable.

  4. Celebrate events together.

  5. Choose a negative characteristic or influence and have the
    class, as a whole, work on methods to reject or control it.

  6. Make each child feel he is benefiting by being part of the
    whole.

Just as Korach went from person to person explaining to him
the great virtues of his arguments, so too, in order to influence a class, the
teacher should call each child aside independently and explain to him what he
expects of him. The teacher’s message will be more effective and when all the
children hear the message in this manner, in class they will accept it as a
group. (Pele Yoetz, entry – achdus).

We can also learn from the negative aspects of Korach’s
behavior how to develop and maintain achdus in the classroom.

  1. The teacher should make class rules and adjust his style of
    teaching and relating to the students in order to prevent jealousy.

  2. A child should be obligated to comply with the class rules
    and not be exempted because of contrived excuses.

  3. Children should be trained to become givers and not takers,
    as Rav Dessler explains this to be the basis of all good traits.

  4. No child should be led to feel that he is better or more
    worthy than another.

  5. The Rebbe should try to install Yiras Shamayim
    into his students, teaching them that without the right intention, their
    actions have no value, or even worse, they could lead to wrongdoing.

  6. Children should be encouraged to keep open the channels of
    communication between themselves to help overcome differences and
    disagreements.

  7. A child should be taught to feel appreciation for good
    which he has received.

  8. A child should be taught not to make a decision about the
    behavior or standing of another child, when upset or emotionally involved.
    Rather, he should settle down, think first and act later.

  9. The teacher should explain to his students that things have
    relative value, some more important than others, and not everything demands
    the same reaction.

The teacher himself should react according to the action of a
child, not to overact and not to ignore a problem that needs dealing with.

The points mentioned above are, of course, only a partial
listing of those actions or policies which can bring about achdus in the
classroom. It’s up to each teacher to add to them, with his knowledge and
experience, in order to develop and maintain classroom achdus to the
highest degree possible.