Parshas Tzav

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

Last week we learned about King Agrippas, who was told in a dream that the poor man’s simple offering was considered greater than his thousand. Hashem values the process and effort that led to a mitzvah more than the actual resultant mitzvah.

This idea has a number of applications in life; one important application is in the realm of chinuch, child development. A number of Torahbased mechanchim stress that it is recommended to praise effort as opposed to natural ability. The Midrash here teaches us that a fundamental reason for this is that natural ability that leads to good results does not make a person worthy of praise, since that is a G-d given gift, whereas effort is deserving of praise because one does have free will as to how much effort he exerts.

In Dr. Carol Douek’s research on growth mindset, a number of studies in the academic world show how there are also practical benefits to praising a person’s efforts over his achievements. Researchers found that children reacted very differently depending on the kind of praise they received. One surprising result was that praising innate ability
could actually later lead to feelings of inadequacy. In one study, children were given moderately difficult problems to solve. When each child was finished, he was told, “Wow,
you did really well on these problems. You got a really high score.” In addition, each child received one of three treatments. He was either praised for his intelligence (“You must be smart at these problems”), praised for his effort (“You must have worked hard at these problems”), or not given any additional praise (this was the control group). When they were given a second set of problems – which were very difficult – the children who had been praised for their intelligence blamed their doing poorly due to a lack of intelligence. Those initially praised for their effort attributed their failure to a lack of effort. Children who were praised for their intelligence tended to avoid challenges because by undertaking
them they were liable to feeling inadequate were they to fail. And when they did fail, they were more likely to perform poorly after that failure. They were also more interested in being better than other children rather than trying to better themselves. Children praised for their effort actually preferred tasks that were challenging so that they could improve themselves; and failure did not have such a damaging effect on their future performance.

We have seen that the humble Minchah offering of the poor person is of great value in Hashem’s eyes because of the effort involved, and how in general, stress on effort is far more successful in helping educate children and students. May we all merit to learn and integrate these vital lessons into our lives as parents and educators.

I am sure we can all find much to praise our children for in the weeks before Pesach, as we encourage them to help with the cleaning, babysitting, cooking, or the myriad other tasks that assist us in preparing for Pesach.

Good Shabbos, and best wishes for a chag kosher v’somayach.

Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman