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Educating in a time of crisis

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

How is it possible to educate during a world crisis? Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Admor of Piaseczno, Poland, was murdered in the Holocaust 77 years ago today. He did leave any descendants behind, but he did leave a glorious educational legacy. Here are some examples of his philosophy:

• Each person is his own teacher and is mainly responsible for his situation in life: "It is not enough to teach a young person only to accept what the teacher says and nothing else. The main thing is to instill in a student's heart that he is his own best teacher.  There is a hard and fast rule that when you rely on someone, you lean on that person and become negligent about finding your own true path in life."

• But how do we educate ourselves? Is it enough merely to desire to do this? Definitely not. It is not a true desire until we act upon it. "Only a desire that a person fulfills through hard work is called a desire in the truest sense.  And if a person does not work to fulfill it, even if he says he wants to do so, it is not a real desire, only a heartfelt personal blessing or wish that he wishes for himself. Therefore, a desire that is not genuine can be exceedingly great.  Not so a genuine desire, a desire that obligates us to work to bring it to fruition."

• And what is the job of parents and teachers?  To remind the young person of his good qualities: "The teacher needs to search for the good quality that exists or could exist in the student or the child and then to praise and strengthen this quality.  It's similar to praising someone for his generosity who will then give a donation that he would not have previously given. When being called generous, the person is seduced into rising above his reluctance to give."

May we merit to educate ourselves, to focus on our strengths, and to develop genuine desires that express themselves in our hard work to fulfill them.

In his memory.


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