Parashas Bechukosai begins with the words “Bechukosai Teileichu” which Rashi interprets as teaching us that we should be “Ameilim B’Torah,” we should exert ourselves, and put forth effort in the study of Torah.
The Chofetz Chaim (Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah)expounds upon these words to describe the uniqueness of Limud Torah – the goal is not only to gather information, but every word and every ounce of effort that is expended in its study is a great accomplishment in itself, and earns reward for the one making the effort. Whereas in every other endeavor in life one is compensated for his efforts only upon successful completion of the mission or production of the item, Torah study is rewarded for the effort exerted, as much as the understanding and knowledge gained. Even if one fails to comprehend what he or she is learning, if there was a sincere attempt to understand, the effort is rewarded.
This focus on effort, and the relative downplaying of results carries a very important message for us and our children. We live in a society and culture that is fixated on success – the smartest, the richest, the strongest, the most attractive, most popular etc. We are saturated with information about the `winner’ with barely a word about the `loser.’ An Olympic athlete can train six hours a day for four or more years – if he doesn’t return home with a medal –it’s considered as if he wasted all that time. In the academic world and sadly, even in our Yeshivas – those who earn top grades are highly regarded, no matter how hard or easy it was for them, while those who are diligent and persistent don’t get recognized for efforts alone.
This is not the Torah way nor does it lead to success. The one with the bright head, who doesn’t need to work hard, may never learn to put forth effort and may never achieve much in life, despite innate abilities. Truly successful people are primarily drawn from the ranks of the motivated, persistently hard working people who sustain effort in their path to a goal.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a spark to fire up their motivation and fuel their ambition. Parents should be very concerned about a lack of diligence and persistence that their children may have. It may not be easy to create a motivated child, but role-modeling, admiring hard work in others, pointing out projects that were completed only through persistence and perspiration are some ways to make it more likely your child will appreciate the value of hard work and follow through even when the going gets rough. Lack of motivation in children is commonly due to an undiagnosed learning challenge that makes the task so difficult as to be deemed ‘not worth the effort’ (consciously or subconsciously) by the child. It’s the parent’s and the school’s shared responsibility to address that issue.
If the effort in studying even only one word of the world’s most precious commodity – the Torah – yields a reward of great magnitude, we can appreciate the value of effort in all endeavors. Let’s help our children become diligent, determined and persistent students, friends and citizens of our community.
Best wishes for a highly motivational Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann