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Regarding parent-teacher conferences and the world at large

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

We are the height of parent-teacher school conferences. These days are consequential for teachers, parents, and students. Here is a pertinent point from this week's Torah portion, parashat Behar.

The Parasha describes someone whose financial condition has begun to deteriorate, when we are commanded: "And you shall support him." In other words, we must pay attention and help him from the start so that he does not reach financial ruin. Rashi writes that this is like a donkey carrying a heavy load. If the load begins to sway a little while on the donkey's back, one person can stabilize it. But once it falls to the ground, not even five people will be able to put it back in place.

Our commentators explain that this principle is also relevant to education. We need to identify problems at their inception and address them with wisdom before it's too late. When a young person begins to go downhill and is identified as an at-risk student, he suddenly receives lots of special attention, counseling, and pampering. What would have happened had he received such attention a year earlier, if signs of distress had been recognized and he had received support at that time?

Not only in the area of education is it worthwhile to recognize problems at an early stage. This is also true regarding marriage (when there are initial signs of tension it's preferable to go for counseling and not to wake up only after an explosion), and it is true regarding all kinds of emotional crises that would have been better treated prior to worsening, as well as physical ailments and diseases that are less severe when caught in their early stages. "And you shall support him" - early, in advance, before it's too late.

The parasha calls upon us to be aware, to listen, to open our eyes in relation to ourselves and to our children, to others and to the world at large: What are the little fissures visible around us and what are we going to do about them?


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