It was such a joy to see the children back in Yeshiva this week, excited to face the opportunities and challenges of the next step of their young lives. Adjustment from summer relaxations to school structure is a longer process for some than others, but we look ahead with optimism to great growth and accomplishment ahead.
It was such a joy to see the children back in Yeshiva this week.… Beginning the school year in the week of Parashas Shoftim most appropriately focuses our attention on the major role school and schooling plays in the development of a wholesome, well-rounded human being and Torah Jew.
Our parsha begins with the admonition to appoint Judges and officers. Judges who determine justice and officers who carry out the court’s decisions represent the role of authority in society. Everyone thinks they desire freedom from rules and laws and would prefer to be left alone to do as they please, but humans also realize that life would not be livable without rules to protect us from mishap and from those with evil and malevolent intentions.
In fact, all humans crave authority, whether they realize it or not. Imagine if there were no speed limits or enforcement on our roads. With no limitations, we would experiment to see how fast and risky we could drive, with the end being mayhem and destruction, R’L. For children, rules, limits and boundaries play an even greater role. They not only protect from harm, they are actually the building blocks of the child’s world.
In fact, all humans crave authority, whether they realize it or not. In his classic work – זריעה ובנין בחינוך (Planting and Building in Chinuch), Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt’l explains that a child is a product of both planting and building. His inner core, character and nature need to be allowed to grow freely, as plants in the field. At the same time, one’s Midos, skills and abilities need to be carefully built, as one builds a building. Summer time, free from ongoing school responsibilities is the time for planting and growing one’s child. With the return to school, the time to focus on building has returned.
Schools and classrooms have many rules, as do most households. The purpose is not to make adults’ lives easier (although there’s no denying that’s an important by-product!) Rules, protocols, guidelines and procedures are indispensable tools in building a mentsch. By nature, some children have a harder time cooperating with adult instructions, many have fallen out of practice over the summer, and others may be dealing with different expectations than they encountered in their previous classroom.
Rules, protocols, guidelines and procedures are indispensable tools in building a mentsch. The point is, encouraging our children to follow the rules of school is not merely to get the teachers to like them or to avoid getting a call home about misbehavior. We are doing our children the biggest favor by helping them make respect for adult instructions their routine response. When children grow up in an environment where there are clear limits and the expectation is that they will be held responsible by all the important adults in their life to function within those boundaries, they feel more safe and secure and in turn more confident to navigate a world that has predictable outcomes and results.
May the coming year’s journey be filled with wonderful opportunities for accomplishments in learning and may the inevitable obstacles and challenges become the building blocks of growth and success for our children.
Have a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann