A Midrash on Parshas Tazriah:
It once happened that the evil Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, “which are the greater works, those of the Holy One Blessed is He, or those of flesh and blood?” He said to him, “Those of flesh and blood are greater.” Turnus Rufus said, “But the Heavens and Earth — is Man able to make such as those?” Rabbi Akiva said to him, “Don’t speak to me about something which is beyond Man, which he has no mastery over, rather speak of things which are found among people.” He said, “Why do you circumcise?” He replied, “I knew you were going to ask me about that, which is why I started by telling you that the works of Man are better than the works of the Holy One Blessed is He.” Rabbi Akiva brought him stalks [of grain] and loaves [of bread]. He said to him, “These are the works of the Holy One Blessed is He, and these are the works of Man.” He said, “Those are no better than the stalks.’ Turnus Rufus [then] said to him, “If He wants circumcision, why does the infant not emerge circumcised from his mother’s womb?” Rabbi Akiva said to him,”And why does his umbilical chord emerge with him, [so] he hangs from the belly, and his mother [has to] cut it? And this that you said ‘Why doesn’t he emerge circumcised?’, [the reason is] because the Holy One Blessed is He gave the Israel the commandments only in order to refine Israel through the commandments.
This Midrash shows us than no one is created perfect. Sometimes we wish that our students and children would conform to a certain mold, that their education would be smooth and perfect. Rabi Akiva is saying that physically we are incomplete, we have an umbilical chord, we must learn how to walk, communicate, eat (unlike the rest of nature that is born with natural survival instincts and don’t require much development). This reflects our internal selves as well, spiritually, our midos, personality and character traits. Our job is to complete ourselves, which involves struggle, making mistakes, learning and doing teshuva. The rest of nature is created by Hashem in perfection, because it is only a tool for us to use and enjoy. This is the essential difference: When we acknowledge our student’s/children’s challenges we can help them grow and mature, to reach their potential, what they were created for, and have the zechus to assist in that amazing process. If we are frustrated about their challenges and wish they can just learn/fit in better, be more respectful, pay attention, listen etc. we are saying to ourselves (hopefully) that we want them to fit our version and expectation of perfect. Again, anything perfect in this world is only a tool to work with, and sometimes unfortunately kids feel like they are only treated as a tool to fit their parents/teacher’s expectations of life.
Chazal tell us there are 3 partners in the creation of a human being: God, a father and mother. This creation we now know is unfinished and imperfect. It is the individual’s responsibility to finish the job. Hashem gives the individual tools and guidance, mitzvos, to reach this goal. Hashem is modeling for us, his partners, to likewise give our children the resources and support they need and the space to figure it out on their own, to become the fullest version of themselves. It is a huge honor to pratner with Hashem in this endeavor, and zechus assist jewish neshamas on this journey. May we be zocheh.
Shabbat Shalom, Have a Great Shabbos
Ari Deutscher MSW