Immature Expression vs. Inner Feelings

Children criticize, complain, ridicule, get angry, are
intolerant and embarrass. However, these modes of expression do not necessarily
reflect their true feelings and desires. Their state of immaturity prevents them
from speaking and acting in accordance with their inner selves.

Children’s yetzer hora urges them to search for faults
in others, especially in their teachers. They diminish the importance of others
in order to give themselves a sense of security. Why? For the feeling of
security comes with accomplishments and children have not yet gotten enough of a
chance to achieve serious accomplishments. By insulting others, etc., they, in
getting the upper hand, are looked up to by friends for their "accomplishment"
and gain a sense of security.

Sometimes children just test their own modes of expression,
whether physical or vocal, in order to test the acceptable social borders. In
the classroom, they test their teacher to see how far he will let them go.

Children have not yet tasted the benefits of seriousness,
dedication and responsibility and therefore do not appreciate them. Rather, they
cling to their present state of immaturity, and enjoy it, for they are familiar
with that and it fills them with a (false) sense of security.

The truth is, all people naturally cling to their present
level, whether physical or spiritual, and resist change or alteration.

In children, this is more acute for they have not only to
change in relative standing but from one type of standing to another.

The way a parent can help his/her child pass over this
difficult period is to increase expectations of him/her for at least 6 months
before the change in status whether from child to adult or from young adult to
mature young man/woman.

See in our parsha (31:2) where Rashi emphasizes the seemingly
contradictory reactions of the Jewish people toward their teacher Moshe, and
explains that although they reacted brutally to Moshe Rabeinu at first, when
they heard the news of Moshe’s impending death, they became humbled and
completely uprooted all negative feelings toward him. This shows that their
previous feelings and reactions were superficial.

In Hashem’s command to Moshe to avenge the crimes of Midian,
he was informed that his very fulfillment of the mitzvah would lead to
his immediate demise. When the people heard this, they refused to join the war
effort, explains Rashi, for they, in actuality, loved their Rav and leader,
Moshe Rabeinu. Rashi says that the word וימסרו is used (in place of ויבאו, ויקחו
or simply והיו) for it implies that the soldiers were forced to
prepare themselves for war.

In addition, we can suggest that the word "וימסרו" is used
for it alludes to a מסר or message the people wanted to relay to Moshe Rabeinu-that
they loved him and certainly did not want him to die.

Also, we can say that וימסרו denotes מסירות נפש-as it is
translated by Targum Yonason ben Uziel, for the people were ready and
willing to sacrifice their lives, rather than be part of a process that would
lead to the demise of Moshe. (See Ba’al Haturim.)

The posuk reads "וימסרו מאלפי ישראל…" ("And they were
chosen from the thousands of Israel…") and does not simply say the number of
soldiers, to imply that the love for Moshe Rabeinu was shared by all. (See the
Kli Yakar.)

This initial refusal to fulfill Moshe’s command was itself an
act of great effort, as those chosen to fight against Midian were quick and
decisive by nature, as Onkelos translates חלוצים as מזרזי or quick. They
held back their strong natural desire to quickly fulfill the mitzvah in
order to lengthen the life of their Rav, Moshe Rabeinu.

Actually, it appears that this change in attitude on the part
of Am Yisroel is alluded to in the way Hashem describes Moshe’s impending death
as "…אשר תאסף אל עמך" ("…afterward you will be gathered to your people")
instead of "אחר תמות" ("afterwards you will die"). This teaches us that the
nearing of Moshe’s death through the war with the Midianites would "gather in"
or strengthen Moshe’s relationship with his people.

One Rosh Yeshiva told me the following incident which shows
that this relationship between Rebbe and student still exists today.

During the year, a number of students had the habit of
complaining about the food and other things in the yeshiva. sometimes, the
complaining and the light talk that accompanied it got out of hand and other
students would join the choir of chronic complainers. At times, the complaining
caused great friction between the staff and the students.

At one point, the Rosh Yeshiva had to travel to another
country to raise funds for the yeshiva. While he was gone, he worried about
friction between the staff and students, being unable to do anything about it.

Upon calling the yeshiva to see how things were going, he was
surprised to hear a report that the students, even the more critical and vocal
ones, had absolutely ceased to complain. When the dumbfounded Rosh Yeshiva asked
his staff for an explanation, they told him that the students, upon seeing that
their Rosh Yeshiva had to leave his family and the yeshiva and fly to another
country to raise financial support, felt the sincerity and the sacrifice of the
Rosh Yeshiva and decided that it was improper to complain.

This story so beautifully illustrates the true inner love
students have for their Rebbe and Rosh Yeshiva.

With this in mind, when a Rebbe is confronted with a
difficult or even combatant class or individual, although on one hand he should
be strict and decisive, at the same time he should not see the child’s or
children’s speech or actions as stemming from hate or contempt, but from a
superficial and impulsive response.

A Rebbe who has developed a good relationship with his class
and devotes himself to the betterment of his students can rest assured that deep
inside his students truly love and respect him.

This feeling gives the Rebbe the strength and the good spirit
needed to maintain order in the classroom, to impart lessons in good behavior
and to teach Torah. All this without being over-concerned with his student’s
childish comments or behavior.

In any case, a child’s comment is not be taken personally
under any condition. Once the Rebbe gains experience and sees his students grow
and mature, he will better be able to withstand the irritating comments of his
future students and be able to teach them and guide them in the best manner