Friday, December 13, 2013

A Word from the Director: 12/13/2013

One night this week, over dinner at the Drop-In Center, we were discussing the berachos that Yaakov Avinu gave his sons. The blessings of the first three sons, in particular, were called into question; they sound far more negative than one would imagine a blessing should sound like. Upon further examination, however, it becomes clear that Yaakov is not just criticizing his sons – he is offering constructive criticism. Their father is pointing out their shortcomings and areas of challenge within each one’s personality, and offering insight into the remedies for these pitfalls.

In life, we tend to eschew criticism. It makes us feel bad about ourselves and can easily exacerbate a low self-esteem. This is largely because of where that criticism is usually coming from. We feel attacked, get defensive, and try not to internalize what we perceive to be hurtful words. However, when feedback about our actions, words, or character is coming from someone who cares about us and has our best interest at heart, it behooves us to listen and heed the advice being given. In fact, such feedback can actually be an amazing gift. Becoming aware of our shortcomings, and being told how to remedy them, is one of the greatest blessings one could ask for. Many of us spend years trying to figure out why we were put in this world. If we are willing to listen, there are people in our lives who can shed light on what our purpose and mission in this world may be. The beauty of the birchos Yaakov lies in the insight he shared with his children of what their strengths and weaknesses were. The acknowledgement of their differences and the guidance of where their efforts should be focused was invaluable and empowering.

Quoting the Vilna Gaon, Rav Wolbe explains that there are certain things that cannot be changed in a person. His very nature is one of those things. Man actually has no free will in this area; he only has free will in terms of what he does with that nature. Everyone’s nature is compatible with a Torah way of life. It’s up to us to figure out how to transform our weaknesses into strengths and find the way to make a Torah lifestyle work for us. The Malbim writes on the pasuk in Mishlei, “chanoch l’na’are al pi darko,” that being mechanech a child is the art of getting to know that child’s nature by observing him or her, figuring out what makes them feel good about themselves, and then helping develop that child to meet their fullest potential. This requires much effort being put into understanding and building the person as they are, and not just trying to mold them into what we want them to be.

This week we were visited by a representative of just such a yeshiva; Yeshivas Ahavas Chayim. It was started by one of the rebbeim from Yeshiva Ner Yaakov, who excelled in understanding and developing the boys each in their own way, and continues in that derech. They pride themselves on their small student body (15-16 boys), which enables them to guide each one based on their unique personality, strengths, and weakness. The Rosh Yeshiva sits with each student once a month to review and fine tune his personal schedule. Personal growth through close relationships with the rebbeim both in and out of the beis midrash is the hallmark of this special yeshiva. For more information, please contact the Aish Tamid office.

We would like to thank an anonymous sponsor for a delicious sushi dinner this week. The boys really enjoyed the treat! If you would like to sponsor either a night or week of dinners in honor of a simcha or in memory of a loved one, please be in touch with us.

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

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