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February 20, 2015

Becoming passionate

by Rabbi Dovid Felt

I was reading an article this week entitled “Passion takes a teacher from being merely good to great” written by Adrian Furnham for The London Telegraph. In it he argues, “Teachers can, and do, change lives. They can light candles in the darkest mind. They can mold beliefs and behaviors, setting an example to follow. They can determine choice of university and degree course. They can have a direct impact on careers”. He then asks, “So what makes an inspirational teacher? First, there is the enthusiasm, even passion, for their subject. They show the thrill and pleasure of acquiring skills and knowledge in a particular area. And they are able to communicate this. Indeed they cannot hide it. You can’t easily fake passion – or at least not over a sustained period. All great teachers are passionate”.

This idea is alluded to us in this weeks parsha when the Torah drops the letter “yud” in the word Nessiim. This weeks parsha talks about the different items donated for the building of the Mishkan. The Torah lists the “Avnei Shoam and Avnei Miluim” the precious stones that adorned the Eiphod, last. These stones were the most valuable and expensive items donated to the Mishkan, nevertheless, they are mentioned last, as insignificant, because of how they got there.

The commentaries explain that the Nessim, who brought them, had declared that they will provide anything that was needed that the Bnei Yisroel didn’t bring. The Torah tells us that the Bnei Yisroel’s response to provide material for the Mishkon was overwhelming and the only thing that remained missing were the Anei Shoam and Avnei Miluim. While the Nesiim’s intentions was justifiable and one could argue even noble, they were still called to task for it.

Rashi tells us that the flaw in their reasoning was it demonstrated a lack of enthusiasm and passion to have a part in the building of the Mishkan. Rashi commenting on the missing Vav in their name says, that since they were lazy (we will discuss “lazy” in a future blog) the Torah dropped a letter from the word Nesiim. R’ Chaim Shmulevitz explains that the laziness they displayed stemmed from a lack of altruism which stemmed from them not valuing the cause. R’ Chaim says if the Nessim would have been passionate about giving to the Mishkan, then even though they had a good reason for holding back their gift (So they can give whatever was missing) they would have not been able to, they would not have been able to sit idly and wait until after the Bnei Yisroel had finished giving their donations. The Nesiim as leaders failed their people by not modeling and promoting a passion for Torah and Mitzvos and as a result their gift was relegated to the bottom of the list.

Mr. Furnham at the end of his article highlights something we as parents can take away. He asks “And why are inspirational teachers the way they are? Intelligence, knowledge, a variety of skills or all of the above. But most say they became teachers or lecturers because they themselves had an inspirational teacher. So it’s not genetic… but it certainly is passed on”. This is what we as parents can pass on to our children – we have to become passionate about living a life as a Torah Jew and with Hashem’s help we will then be able to pass that on to our children.

Felt Tips

If you want your children to do something that is not so natural for them to do you need to show them how to do it? The most effective way to show them is for you to become passionate about it. Find areas that you can become passionate about and display that enthusiasm. It is contagious. Lets take Teffilah an area that is extremely difficult for most teenagers – if we as parents show some passion for it can spread it to our children. Look for a part of davening that talks to you, that is meaningful to you and talk about it, let it spill out of your mouth as if you can’t control your excitement about it- If we can do that, our children will be able to too.

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