Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Toldot 75 - Education and Self- Image

Our Parasha – Portion deals with the lives of Rivkah- Rebecca and Isaac's – Yitzchak's twin boys, Esau = Eisav and Jacob- Ya'akov. And the question that all ask is how come Eisav , despite being raised by the greatest and righteous people of that generation turned out to be a wicked human being while Ya'akov realized his potential for greatness. The verse Bereishit 25:27 says that when the boys grew up ….. Each boy followed a different path. Eisav became a hunter, a man of the field trapping, tricking and ensnaring not only animals but men too. Ya'akov became the scholar who devoted his life to learning and teaching God's ways. Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch suggests that the striking contrasts in the grandchildren of Abraham may have been due, not so much to the differences in their temperaments and personalities, but rather as to the mistakes in the way they were brought up. The medrash says that until the age of 13, the differences between Yaakov and Eisav were not apparent. So as long as they were little, no attention was paid to the slumbering differences in their natures and both received exactly the same teaching and educational treatment. The famous words of Proverbs – Educate your child according to his way , reminds us that we cannot change tendencies, traits , temperaments and personalities but we can educate the child so he can develop his special characteristics to serve God and maximize his personal potential for the one pure and Jewish life. A nation and society needs so many people who have different roles and professions. Each person has a different path, but all have the same goal to serve God and to be of service to society in their unique roles.

Eisav became a hunter and warrior. He was supposed to use theses talents to fight the wicked and protect the weak, and be the diplomat, politician and statesman for the sake of God.  Eisav's educational and emotional needs were not met in an environment of intense learning .The development of his unique personal identity was hindered and so his talents would be dedicated for purely personal gain and negative goals. He struggled to find intrinsic reward and satisfaction from his learning. The only way he could feel   satisfaction, self- worth and esteem was by impressing others. So instead of nurturing his true identity Eisav focused on  ' superficiality ' and nurturing his image.  The sages describe him as man who epitomized falsehood , a ' clay vessel plated with gold, gems or pearls' who  instead of using his talents for the sake of God , succeeded in manipulating people and leaders and seducing women who then  left their husbands for him.   When hungry, Eisav   asked Ya'akov to give him some of the' red stuff '. Eisav related to the food by its color, on its most superficial level. He does not even call it ' soup'.  Eisav is concerned with his image and so he decides to improve it by emulating his father by marrying for the first time at the age of 40. Eisav is like the pig when it lies down, stretches out its cloven hoof as to say – See I am a kosher animal. He married a Canaanite woman who worshiped idols but changed her name to Yehudit –a woman who  denies  idols - in order to deceive his father. Yitzchak continued to strongly disapprove of  Canaanite  women so in order to improve his image he married  Machalat, Abraham's granddaughter from Yishmael, without divorcing his evil wives.  Eisav felt he was perfect, fully made as in 'Eisav' his name. He never needed to reflect on his actions and beliefs, but just do something technical and external to improve his image.

Parents and educators are very much responsible for kids focusing on their images and not nurturing their authentic identities in that there is a ' one size fits all' approach to education - all kids need  the same  education that will  enable them to go to university or be in long term  religious learning in a Kollel. Finland has a successful educational system because they focus on ' individualized education' and have a high-powered vocational training pathway for which caters for at least 40% of kids. Kids don't have to be in full time learning for all their to be long life learners and connected to holiness. 

Today, we have another problem, with parents and teachers pushing kids to succeed with so much emphasis on academic achievement. Parents care less about children's well-being and happiness than their achievement and success. They are the reason for their kids' success and it makes them feel successful. Kids' feelings of acceptance , self- esteem and image is more dependent on external events – on how well they do and behave compared to other kids. We see this at school, on the sports field and how they rank socially. Instead we should be helping kids to focus on what they are doing , connect to  and enjoy their learning, exercise or other social interactions. They should experience success of failure, not as reward or punishment, but as information so they cope with failure in an objective problem solving way and not focus on the self in an emotional-coping way. In this way kids focus on nurturing their authentic identities and talents, become intrinsically motivated and self-determined  and are not concerned with their improving their images. -

No comments:

Post a Comment