All I Want is That They Should Be Kind: Torah Lessons from Harvard School of Education

October 24, 2012

Source: The Avi Chai Blog


Rabbi Gil Perl, head of school at Margolin Hebrew Academy / Feinstone Yeshiva of the South, writes about some of what he learned at the Harvard University’s Independent Schools Institute (ISI), a 3.5 day seminar which he attended along with six other veteran Jewish day school leaders under the sponsorship of the AVI CHAI Foundation. He reflects on a presentation by Professor Richard Weissbourd, a child and family psychologist of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.


Perl writes that Weissbourd's research has consistently concluded that more dangerous to our children than TV, video games, or the internet is today’s unprecedented focus on the achievement and happiness of our children. Weissbourd notes that there is no research to support the notion that people who feel good about themselves tend to do good for others or that those with poor self-image act poorly toward others. In fact, if there is a correlation between being happy and being good it works in the reverse. Being good often leads to being happy.


These observations brought Perl to recall that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks maintains that at its core, the Torah is all about relationships: our relationship with G-d, our relationship to the Jewish people, and our relationship to mankind.


Rabbi Perl concludes:

"So if happiness is to be found in caring relationships, and caring relationships are the foundation of Torah, then thanks to Professor Weissbourd, with some help from Rabbi Sacks, I walked away from that session in the Harvard Ed School with a more profound understanding of the pasuk in Mishlei which we say each and every time we put the Torah away: “Deracheha darchei noam vi-chol netivoteha shalom,” “The Torah’s ways are ways of pleasantness and its paths are paths of peace.” The Torah demands of us that we be good. And if and when we are, we’ll come to appreciate what pleasantness, happiness, and peace of mind truly are."


Read the entire post at the AVI CHAI blog

Updated: Nov. 04, 2012