Take to Heart: The Child’s Potential

Ilana Duban, Issaquah, Washington
Essays 2018

MyLife Essay Contest 2018

Resilience and curiosity are two of the many qualities that come to mind when thinking of children. They are always full of vitality and energy. Observe a child from birth; after leaving a warm and comfortable home they are forced to enter a cold dark world. Yet, they strive to understand their surroundings, the people they meet, and the various smells they encounter. As Dr. Maria Montessori taught, “The goal of  education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” We often forget the leaps and  bounds that children grow; some learn walk, talk, and even read before they start school [1].

How do we implement these qualities in or out of the classroom? Lets clarify that the classroom isn’t the only place to learn a lesson in life. One of The Baal Shem Tov’s cardinal teaching was that one should  learn something from everything he sees and hears [2]. There’s a well known saying that children will  follow by way of example. Our obligation is to motivate and help our children reveal their true nature by  educating them according to their specific needs. We shouldn’t teach them how we want them to learn, but rather how they will accept it.

Inner child

The Lubavitcher Rebbe shared a fascinating discourse about the uniqueness of children and their great  potential. The Medrash tells us, “when did the exile begin?” First, the High Court, who were the eldest,  most proficient in Torah, and leaders of the Jewish people, were exiled. Yet despite that, G-d’s presence  still remained in Jerusalem and in the Holy Temple. The Rebbe went on to explain that even when the officials were exiled, G-d’s presence still remained. However, when the children were ‘banished before  the enemy’, when the young students, were sent into exile, then G-d Himself went along with them into  exile. We see clearly that as long as Jewish children maintain their passion for Judaism in the metaphoric Jerusalem, true exile cannot begin. What is the metaphoric Jerusalem? This simply means to pave a path wherever you go in life with goodness and kindness. G-d’s presence remained until that point because the children remain in Jerusalem; it only depends on the children not being exiled. Hence, first and foremost it is imperative that we recognize the great and lofty potential that our dear children carry. This is an empowering message about the uniqueness of Children. Children are our future, without them we cannot build, grow, and blossom into a great nation [3].

In addition, the Jewish Children are our guarantors as it was brought down in the Talmud. Rabbi Meir said: When the Jews stood before Sinai to receive the Torah, G‑d said to them: “I swear, I will not give you the Torah unless you provide worthy guarantors who will assure that you will observe its laws.” The Jews responded, “Master of the world, our forefathers will be our guarantors!”

“Your guarantors themselves require guarantors!” was G‑d’s reply. “Master of the world,” the Jews exclaimed, “our prophets will guarantee our observance of the Torah.” “I have grievances against them, too. ‘The shepherds have rebelled against Me’ (Jeremiah 2:8),” G‑d replied. “Bring proper guarantors  and only then will I give you the Torah.” As a last resort, the Jews declared, “our children will serve as our guarantors!” “They truly are worthy guarantors,” G‑d replied. “Because of them I will give the Torah.”[4].

On the surface, one may be shocked that our children could be our guarantors over the spiritual leaders of our people. After digging a little deeper there are many fascinating traits found in children that we must take to heart. Acceptance that the information being told over is true, courage to ask more, and the special innocence is truly some of the best traits for anyone to have. It is the inner child which we should bring out and be proud of. We should never put out that fire and excitement. Let your inner child  speak. It has a lot to say and to offer.

1. The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori
2. The Baal Shem Tov
3. Likutei Sichos
4. Midrash Rabba, Song of Songs 1:4