Inspiring Our Students in Their Relationship with Hashem
These notes are from a farbrengen with Mrs. Mushky Zaltzman. To request the full farbrengen recording, please email [email protected] (recording is for women only).
Hayom Yom1כ”ג אייר teaches us that the beginning of a spiritual descent ch”v is when a person’s Tefilla becomes cold and lackluster. How much more so must this be true in the positive, that the first step to growth in one’s Yiddishkeit is putting effort into Avodas HaTefilla!
The biggest question that educators ask today is how we can foster our students’ Yiras Shamayim. While there is no magic wand, I have seen so many students profoundly impacted when they started to put effort into Davening. To help you bring this kind of impact into your classroom, here are the 4 Ps that you can think about when teaching Tefilla:
Our children need to see that Tefilla is our number one priority, and actions speak louder than words.
What we do during davening time sends them the message about how we value Tefilla. Is it a downtime to grab a coffee or mark our tests? Do we allow students to make up work during davening? When there is a trip or special program, do we tell students to daven at home?
In my classroom, Tefilla is the most important thing in the world. We will first have a beautiful davening, and then go on our trip. My students know they can never take a test that they missed during davening. And all the school therapists and pull-out staff know that they can’t take a girl out during davening – nor during its Hachana, for that matter.
Another P we can include in Prioritize is Present, for the teacher to be fully present during Tefilla. Some teachers want to daven together with their students. For me, I find that being present means not davening, but circulating the room, actively supervising, and providing words of encouragement as needed. My students daven better when they know that the teacher is watching. Depending on the class, once a month or several times a year I will make the point to daven with my students as a special shared experience, but not on a regular basis.
Preparation for Tefilla is a must – this is one of the Yesodos of Chassidus. You can’t expect students to rush in from the bus and the rest of their lives and just dive into davening. There are so many different ways to prepare, and it can only take five minutes.
One way I love to prepare my students for davening is through stories. The Rebbe instructed several teachers to give over stories of Chassidim to their students.
My father, Rabbi Shimon Raichik a”h, taught that in addition to telling stories of the Rebbeim, we should also emphasize stories of Chassidim, because these we can relate to! There are so many stories available, and I often pull stories from Chabad.org. I don’t have a set book or curriculum for stories; if a story inspires me, I share it with my students. I have really seen the impact that stories can have.
Sometimes we do this in a journal. When I explain it to them, I share that of course we can always thank Hashem for giving us life, and we can always ask Hashem to send us Moshiach! But let’s try to make it personal and think of something different each day.
I also share with them a collection of thoughts that they can keep in mind during Tefilla (Thoughts to Concentrate on during Davening). We have done creative projects with these thoughts, where students got canvases and got to express one of them in a painting, yielding our beautiful and inspiring Tefilla wall.
Another aspect of personalizing is emphasizing Hashgacha Pratis, training students to see Hashem in their lives, in whatever big or small ways, and share. Acustoming students to see Hashem, to say Baruch Hashem, is what makes their relationship with Hashem more personal, and this impacts their davening as well.
A big part of this is highlighting that their Tefillos make a difference, especially when we see it. Sometimes different girls can set the Kavan for the whole class – this person needs a Shidduch, or that person needs a baby – and we all daven for the same person. This really makes it personal.
Of all the things I do to teach Tefilla, giving prizes is the part that teachers question the most. Based on the famous Sicha of the Rebbe on Parshas Vayeira, that children today want to see Hashem and have intrinsic motivation to connect to Him, many teachers do away with external incentives. At the same time, in Klalei Chinuch V’hadracha we see that it is the nature of a human being to yearn for praise and reward (Perek Yud Zayin). The prizes and rewards will help students elevate their davening, so that they can then get to the point of intrinsic motivation.
There are different kinds of rewards, based on different ages and stages. For some, it’s a physical reward. For my 7th graders, it is often a smoothie or a class party. In my child’s class, the prize is to complete one level and then attain a new level in Tefilla – just the sense of accomplishment, of coloring in the full row and reaching the next color, is the reward itself. Every teacher knows what works for their class.
However, the prizes only work if they come after the other 3 Ps. The students do not daven for the prize, they just help them along their Tefilla journey.
As for how they can earn their rewards, the Rebbe emphasizes the importance of looking inside and pointing in the Siddur. There are also the basic Halachos of Tefilla, and not communicating with others during davening. Going back to the third P, students have also had the opportunity to personalize their goals and how to earn their reward. When a student was going through a hard time at home and I saw her Tefilla suffer, I asked her what she felt a reasonable goal would be. She said that all she needed was three freebies per month. With that modification, she was able to get back on track, and didn’t even need to use those freebies after all.
The Shelah Hakadosh explains the Posuk זה קלי ואנוהו, אלקי אבי וארוממנהו 2שמות: ט״ו:ב If Hashem is Keili, my personal Hashem, and I have a relationship, then I will be able to praise Him. But if He is the Hashem of my fathers, and I have not made this relationship personal, then all we can do is exalt Him from afar. Thus, our goal as teachers is to help our students personalize their relationship with Hashem, and we can achieve this through Tefilla. May we be zoche to achieve this and see Chassidishe Nachas from all of our Talmidim and Talmidos!
Dedicated to her talmidos and passionate about the Rebbe’s inyonim, Mrs. Mushky Zaltzman is committed to her Shlichus in Chinuch. Known for her genuine compassion and depth of understanding, Mushky is the creator of the “Link By Link” Junior High Program. Mushky’s dynamic workshops and classes reflect the empowering Chassidishe Chinuch she received from her esteemed parents, Rabbi Shimon a”h and yblc”t Mrs. Chana Liba Raichik. Formerly of California, Mushky is now a 7th grade teacher in Bais Chaya Mushka, Toronto.
- 1כ”ג אייר
- 2שמות: ט״ו:ב