Nurturing Growth: The Transformative Power of Sensitivity and Constructive RebukeJul 18, 2023
By Rabbi Amichai Cohen
In a world seemingly saturated with disrespect and discord, there arises a pressing need to shift our focus towards fostering positive character traits that have the power to uplift and transform. From the realms of politics to our everyday social interactions and personal lives, we often witness a lack of courtesy that hinders progress and dampens the spirit of unity. However, amid these challenges lies a world of opportunities for growth and positive change.
However, in these challenging times, we are called to embark on a journey of self-reflection and growth that can make a remarkable difference.
We are in the time called "the three weeks," where we commemorate and aim to rectify the destruction of the Holy Temple.
The Temple was not solely destroyed due to external actions but stemmed from a decline in our inner qualities, what our Sages call "Sinat Chinam" -baseless hatred.
If the destruction of the Temple occurred because of baseless hatred, we would mend the destruction by nurturing baseless love.
The Power of Sensitivity
One of the major traits we must work on to nurture love is fostering sensitivity toward others. Loving your friend also means our spouse, child, student, and even ourselves.
In this article, we will learn a few of the lessons in education on sensitivity and constructive criticism from Moshe the greatest prophet and sensitive leader.
In (last week’s) Torah portion of Matot, Moshe sends the tribes to fight against Midian. The author of the Turei Zahav writes, "And the leaders did not go with them." Moshe did not send the leaders, who were the heads of the tribes and should have gone to the forefront of the warriors. Why?
The Turei Zahav answers, "So that the tribe of Shimon, whose prince was killed, would not be embarrassed." Shimon's prince was not innocent, as he was involved in a sin in the previous portion.
In order to prevent embarrassment for the people of his tribe, no other princes were sent to battle. This teaches us the importance of sensitivity to the emotions of others.
Every person needs to be appreciated, spoken to, and treated with respect, ensuring they are not insulted.
Even though the tribe of Shimon itself was not free from the wrongdoing of its prince, Moshe teaches a lesson in sensitivity to others.
How do we criticize with sensitivity?
In this week's Torah portion of Devarim, we witness a powerful (and rare) moment of rebuke delivered by Moshe to the Jewish people.
As the Israelites stand on the cusp of entering the land of Israel, Moshe seizes the opportunity to address their past transgressions and guide them toward spiritual renewal.
Why didn’t Moshe admonish the people for their mistakes (Golden calf, complaining about the Manna, the spies, to name a few) when they happened?
Life is a classroom.
One possible explanation is that Moshe exercised patience and restraint, allowing the people time to mature and learn from their own experiences. By allowing them to reflect on their actions and witness the consequences, he allowed them to understand better their mistakes and the importance of following God's commandments.
More importantly, Moshe allowed them the chance to "own their mistakes" and ultimately grow from their lessons on their own. The wisdom we learn "on our flesh" is the most potent, and their lessons are what catapult lasting and real change within us.
Another possible explanation is that Moshe taught us how to educate, parent, and communicate more effectively.
Let us explore the principles from Moshe's' approach of rebuke and sensitivity and apply them to our lives as parents and educators and how we speak to our "inner child."
1. Timing and Patience:
Moshe displayed patience and discernment in choosing the right moment to offer guidance. Similarly, when guiding our children, students, or ourselves, we must consider the appropriate timing to address issues and foster receptiveness. Patience allows for growth, understanding, and the readiness to embrace change.
2. Addressing Actions, Not Character:
Moshe focused on addressing specific actions rather than attacking the character of the Israelites. Similarly, it is essential to separate behavior from inherent worth when guiding our children or students. We create a nurturing environment that encourages growth and self-improvement by addressing actions rather than criticizing characters.
3. Emphasizing Lessons and Growth:
Moshe reminded the Israelites of the lessons embedded within their experiences. Similarly, we can guide our children, students, and ourselves by emphasizing the learning opportunities presented by challenges and mistakes. Encouraging reflection and growth helps us develop resilience and a growth mindset.
4. Providing Guidance and Support:
Despite his rebuke, Moshe's offered guidance and a path to redemption. Similarly, parents and educators should provide guidance and support while addressing shortcomings. Offering practical advice, resources, and a supportive presence helps our children and students navigate challenges and grow.
5. Cultivating Open Communication and Trust:
Moshe's approach fostered open communication and trust among the Israelites. Similarly, creating a safe and trusting environment for our children and students allows for honest and open conversations. By building trust, we encourage them to share their thoughts, concerns, and mistakes, which enables growth and deepens connections.
Moshe's constructive rebuke provides us with profound insights that can be applied to our roles as parents, educators, and individuals on our personal journeys. By considering timing, addressing actions, emphasizing growth, providing guidance and support, and cultivating open communication and trust, we can effectively guide our children, students, and ourselves toward personal growth, understanding, and spiritual development.
By embracing these principles, we can create nurturing environments that foster growth, strengthen our relationships, and cultivate a deeper connection with the divine within our educational and personal journeys.
May we all be blessed with the ability to become more sensitive toward others by learning the lessons of constructive criticism. May we merit the revelation of the Third Temple within our hearts and in our days!
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