("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.)
Once upon a time, there were two Mechanchim (Jewish educators) who agree to meet to discuss the latest issues in Jewish education. As it was toward the end of the summer, the two decided to walk, in order to both benefit from each other’s company and the serenity of nature at the same time.
The conversation between the two was both supportive and informative for both. Interspersed with appreciation for Hashem’s creations. Throughout their brisk walk they would interrupt one another to point out wonderously tall trees or beautiful foliage. Together they would bless Hashem – Mah Rabu Maaseicha Hashem (how wonderous are your creations Hashem).
At one point, one of the educators was bemoaning the fate of certain students whom, it seemed, were hard to educate. “They don’t WANT to learn” he declared. “Why do we bother and what should WE do?” he complained. “Why doesn’t the Yeshiva system have a means of helping the Mechanchim exorcise those who don’t want to learn from the system so we can get through to those who do? He mused.
The other Mechanech stopped in his tracks and asked the first to engage him in a quick game. “cover your eyes,” he said “give me your hands, and tell me exactly what you’re holding.” The first agreed to the game. He closed his eyes and opened his hands and received something from his friend. “What do you think it is?” the second asked the first, still with his eyes closed. “I don’t know for sure,” was the reply. “but one thing is clear, it is cold, hard and dirty.”
“Good,” said the other mechanech. “Now open your eyes.” When he opened his eyes, he looked down at his hands and discovered that he was holding 2 acorns.
“You see,” said the second educator, “sometimes, at the early stages of biology, the seeds of those big beautiful trees we’ve been observing together can be things that are cold, hard and dirty. If we nurture them appropriately, they can combine and create trees and forests of their own. Those forests and trees are certainly worthy of the blessings we have offered them thus far. If so, then certainly their origins are also worthy of blessing --- even if that beginning is cold, hard and dirty.
Avi Shulman, famous author and commentator utilizes this story (one which involved him by the way,) to underscore the role of education in fostering and nurturing even the toughest of nuts to crack.
Very often, we are exacerbated and want to throw in the towel in the Chinuch of children, as parents or teachers. However, remembering that each Jewish child is the seed that blossoms into the great trees of tomorrow might help us anchor ourselves as we look out presently on helping them strengthen their roots.
How might we take our moments of frustration and exasperation and turn them into moments of triumph and tribulation in our shared goal of educating tomorrow’s youth? One sure attempt might involve looking back at similar experiences from our upbringing and applying those experiences to strengthen our experiences with OUR children. What do you think What do your kids think?
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.