Rabbi Messing's Remarks at Banquet

Speech delivered by Rabbi Marc Messing on June 19, 2016, at Yeshivas Toras Chaim Annual Dinner, Baltimore, Maryland

Rabbi Yehuda bar Shimon brings a mashal, a parable, a story to make an important point. He
relates that a master craftsman was busy at work creating an atara, a crown, for a melech, a king. He
was well aware that he was making THE crown for the king, and therefore it had to be exceptional.
A passerby noticed the craftsman busily at work and asked what he was doing. When told about the important project of making an atara for the melech, the passerby advised, “Be sure to put in as many diamonds, rubies and other precious jewels as possible; continuously shine and polish them, so when the king wears this shining crown, he will rejoice in its splendor. Spare no effort or expense!”
The midrash goes on to explain the point of Rabbi Yehuda bar Simon’s mashal. This is what HaShem, G-d, said to Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our teacher. “Whatever you can do to praise and exalt klal yisrael, the Jewish people, do so.   Bring out their splendor, because they are My crown.”
Rabbi Avraham Pam says that this midrash is the cornerstone of chinuch, Jewish education, and the raison d’etre of the life of a mechanech, a Torah teacher. The purpose of a mechanech is to bring out the beauty and splendor of each child, to polish these diamonds until they shine. This lofty goal is accomplished by drawing out the inner beauty embedded in their neshamos, their souls.
Each talmid, student, is endowed by HaShem with unique abilities and potential. A teacher must focus on these qualities so that they come to the surface. This is what is meant by chanoch l’naar al pi darko, teach the child according to HIS abilities, HIS potential, how HE learns.
Teaching the child and not just the subject can only be done by stressing the positive. After all, no child is perfect, and neither is the teacher, but criticism and negativity, and stressing shortcomings and faults, destroys the child’s potential - turns him off – destroys his chance to become a diamond in HaShem’s crown.
Building the Mishkan, the sanctuary in the desert where G-d’s presence would be palpable, tangible, was done by a generation of slaves used to heavy labor. They had never had an opportunity in Egypt to use any potential artisan skills which lay dormant within them.  That is why, according to the Ramban, Moshe had to be the one to speak to the wise-hearted people who had this latent potential:
V’atah tedaber el kol chachmay lev asher milaysiv ruach chochma.
It was Moshe Rabbeinu, our best and most successful mechanech, teacher, who could and would inspire those gifted people so that their wisdom and skills would emerge from deep within. Sure, these people had to have been imbued by HaShem with incredible talent, but someone had to activate that talent, to make them aware of the inner potential they possessed. Someone had to stimulate their creativity, had to motivate their minds, so that the rough diamonds they truly were could shine and come forth.
How is this done? Only by the mechanech discovering and stressing and cultivating the positive in each individual student - PRAISING each student -  THAT is how one builds self-esteem which leads to success.
But success and failure is not determined by praise and criticism alone. Praise must not be too generalized but rather specific to the deed.  Praise cannot be overblown or else the child knows, when he is not that great, that the praise is not real. And people react differently to praise; it needs to be tailored to the individual student.
And the mechanech must know each individual student, what makes him tick, what gifts he has been given by HaShem that need to be drawn out, that need to be brought to the surface so that the diamonds in the ruff can become polished jewels in HaShem’s crown.
THAT’s what we do here at Yeshivas Toras Chaim. It is true that we have had twenty-eight students (all from Baltimore) this year, more than double last year, but what we really have are twenty-eight individuals, each with his own strengths and waiting for the inspiration to help bring out HIS latent potentials, to make HIM aware of his unique abilities, to make HIM shine with a positive self-image as he masters skills he will G-d-willing use for the rest of his life.
And that is why I agreed to be honored this evening. I so strongly believe in the mission of this school, in the phenomenal rebbeim and teachers who help actualize this mission, and in each one of my students’ ability to succeed in this nurturing environment, that I HAD to do everything in my power to assure Yeshivas Toras Chaim’s continued success.
And this continued success is why Yeshivas Toras Chaim deserves your support. Thank you all for helping assure this success in the future.