I hope this note finds you all well.
Last week, I had the privilege to visit with my mother לאוי”ט in Yerushalayim. In conversation, she encouraged me to read a profile that had appeared in Makor Rishon, an important religious Zionist newspaper, of Rav Gershon Edelstein, the preeminent leader of the Haredi community in Israel and Rosh Hayeshiva of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak (https://www.makorrishon.co.il/news/616573/). This was days before his passing this week at the age of 100.
My mother was deeply moved by the description of the guidance Rav Gershon gave to parents and educators of young people who were struggling to meet their parents’ and community’s religious and academic expectations. His core value and focus was to always treat the child b’kavod ub’yedidut, with respect and with closeness, urging parents and educators to respect that the child truly knows what is right and to understand that their difficult behavior is not so much rebellion as an expression of the child’s deep unhappiness.
“When asked during the Corona period how to behave with the children staying at home, he spent several minutes explaining that education is done “only in a pleasant way, without coercion. Do not nag them. The child knows what is good, you just need to encourage them to have the desire to do it… You must not force a child, coercive education brings the opposite result. Educate in friendship, out of love. A child who feels criticized is deeply hurt and ends up rebelling.” In general, the rabbi calls on educators to provide a personal and warm attitude, and to take into account the individual character of each student. When asked which Mussar books should be studied, he simply answers “whatever interests the student”.
This value is reflected in a remarkable comment of the Midrash in our Parsha. As part of the dedication ceremony of the mishkan, each of the tribal leaders offered a bull, a ram, and a sheep. Rashi (Bamidbar 7:21) cites the Midrash associating the bull with Avraham and the meal he offered his angelic guests, the ram with Yitzchak and his replacement at the akeidah, and the sheep with Yaakov and his shepherding for Lavan. This is striking, as we well understand that in the cases of Avraham and Yitzchak the incidents with those animals aptly represented their dominant and defining moments, Avraham’s chessed (generosity) and Yizchak’s gevurah (powerful self-control). But what is it about the sheep that is emblematic of Yaakov? This issue was raised addressed by Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman in his Shaarei Orah, who offers this interpretation:
While Avraham and Yitzchak each had a son who continued the family line and one or more who did not, Yaakov was a father of twelve sons who all remained within the fold. What Yaakov brought to the Jewish people was that powerful ability to keep the family together, to never lose a connection with any child, what our Sages consistently referred to as “mitato sheleimah”. In this, Yaakov exhibited the quality of the shepherd who tends and cares for each and every lamb, as highlighted by the beautiful words of the Rambam in describing the ideal Jewish king (Hilchos Melachim 2:6):
He should be gracious and merciful to the small and the great, involving himself in their good and welfare. He should protect the honor of even the humblest of men. When he speaks to the people as a community, he should speak gently, as it states, “Listen my brothers and my people….” Similarly, it states “If today, you will be a servant to these people….” … He should bear the nation’s difficulties, burdens, complaints, and anger as a nurse carries an infant. The verse (Tehillim 78:71) refers to a king as a shepherd: “to pasture, Jacob, His nation.” The prophets (Yeshayahu 40:11) have described the behavior of a shepherd: “He shall pasture His flock like a shepherd, He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom.”
This is the quality that Rav Gershon zt”l promoted in all of us. As parents, as educators, and as a community, we must be like those shepherds and tend with unconditional dedication to each and every one of our children and students, ensuring our continued relationship, treating them all with respect and with closeness, b’kavod ub’yedidut, and with true understanding.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Moshe Hauer
Like this article?
Sign up for our Shabbat Shalom e-newsletter, a weekly roundup of inspirational thoughts, insight into current events, divrei torah, relationship advice, recipes and so much more!