by Tzuri Hason –
This article was initially published in Hebrew on Jeducation World.
There is a famous parable that “those who return” like to tell in order to give a different perspective on the difficult questions people have about God’s leadership in the world and how bad things happen to good or innocent people, showing that we might understand the good that happens. The parable describes a person who comes from an isolated tribe into an operating room and sees the surgeon cutting his friend with a scalpel and taking out a lot of blood. The same man is very upset to see that this is how they mistreat his friend and wants to go and save him from the people in the white robes who abuse him without injustice. The man manages to relax only slightly, after it is explained that the process his friend was going through was a medical move, and this process was designed to help his friend feel better. For those of us who grew up in a Western world and know the implications of surgery and the process that the person in the operating room undergoes, we understand that sometimes pain or injury to a particular organ is important to the success of a process designed to heal the entire person.
This was just one example of how our personal perspective, which includes our culture, the past and the set of values we have, affects how we perceive the reality before us. It also shows that as a result of lack of information about a certain reality we can reach a very definite conclusion that can be very wrong. Such a conclusion might drag us into action, which we will probably regret sooner or later.
Fortunately for most of us, through our life experience, we have learned the fact that things are not always as they appear and there are different interpretations of the same reality. Also, we generally do not hold all the information about the same reality. The problem is that the audience we work with, children and especially teenagers, lack this ability and tend to make very hasty decisions based on a very shaky factual basis. In addition, it is usually quite difficult to make them change their perception of a certain occurrence after they have settled their minds on it. Most people develop the ability to take a step back and try to look at things in another prescriptive experience, which takes a few good years to accumulate, which is missing for those boys and girls and as we have seen it does not promise anything either.
In parshat Shelah, we are told of twelve people who were not ordinary people. Each one was the president of a clan that had grown up and seen a thing or two in his life, and yet, despite all this 10 of them came to a very determined decision based on the interpretation they had of reality, despite the fact that they were not exposed to all the information about what they saw nor what actions were meant to be taken. The decision they reached affected the fate of an entire people, and their main mistake was that they came to their decision without considering the fact that they had something to refer to that cannot necessarily be logical. The point that they forgot by most commentators was the point of belief in the power of God. Because if they put the point of faith into their totality, they would probably have reached a different result.
Perhaps from the sad story of the spies and the tragic results that accompanied it, we can learn how to solve a problem we have about teaching teenagers. We can teach them a way to help them avoid jumping to conclusions and from being judgmental. This is very important for them and can help them avoid difficult situations for themselves and others, especially socially. We can share our own experience. What we can do is to instill in them a kind of moral compass that is higher than one consideration or another, so that, at a time when they will have to make a difficult decision, they will be able to act in good judgment. This kind of moral compass is the belief in the power of the Lord that was lacking in the spies who cast the land. A moral compass that says that, with all our suspicions and the fact that there are terrible cases we hear all the time, usually people are basically good and do not want to hurt other people for no reason. This could have helped that remote member of the tribe from the parable that I brought at first if he knew not to jump to conclusions and interfere with his friend’s analysis. So, maybe, when we have situations like a girl catching a classmate touch equipment that is not hers, she will not automatically go to tell everyone else in a Whatsapp group, but rather she will take a few breaths and examine the details in depth.
Tzuri Hason is Jeducation World’s Hebrew-speaking Jeducation Representative. Tzuri has worked in a variety of teaching positions throughout Israel and the United States.