The Right Approach
The philosophy of teaching is integral in Judaism. God revealed a text to us, so refining the ways we teach and learn are integral to our intellectual, moral and spiritual life. A famous passage from rabbinic literature goes so far as to demand that a teacher repeat a lesson hundreds of time if the student does not understand it. This mandate and priority is powerfully expressed in our Haggadah. My friend and teacher, Rabbi Aaron Panken (z”l) once taught that the description of the four children is a compelling portrayal of the needs of different learners. A wise student needs deeper engagement; the cynical student a message that breaks through skepticism; the more undeveloped student needs things broken down elementally; and the very young student requires an age appropriate lesson. In other words, our tradition insists that there are no “bad” students—only unsuccessful teachers who have not mastered multi-faceted approaches. More broadly, this insight also speaks to our polarized, ideologically fraught times. Perhaps the key to bridging the many divides that cleave our society depends upon each of us to devise creative approaches in speaking with others—particularly adversarial others—in ways that can reach them “where they are.”
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Pesach.
-Rabbi Daniel Weiner