To The Hopeless Teacher



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    Shifra Vepua

    To The Hopeless Teacher

    Question: I’m an educator and I think that I am pretty talented and dedicated. What inspires me is the difference that I can make in my students every year. Recently, I have noticed that most teachers are not so dedicated to their students, and there are so many real problems in the world and that made me start thinking that perhaps my investment does not really have a real impact. That has made me depressed and emotionally drained. I know this is not the way it should be and I need help. Rabbi Gershon Avtzon responds in this week’s Chinuch and Moshiach column • Full Article

    Question: I’m an educator and I think that I am pretty talented and dedicated. What inspires me is the difference that I can make in my students every year. Recently, I have noticed that most teachers are not so dedicated to their students, and there are so many real problems in the world and that made me start thinking that perhaps my investment does not really have a real impact. That has made me depressed and emotionally drained. I know this is not the way it should be and I need help.

    Answer: Thank you for reaching out. There is much to “unpack” from your question, and it could have wide-ranging ramifications, so I will try to divide it into a few general categories. (A) The importance of focusing on what you need to do and not on what others are not doing. (B) Not allowing yourself to fall victim to depression and hopelessness. (C) How to rationally explain to yourself that the things which are causing depression should not be.

    No Time Now To Feel Drained…

    (1) In 5718 (1958), Rabbi Boruch Litvin from Massachusetts wrote to the Rebbe bemoaning the sad state of affairs of Jewish education in America and that he was getting emotionally exhausted from dealing with it. The Rebbe wrote a very strong response:

    “..All of the complaints (about what others are not doing), do not absolve a person from the obligations that they themselves must do… On the contrary: the fact that you noticed that the other person’s work is not being done could be a sign that you should be investing more and in addition to doing your work, try to also do what the other is not doing…”

    “In regards to what you write of being  too exhausted and worn out from your work: I have already written to another person that now is not the time for such attitudes. When things are calm (i.e., we can take leisure trips, read the newspapers) then you can indulge in the luxury of being drained and thus refrain from working. In America today, where most of the Jewish people live, there is no time for this attitude. 

    Hashem Gives Energy & Abilities

    “To your question of where you will have the energy and ability to continue working, the answer is simple: For everything that Hashem demands from you, He gives you the ability to accomplish it. The difference is that sometimes that energy and abilities are given before the person begins accomplishing the task, and sometimes it is only given when the person actually begins attempting to accomplish the task…” (Igros, Vol. 21 p. 378; #8136).

    “Just Figments Of Your Imagination”

    2) “With regard to the fundamental aspect of your letter, namely, that you lament your situation and circumstance, that you feel broken, and, at times, fall into despair, and that you can’t find a place for yourself and so on, and would therefore like to meet with me so that we can speak things over face to face: It is a good thing for two good friends to meet, and doing so brings about an elevation of spirits for both. Nevertheless, which of us could bear postponing dealing with the issue until then, while you [presently] find yourself in a situation of despair, Heaven forbid?”

    “You do not describe the factor that brings you to such an emotional state. Therefore I can’t analyze the particulars and show that these reasons are just figments of [your] imagination that have their source in the yetzer hara. My intent is that even if the factor has a certain element of truth in it, designating it as a reason for despair and fallen spirits is erroneous; it is a trick of the yetzer. My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, would call the yetzer “the clever one” because it approaches everyone with words that he will heed…

    Things Destined for Today Must be Done Today

    “With regard to actual conduct, you must know that you are one of the members of the congregation of Chassidim. As a natural consequence, you are bonded with the Tree of Life.The nature of this bond is reflected in the verse: “And you who are clinging to G‑d your L‑rd are all alive today.” In the kuntres published for Beis Nissan, the Rebbe cites our Sages’ statement: ‘Even on the day when the entire world will die, you are alive. And just as you are alive today, all of you will also be alive in the World to Come.’ Thus you have a personal promise from our Sages that ‘you are all alive today and will also be alive in the World to Come.’”

    “As a result, we must observe mitzvos with the fear of G‑d, and you should use your time G‑d-given talents to advance the fear of G‑d. These are among the things that we cannot postpone until the following day, because on the following day, we will have to do those things destined for tomorrow. Thus the things destined for today must be done today. In order to do everything [asked of one], one must know that all obstacles are the counsels of the yetzer hara. One must bring his faith into his intellect (mind) and feeling (heart) and in actual practice in thought, speech, and deed. When you apply yourself to the above, even if it will appear to you that you can only make an opening the size of the eye of a needle, G‑d will grant you success and make the opening as large as that to the Entrance Hall of the Beis HaMikdash.” (Igros, Vol. 4 p. 222-224; #956).

    To be continued…

    92

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