By Braha Bender
No human being is alike. Your personality is a million times more unique than your fingerprint. Every child is a precious diamond, and no diamond can be cut exactly the same.
For teachers and parents, this fact isn’t just something to bear in mind. It is the bottom line of what teaching and parenting are all about.
Parashas Pinchas sees Moshe (Moses), the great leader of the Jewish People, preparing to conclude his life. As the Almighty lets Moshe know that his time is coming, Moshe’s very first words are, “May Hashem, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly…and let the assembly of Hashem not be like sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers-Bamidbar 27:16-17)
If someone else was personally informed by God that he was about to die, would he respond that way? Moshe’s profound love for his nation shines through like a thunderous wave of light. Even in the face of his own death, the wellbeing of his people was his first and foremost concern.
“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun (Joshua), a man in whom there is spirit, and lean your hand upon him.’” (ibid 18) Rashi explains, “For he will be able to guide corresponding to the spirit of each individual one”.
This was the divine educational priority. Not being a good disciplinarian. Not being a creative thinker. Not having a big heart. Not even extraordinary intelligence. These skills and more only become useful once the bottom line is secured: guiding children and students in correspondence with each of their unique, individual spirits.
For example, a big heart is wonderful, but you can’t love each child the same way. That’s not love. That’s a factory. You can’t discipline each child the same way. You can’t be the same parent to each child because each child needs you to be a different parent. Each of your individual children need you to be their parent, the one you were uniquely created to be. As unique as the child or student is, so must your relationship with them as an educator be unique.
This isn’t easy. It’s much easier to grab a heap of diamonds and put them through a cookie-cutter machine where every gem produced is a uniform size and shape. But anyone could tell you that this is an almost horrifying waste of resources. In today’s diamond industry, the process of planning how to cut each rough stone includes scanning them with computerized devices to achieve a three dimensional view of all aspects of the diamond. This digital image is analyzed for a long list of factors, all of which influence planning for how the stone will be processed, cut, and finally polished to a brilliant finish.
Can you imagine how our children would turn out if schools and other institutions put half as much effort into analyzing them? It’s easy to blame schools, but do we as parents live up to these standards? We cut our diamonds – shape our children and students – with every word we say and every move we make.
Every human being is infinitely more unique, more rare, and more precious than any diamond. Since time immemorial, the Jewish priority has been to love and guide our children and students for who they are, each nothing less than an entirely unique expression of God.