Friday, August 13, 2021

The Greatest Educator

As schools around the world go back into session, it is once again time to appreciate the tireless efforts of all the educators that pour their sweat and blood into the infrastructure that not only teaches our children but provides them a platform to succeed in the future. The teachers make great sacrifices to educate the children thus giving them the tools to succeed in the future. The dedication of the teachers and educators is evident all the time but especially during COVID. There have been many protocols that teachers have had to adopt to ensure a safe environment for teaching and learning despite the pandemic. The pandemic has triggered all sorts of emotions from every sector and our educators have been in the front line in receiving all sorts of feedback that has not always been positive. It is for this reason and more that it is important for all of us to be so appreciative of all the efforts that teachers and administrators make during this fragile era. I think we should be mindful of this regardless of whether we have children in a particular school or even have children that are still of school age. It’s important to acknowledge all of the efforts of our teachers and administrator. The impact that a teacher or mentor can sometimes surpass the lifetime and generation of the individual. One such impactful figure whose influence is felt all over the world in many Orthodox Jewish schools today has been Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (1849-1927) in a small town in Lithuania called Slabodka. He was also known by his Yiddish nickname as the Alter (elder) of Slabodka. He was a modest unassuming man that arguably had one of the most profound influences in the Jewish world during the last century. Many of his students went on to start their own educational institutions in the U.S.A., Europe and Israel. These students in turn went on to have many more students that became great leaders and opened even more schools and yeshivas to further influence our generation today. What was the secret sauce of the Alter that allowed his influence to flourish all over the world nearly a century after his passing? The foundation of the Alter’s educational philosophy was the Greatness of Man. He emphasized to his students that Man has unlimited potential as we were created in the image of G-d. This message was very empowering and refreshing for his students. They felt they were freed from the shackles of mediocrity and went on to achieve outstanding results. When a student feels that he or she can make an unparalleled contribution, this motivates the student to conquer plateaus that were previously thought unimaginable. The Alter lived the motto of good leaders create followers but great leaders create leaders. As I so look forward to watching the children making their way back into their classrooms and feel so indebted to their teacher for inculcating them with this empowering philosophy, I also muse about the sage from a small village in Lithuania who created this movement. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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