Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nasso 74 - Motives and Community or Behaviors and Competition

The end of our Parasha-portion Nasso deals with how the leaders of the 12 tribes celebrated the dedication and inauguration of the tabernacle-mishkan and the altar = חנוכת המזבח which took place on the first day of Nissan. On their own initiative they first brought 6 wagons and 12 oxen – 2 tribes, jointly brought a wagon and 2 oxen – in order to help the Levites transport the tabernacle and its parts during journeys. Then each tribe on his specific day brought his own personal offering out of his own funds in celebration of the momentous event.

   Not only (1) did God agree to the initiative and instructed Moshe to accept the gifts and offerings, but (2) the Bible-Torah goes out of its way to list each individual offering despite the fact they were identical. It would have been much simpler to say that each leader brought the following offering.  And thirdly (3) an exception was made for the leaders' personal offerings - they were treated as communal offerings and thus were allowed to be brought on the Sabbath which is not the case for personal offerings.
The reason that each tribe's offering is mentioned in detail despite being identical is that the thoughts, intentions, motives, symbolism and values underlying each component of their offerings were different. They were expressions of the meaning behind their individual names and the  tribal missions to the joint national goal of inaugurating the Tabernacle.

 The reason that God agreed to the initiatives of the tribes – the gifts of the wagons and oxen and treated the offerings as communal offerings= korban Tzibur and not a korban Yachid = individual offering - is that leaders dedicated themselves, both in a spiritual and material way to the service of the nation. They did it in a way that showed cooperation, partnership and brotherly friendship. It was quite possible that a tribe would try to do better than the tribe that brought his offering on the previous and bring a bigger offering.  Instead of competition, all the offerings were brought exactly like one another in order to maintain the sense of community .This made them worthy for the Divine Presence to rest among them. After the Torah lists each offering separately, the total sum of the offering is given to show how each leader shared his and his tribe's spiritual and material resources with the nation.

The account of the tribal leaders offerings teach us the importance of inner thoughts, feelings, motives and values together with a concern for the community. But when it comes to families and schools the focus is on behaviors and competition, how can I  help  the kid choose appropriate behaviors or more accurately how can we get obedience and compliance. And this is done using rewards, awards, punishments, logical consequences, positive reinforcement, praise and competition. In this way we ignore what matters most about a child- his thoughts, feelings, perspectives, motives and values, concerns, needs and lagging skills, in other words the child himself. 

 A kid can choose to share some candy with a classmate for at least 3 different reasons. He may want to have some of his chocolate - he  has been taught that if you want kids to share with you, you must share with them,-  or he shares  in the hope that his teacher will notice and praise him for it, or he shares  simply out of concern for his friend who did not have any candy.  A teacher responding to the behavior with praise is trying to reinforce the behavior and in the process strengthens the kid's dependence on adult approval. A teacher focusing on motives will ask why he decided to give his friend some candy and ask did he see his face, he is really happy with that candy. Isn't he? Here the teacher helps the sharer experience the impact of sharing and to come to see himself as the kind of person who focuses on community and wants to make other people feel good – irrespective of verbal rewards. Instead of focusing on behavior and competition - focus on motives and community.

No comments:

Post a Comment