To be a successful mechanech (teacher) two ingredients
are essential: patience and support.
Without patience, a student’s progress will never be able to
match the tolerance level of his teacher; without support, whether
psychological, emotional, academic, or other, the student will feel he either
cannot succeed or that his success has limited or no value.
The darkest time in creation was when Hashem said, "והארץ
היתה תהו ובוהו וחושך על פני תהום…" (“The earth was empty and desolate and the
depths were covered with darkness… [Bereishis 1:2]”). Rebbe Shimon ben
Lakish explains (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 1:4) that this posuk is
alluding to the four major golios (when the Jewish people were exiled and
dominated by foreign cultures).
Yet, the posuk concludes, "…ורוח אלקים מרחפת על פני המים."
("…The spirit of Hashem hovers above the waters"). The Midrash (ibid)
says the רוח mentioned here alludes to the spirit of Moshiach, as it states
regarding the Moshiach (Yishayahu 11:2), "ונחה עליו
רוח ה’" ("and the spirit of Hashem rested
This teaches us that even in the darkest times one need not
despair, as help is close at hand and one’s situation can improve in an instant!
And so we find (Shmuel II 24:17) that after
Hashem send a Malach to strike the Jewish people after Dovid Hamelech had
wrongly counted them, Dovid, although confronted with a seemingly unstoppable
Malach Hamaves (angel of death) with his sword drawn (Rashi, Radak), didn’t
hesitate to plead with Hashem to spare the people. From this, learned Chezkiyahu
Hamelech (Brachos 10a), even when he was told by Yishayahu the Prophet
that because he did not have children (for he saw that his offspring would be
wicked) he would die in this world and the next, (although lying in his death
bed) he conjured up a plan to remove the heavenly loose from upon his neck.
Chezkiyahu told Yishayahu that he learned from his great grandfather, Dovid
Hamelech, that even if an enemy’s sword is ready to pierce one’s neck, one
should not refrain from pleading to Hashem to save him. This (ibid) is the
meaning of the posuk in Iyov (13:15), "הן יקטלני לו איחל…" ("Though he
kill me, I will beseech Him…").
Each child embodies a pure neshamah. His innate
characteristics and upbringing may have covered him with blankets of darkness;
of bad speech or behavior or lack of seriousness and interest in Kodesh and even
a complete ignoring of responsibility.
However his neshamah, which embodies the light of
Hashem and His Torah, remains forever pure and strong under those coats of
darkness. A teacher can either stress the darkness or work toward reaching and
exposing the light of his student’s neshamah.
The pesukim above and the actions of our great tzaddikim
direct us to search for the light amidst the deepest and most depressing and
apparently unconquerable darkness.
The truth is, sometimes a child’s improvement will come
through the darkness itself, just as the light of the eye – eyesight – comes
through the dark color in the middle of the eye and just as day develops from
amidst the night. In any case, when confronted with his misbehavior, a child
will be faced with either the consequences of his actions or be made aware of
the correct path of behavior by his teacher. This itself will lead him out of
For a teacher’s rebuke to have impact on his student, his
approach needs to be based on an honest belief that the child can improve
and can eventually "see the light". This approach will fill the teacher with
much-needed patience and the means to help his student truly improve. It will
also give the teacher a feeling of confidence that his efforts will bear fruit.
He will always look for ways and methods to help bring out the good in his
students. This is the way of Hashem, for although He saw that wicked people
would fill the world with darkness, He still created the world (Eitz Yosef
on Midrash Rabbah 1:2) and even after reviewing His Creation, said,
"…והנה טוב מאד" ("…and behold, it was very good").
Some teachers expect that all his students will be
attentative and interested in all his lessons. When his illusion is revealed, he
either considers himself a failure or cracks down on his students, filling them
with fear, lest they give him anything but their absolute attention.
A teacher can learn from Ma’asei Bereishis to relax
his stance and he will feel better about himself, as well. We find in Bereishis
(1:11-12) that Hashem commanded the trees to have the same taste as their fruit.
The next posuk reveals that the trees did not do what they were told. On the
other hand, the grasses did more than they were told as each one grew distinctly
separate from the other. Most other of Hashem’s Creations did exactly as they
We find, therefore, that there are three types of creations
and in our case, three types of students: One who listens, one who doesn’t and
one who does even more that he is told to do. We find, as well, that each
individual child shifts back and forth from one type of behavior to another.
Therefore, a teacher should not be surprised if his students do not follow his
every command. Actually, the knowledge that sometimes students listen and
sometimes do not, should relax the teacher and allow him to use his energies to
look for practical solutions, rather than get angry and agitated and put
unnecessary fear into the hearts of his students.
As we mentioned above, even a good student can have a
difficult day. He may misbehave or even speak to his teacher in an aggressive
tone because of something which is bothering him. A teacher need not be
thrown off balance. Ups and downs in a child’s behavior are absolutely normal.
The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 2:5) explains
that at the very outset of creation, Hashem alluded to different stages where
good would prevail and then wain and then would prevail again. Even so, Hashem
created the world and sustained it. בראשית ברא alludes to the building of the
Beis Hamikdash – when good prevailed. תהו ובוהו alludes to its destruction when
wickedness reigned. While ויהי אור alludes to the rebuilding of the Beis
Hamikdash. So too, each child has his ups and his downs, yet he was worth
creating and therefore educating, as well.
As we said above, because of the nature of students, a
teacher can expect diversions from acceptable behavior. Therefore, he needn’t
see everything. Sometimes he can simply ignore what he sees. The Midrash
(Bereishis Rabbah 8:4) says that when Hashem thought to create man, He
saw that both tzaddikim and wicked people would descend from him. Nevertheless,
He created man. What did Hashem do about the ongoing problem of the wicked
He simply ignored their presence. The fact that tzaddikim as
well would descend from Adam was reason enough to create the world.
From here we learn two lessons:
- Sometimes a negative action or trait need be ignored and,
- One should concentrate on one’s good traits and build on them.
A teacher, in particular, should try to convert his energy of
criticism into one of support and emphasis of his student’s good sides.
From the next Midrash (8:5) as well, we learn a
principle of tolerance in education. While the different groups of malachim
were arguing over whether it was wise to create man, Hashem simply created him.
Lesson: in a case of doubt, give the student another chance!
In conclusion, just as Hakadosh Boruch Hu created the world
despite the imperfect ways of man, so too, parents and teachers should show
patience for the irregular behavior of children, and, in a tolerant fashion,
while making the child aware of his lackings when necessary, they should use
their energies to highlight and strengthen the child’s good traits. This will
lead to a calmer, more patient and more balanced response on the part of the
parent or teacher and have a greater effect on the child.
To be continued.