By Rabbi Dovid Abenson
I have received many emails, comments and positive feedback, regarding my previous article here on Matzav on “The Box Child.” I am propelled to make a sequel and embellish on this theme. Many parents wrote to me how pained they are with the jewish educational school system and how they feel let down.
Many parents questioned why their child needs to fit a box at all, if their child is not a box candidate?
These questions are valid and I would like to elaborate more on “the box child”. The box child really has no source in Judaism. Chazal teach us that everyone is obligated to say
‘b’shvili nivre haolam” – for my sake the world was created. If we look around, we can see that Hashem has created each and every person to bring out his own unique potential, to achieve greatness in Olam HaZeh.
If this is the case, why do institutions believe that the box child does and should exist? This belief runs contrary to our mesorah. Where then, does the ” perfect child ” ideology, defined as not deviating from any policy and rules, come from?
(As a caveat I would like to emphasize that schools need rules in order to have order in the school system, however, the rules should be laid down according to Torah perspective and not western ideology.)
The Rambam writes that a person’s environment influences him through it’s philosophy and culture. His surroundings can mold his way of thinking. The concept of the box child has its roots in Greek culture. Let me explain. Our mesorah teaches us the well known chazal that Klal Yisroel will need to
experience four exiles before Moshiach comes. I would like to elaborate on the 3rdexile which is Yavan, – Greece.
As we know, the Greeks conquered Eretz Yisroel, ruling during the period of the second beis hamikdash for 180 years. This golus was unique from the others, in that the enemy did not want to kill Klal Yisroel but their intentions were to get Klal Yisroel to assimilate into their culture and philosophy. As we know, many Yidden unfortunately succumbed to Hellinism. From the Yavanim, we have to thank the Olympic games philosophy, which created competition against one another, to see who could be the “best” and the elitist.
Unfortunately, this Greek philosophy of aspiring to be the “perfect” athletic
has seeped into our own culture creating the “perfect” child aka “the box child”.
However, as mentioned, realistically the box child concept is a fantasy dream amongst institutions. But we do find the box concept in a different “society”. The animal kingdom. Each animal species adhere to a specific “policy” which Hashem created for each one of them. Each animal in their species bears similar resemblance to each other. Their facial features are similar, their instinct is the same and they don’t deviate from their intrinsic makeup. If they do, there is a large chance they will be in danger. Their “policy” for survival is to hunt, eat and sleep.
On the other hand, Chazal teach us that every human is different.
Everyone’s personality has differences. Everyone has different tastes, facial features and even voice is different. And of course, everyone has a different path to traverse. Why?
The reason is that Hashem has created each individual for his specific purpose and tachlis. Every child uses a different mold.
Each individual is a maalei olam and each child has potential to succeed in his learning and to become great within, in his own way, with the attributes Hashem has assigned to him.
Are we truly teaching our children according to what Chazal have taught us?
I received many replies from parents telling me that their children are being medicated in order to keep them “in the box”.
Other parents complained that their children have no down time due to an excess of tests and homework responsibilities. Just to digress for a moment, I would like to quote my Rebbe Rav Mattisyahu Salamon shlita, who advocates a no homework policy ……” that school should be a place to learn and home should be a place of refuge and time with the family “(With hearts full of love pages 79-83 published by Artscroll).
Yet other pained parents lamented to me that their children who have thrown off the yoke of yiddishkeit, confided in them when asked why they had left the derech, they answered that they felt they had been pushed out by the school system.
If we were truly teaching according to Chazal, many of the issues children are experiencing in school today would not be occurring.
Institutions need to continue to look for ways to create an environment for each child to feel accepted without having to fit a “box” and that he can succeed in his way, fulfilling his potential.
Chazal state that “whoever destroys a single life from Israel is considered as if he destroyed the entire world”. Let’s focus on building “whoever preserves a single life from Israel is considered by the Torah as if he had preserved an entire world”.
Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director, author and lecturer at Shaar Hatalmud, a unique yeshiva based online program, featuring evaluations and upgrading of skills in Hebrew reading, Gemara studies, consulting school principals world wide to improve their ability to discover students who possess under-developed skills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-HATALMUD (428 2568).