Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vayikra 74 - Internalization of Values

The portion- parasha of Vayikra deals with the offerings and sacrifices brought in the tabernacle and temple. The offerings were brought as a way to get close to God- Hashem and dedicating oneself totally to the divine will and essence. The person has to see the animal as representing himself. He should be on the alter as the sacrifice and offering.

Verse 1:2 says –אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה' מן הבהמה ........'  that when a ' man' among you brings an offering to God- Hashem from animals. In contrast the verse 2:1 when speaking about a poor man's meal offering made from  flour , it uses the words – ונפש כי תקריב קרבן מנחה לה' סולת יהיה קרבנו .... when a ' soul'- ( a poor person)   offers a meal offering. The simple explanation is that when we take into account the 'net worth ' of the poor and wealthier person , the poor person has made a bigger sacrifice and contribution,  and it could be  that the flour is the only thing he had, so it is as if he has offered his soul.

The Telze Rabbi – Rav Elya Meier Bloch has a deeper explanation. He says there are 2 elements involved in bringing the sacrifice and offering – the monetary expense involved in bringing the offering and the emotional and spiritual effort involved in offering and dedicating one's soul to becoming one with God. The wealthy person feels emotionally   uplifted   because he has spent a lot of money on spirituality and that leaves little space for real work of dedicating one's soul. The poor man feels that his meal offering of flour does not count for much so all he has to give is his soul. It seems that the ' external ' elements of the offering  get in the way or make it more difficult for a person to focus on what God really wants – for man to dedicate his soul to Him , and in so doing reconnect with God and atone for his sins.  Rav Elya Meier Bloch is saying that the bigger the extrinsic / monetary sacrifice, the smaller the emotional commitment and investment.  Instead of reinforcing the spiritual and internal part of a person, the external and physical element undermines the internal and spiritual.

S.D.T – Self  Determination theory of human motivation shows how extrinsic motivation can often get in the way of intrinsic motivation, internalization and commitment to values. We know that one should not reprimand a kid using anger in order to show how serious the offence was, as the only message the kid comes away is you are angry - you have an anger problem – and that gets in the way of a kid reflecting on what he did. The focus is on the parent or teacher.  The same goes for punishment – instead of it reinforcing the severity of the offence and encouraging the kid to feel sorry for what he did and empathize with a kid he hurt, he now feels sorry for himself. The focus is no longer on what he did, but on the punishment, how unfair the adult is and his mistake of getting caught.
Bribes and threats can be very effective at getting ' behaviors ' but not at helping kids internalize and make a commitment to values. An experiment tested this with kindergarten kids. 2 groups were told by their teacher not to play with toys while she was out of the room. One group's compliance was   reinforced   with   a   threat of punishment.  Both groups did not play with the toys when the teacher was not in the room.  However, the kids who did not get the threat of punishment internalized much better the teacher's disapproval of them playing with the toys than the kids who received a threat of punishment. Interventions may be effective, but we need to ask – effective at what ?

HaRav  Osher Weiss tells a similar story about himself when he was a young kid. He and his fellow pupils were supposed to attend morning prayers in a synagogue and to cover a certain amount of learning material. Parents would sign that the kid had studied the required material and attended prayers in the synagogue. Rav Osher Weiss said that he so much wanted the prize that he started   forging his mother's signature. He was called to the principal's office. His mother and principal stood before him and the principal holding the sheet of paper - asked if this was his mother's signature. Before he could answer he was told to leave. That was the last he heard of that incident. He said that the way the incident was handled had an incredible impact on him and the internalization of the message his mother and principal wished to convey.

If we want kids to help kids internalize and make a commitment to values, focus on the message without the drama. Help them reflect on them and how they can become part of their values and who they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment