A child's character education should take priority
over his academic education. All educational efforts are basically
meaningless unless built on the solid foundation of good character
-- The Rebbe
A couple visited a rabbi to seek advice about how to educate
their twelve-year-old son. The rabbi answered them: You
have come to me twelve years too late. A human being is like
a tree. If you make a scratch on the branch of a full-grown
tree, you affect only that branch. But if you make even a
minuscule scratch on a seed, the tree will never grow straight,
if it grows at all.
What is the real meaning of education?
If there is one single factor within our control that can
directly determine who we are as people, it is education.
There is only one way to produce healthy and wholesome adults,
people who will lead selfless and meaningful lives, and that
is to educate our children.
Education is not just learning the skills to make a living;
it is learning to understand life itself. Life is the recognition
of G-d and the mission that He, G-d has charged us with --
refining ourselves and sanctifying our world.
Imparting information is but a small and rather simple component
of education. A true education -- an education for life --
consists of teaching children that they have an uncompromising
responsibility to G-d to live morally and ethically, which
will sustain them individually and create a better world for
their children and for generations to come.
How should we educate?
The question of how to educate is really the same as asking,
How should we communicate? How should we do business? How
should we live?
The answer is always the same: through love. Without love,
education is at best incomplete and at worst, destructive.
Love means sensitivity -- not to your ideas and your
standards, but to your students and, most important,
to G-ds. Once young people grow familiar with an existence
that is greater than themselves and acquire an aptitude and
intellectual taste for the spiritual, they become attuned
to their purpose in life. They become children who relate
to their parents with respect and affection. Children who
will not take property that doesnt belong to them. Children
who reach out to help other people, and are generous with
their time and love.
How should this generation be educated?
Because a child is impressionable, he will be impressed by
whatever is around him. Today, there are more obstacles
than ever -- television, crime, the lure of drugs -- to a
proper education. And after fighting through all these distractions,
there is precious little time and energy left to cultivate
our childrens souls. It is not enough to pat your daughter
and son on the head and send them off to school; education
is an around-the-clock duty. We must be as vigilant as when
the child was a newborn -- always on the alert, always ready
to serve the childs spiritual needs.
Without the acceptance that morality is derived from G-d,
morality -- and, therefore, education -- is guided by nothing
more than human whim and conscience. History has shown us
that a society can be extremely well educated and yet, if
not guided by G-ds precepts, it may be steeped in immorality
So a system of morally sound education is one of the primary
responsibilities of society. While there must be a certain
group of people whose primary responsibility is to implement
education, each member of society must take an active role.
For parents of young children especially, the responsibility
is clear. Think how disturbed we would be to learn about a
parent who had a sick child, but refused to take the child
to a doctor. If that is the case for the childs body,
shouldnt we feel the same concern for a childs
mind, for his soul?
Ensure that your child receives a moral education. Enroll
your son or daughter in a school that puts emphasis on character
development and morality, based on the principles that this
country is founded on: In G-d we Trust.
As adults we should not project unto our children our own
skepticism and doubts. Remember, it is children who can best
relate to the simplicity and magic the essence of G-d
We must look at our children and tell ourselves again and
again: Here is a fertile soul, an open heart and mind, that
I have been given by G-d to nurture and teach. This childs
life will affect many others, and I must teach him as best
as I can.
This is an excerpt from Toward a Meaningful Life
The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.
Available at our Online