It is well known that children live up to the expectations we have of them. If we let them know how terrific, smart, talented and capable they are, more often than not, those expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Unfortunately, negative expectations follow the same path – if we have pessimistic thoughts and comments about our children’s abilities, they will most likely grow into unfulfilled individuals, R’L. That is, of course, a travesty and tragedy.
Many parents are not blessed with the ability to recognize the unique strengths of their children, even though Hashem has endowed every human being with special qualities. Perhaps an insight from this week’s Parsha will help in a more global realization of how extraordinary every Jewish person is.
HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, zt’l, in Sefer Lev Eliyahu (pps. 115-116) discusses the Halacha of not taking revenge or even bearing a grudge, (as brought in Vayikra 19:18). He points out that the end of that Pasuk contains the famous dictum, “love your neighbor as yourself,” which means to say that the proper reaction to a slight or insult is to love your neighbor as yourself. He goes on to bring the seemingly contrasting words of the Mesillas Yesharim (Nekius – Chapter 11) that revenge is a natural response of a person who feels slighted, and refraining from revenge and not even bearing a grudge is something only angels can do easily! For humans, it’s almost impossible.
Rav Lopian ponders the mind-boggling implication of these divergent ideas. Revenge is so difficult for man to refrain from, nevertheless the Torah forbids even a 12 and 13 year old from such feelings. Upon insult may one not only not hate the perpetrator, but must love him, and not `merely’ love him, but love him as himself. And this is a Torah obligation, not an act of extra piety! Who can have such behavior expected of him? But that is the amazing insight! Rav Lopian points out that this expectation demonstrates how incredibly great every Jewish person is. A Jew is capable of being the bigger person. He is expected to rise to the occasion and will even be taken for task if he does not respond to a painful hurt with a renewed, total love for the perpetrator.
Recognizing that this greatness lies within each child jump starts a cycle of increased expectations, which in turn generates positive growth and improvement in a child. The child, who is now more recognizable for his positive attributes will gain more self-confidence, in turn will generate even greater results, receive more praise and grow to become the kind of Jew who will begin to demand and expect excellence of him or herself. How great is a Jew! How great is each Jew’s potential, and how much can we accomplish by looking for and noticing that greatness and encouraging each other and our children to believe in themselves and strive to reach their potential.
Have a ‘great’ Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann