As a community, we are in a process of rededicating ourselves to the vital Shlichus of Chinuch. In every area, educators are striving to go the extra mile – exemplifying what we can call “Chinuch with Heart.” The Rebbe taught us that this must be our approach to Chinuch, and that it applies to every member of our community, not only teachers.
What does Chinuch with Heart look like and what do our Rebbeim have to say about it?
- Chinuch is the call of the hour, a matter of “pikuach nefesh” as the Rebbe describes it (אג״ק, כרך יב, אגרת ד׳קצז). If someone has it in them to teach, this is not a time to explore other career options, because talented educators are so desperately needed. And if someone is not teaching material, there are so many other ways in which they can care about Chinuch, and act upon that caring.
- Chinuch is more than a job, and as a Shlichus, it has no bounds. As the Rebbe describes the role of an educator: “It is not enough to teach them for the number of hours he is required to do so, and afterwards to go rest… Rather, he must continue to toil and and remain invested in his students with all of his being.” (שיחת ליל ב’ דחג הפסח, תשי”ג)
- As Chassidim, we can give our students the most precious gift there is – a Chinuch with heart, a Chassidishe Chinuch! Chassidus, when taught authentically, injects life, warmth, and connection into our Yiddishkeit. As Chabad educators, we can give our students much more than information – we can give them a chayus in Yiddishkeit that will last forever.
- A teacher who cares goes the extra mile to ensure that students succeed. The Alter Rebbe teaches in Hilchos Talmud Torah that a melamed who is careful and meticulous to ensure that students are getting it right, is preferable to a teacher who moves quickly to cover more ground. And every student can succeed in learning, as the Rebbe emphasizes on many occasions.
- In the past, an educator’s role was limited to academics, but today, when outside influences are so strong, we can’t rely on the home environment for the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit. As the Rebbe writes, “In our time, and especially in our land, the school’s role is not only to enrich the students’ knowledge base in Torah and Yiddishkeit, but primarily to implant within them Yiras Shamayim, careful observance of Mitzvos, and, in general, the Jewish way of life.” (אג״ק, כרך יב, אגרת ד׳קצז)
- The Frierdiker Rebbe expands upon how much a teacher needs to care, because once he is involved in a student’s inner life, the potential for benefit, or for the opposite ch”v, is enormous. “When one teaches information, even if he is not effective, at least he does no damage. However, not so with education and guidance… in which if one does not cause improvement than one automatically does damage.” (מאמר כללי חינוך והדרכה, פרק ב)
- Chinuch with Heart means that the way in which a teacher cares for each child is a little bit different for each one. The Gemara (פסחים פ”י מ”ד) states that “l’fi da’ato shel ben, aviv melamdo” (a father should teach his son according to the son’s intellect). In The Educator’s Handbook, Rabbi Hodakov compares this to a doctor who must tailor his treatment to each patient and their specific needs.
- Educators who care also take every opportunity to learn and improve. “The suggestion to hold accelerated teacher training classes during summer vacation is very correct…” writes the Rebbe, “And it is certainly important to do this with great vigor.” (אגרות קדש חלק ח’ ע’ קסח) In this and many other sources, the Rebbe strongly encourages teachers to take part in teacher training (hishtalmus hamorim) in an appropriate setting.
- The bottom line is that Chinuch with Heart is successful Chinuch – we can only teach when we care. As the Rebbe writes to a Mechaneches, “The primary foundation is that… a special connection and relationship… is the most appropriate means for imbuing children with love of Hashem, and love of Torah and Mitzvos.” (אגרות קודש חי״ג ע׳ תכד)
- Ultimately, Chinuch is our number one priority. When Mr. and Mrs. Michoel Meir Goldhirsch wrote to the Rebbe of their desire to fund a Jewish children’s hospital, the Rebbe responded that they should rather give their Tzedakah money to Chinuch, which would prevent the need for a children’s hospital at all! This means that we must open our hearts to Chinuch, extending our material and spiritual resources to laying a rock-solid foundation for our future.
The Menachem Education Foundation has, for the past decade, striven to take these messages to heart and to support their attainment through our various programs. Our community, in turn has opened its heart to Chinuch time and again, making true Chinuch possible.