Improving education and doing teshuvah are step-by-step processes
By Rabbi Baruch Lederman
SAN DIEGO–Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt addressed a gathering of Chofetz Chaim alumni, many of whom were yeshiva classroom teachers. They were talking about the difficulties of teaching a class when there is wide mix of abilities amongst the students. If you teach at a faster pace, half the class gets lost. If you teach at a slower pace, half the class gets bored. If you teach in the middle, no one is happy.
As each teacher was speaking, you could feel the pain and frustration as each described their experiences.
Rabbi Grunblatt related a similar scene. He told us that Rabbi Noach Orlewick was once speaking to a group that included teachers and parents. The parents were concerned that their children were being lost in the sauce. Their individual needs were not being met. They were being swept as side and forgotten as the rest of the school progressed. The parents wanted more attention from the teachers and the school. The teachers present were overwhelmed trying to make everyone in a diverse group satisfied. The teachers wanted more assistance from the parents and the school.
Everyone was frustrated. It was a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The atmosphere was beginning to get heated and tense.
Rabbi Orlewick calmly proclaimed to the audience, “There is a befairishe possuk (explicit verse) that addresses this exact issue.”
There was silence in the room. All wanted to hear what the Rabbi would say next.
“It is written in the Torah,’Vsheenontom livanecha.’ ‘You shall teach your children.'”
The Rabbi continued, “Ideally each parent should teach their children individually and there shouldn’t be classrooms. But the practical reality is that there are classroooms. Now we have to figure out how to make the best of a non-ideal situation.”
Instead of getting caught up in your idealized vision of how the school should be and what everyone else should be doing; accept the fact that things are the way they are, and start from there to make things a little better, and then a little more better.
We all have this problem as we enter Rosh Hashana. We know we need to do teshuvah, but we make it more difficult by imagining that we are supposed to be perfect tzaddikim.
Then we become despondent that we are falling short of what we have convinced ourselves we should be.
Instead of getting caught up in this cycle, let us accept that things are the way they are, and try to do a little better and become a little better. And then a little more better.
Dedicated by Baruch & Miriam Stehley in honor of their children.
Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego