Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).

The year was 1965 and the location – an elementary school in California.

Across six grades (1st through 6th) two researchers, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, told teachers that a subset of their students was about to “bloom” based on their scores on a previous test, and gave them the names of these students. The teachers were led to believe that during the upcoming school year this group of students could be expected to make huge gains in intellectual growth.

But there was  a twist. Rosenthal and Jacobson had merely randomly assigned students to this “bloomer” condition. In truth, the identified students were no different than any of the other students in the school except that their teachers expected them to get much smarter during that school year.

What did they find at the end of the year? Had the bloomers blossomed?

Indeed, after retesting students’ IQs, they found that those in the “ready to bloom” experimental conditions gained more IQ points on average, relative to those in the control conditions.

In their study, the students whom the teachers believed were about to “bloom” were actually no different than the rest of the class, but because the teachers believed they were about to bloom, they did. The teachers likely spent more time with these students, were more encouraging of them, and pushed them harder, and in response they blossomed.

Subsequent analysis of the same experiment identified a parallel effect – namely that the teachers became somewhat flustered with the success of students other than the one’s identified as “bloomers.” A more complete analysis of this phenomenon – also known as the Golem effect – is yet another example of the potential danger of failing to appreciate the potential of others.

Rav Hershel Schachter Shlita  noted that part of the brilliance of Yaakov Aveinu’s blessing to his children was not in the simple “one size fits all” blessing. Rather, Yaakov sought out the appropriate blessing for the strengths and talents of each of the children of Yaakov. No two children are identical and therefore, a single blessing cannot properly suffice for the diverse talents that would be present in, and necessary for the survival of the united Jewish people. By offering unique Brachos to each child, Yaakov was encouraging each one to see his own potential for greatness and to cultivate it and grow it for Am Yisrael.

Brachos, note Rav Chaim Volozhiner, are the recognition necessary in order to unlock the internal powers in each of us. By offering unique Berachos to each child, Yaakov was in effect telling his children that he believed in each one of them and that he expected each one to rise to greatness in his own unique way.

Do you see the greatness in your family friends, neighbors and other loved ones? In yourself?

How can you help release the potential in each one of them?

  Let’s  “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting  discussion into our homes and communities.