Olami Resources is happy to present the second in a series of free installments featuring Rabbi Dr. Yosef Lynn’s and Rabbi Jack Cohen’s important new book, Nurture Their Nature. Rabbi Lynn serves asMashgiach at Machon Yaakov, Jerusalem and Rabbi Cohen is Director of Education for OLAMI, North America. The sefer is predominantly a synthesis of Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld’s Torah on individuality and self-esteem in Jewish education.

This week we are featuring Chapter 10, Drawing from Our Deepest Source of StrengthOver the next few weeks, we will publish two additional chapters. Our sincere thanks to the authors for sharing their publication with the rabbis and educators subscribed to OlamiResources.com. Purchase a copy of Nurture Their Nature.


Drawing from Our Deepest Source of Strength

The following discourse by Rav Eliyahu Dessler is in many ways the “crown jewel” of this book. In order to absorb its impact, we must appreciate the context. Rav Dessler’s educational philosophy came directly from Rav Yisrael Salanter [1], the father of the modern Mussar Movement. Shortly after giving this talk, he made aliyah and became the mashgiach ruchani (dean of spiritual growth) of the illustrious Ponevezh Yeshiva. Here he was taking these ideas of cosmic proportion from the Midrash, Rashi, the Ramban, the Maharal, and the Ramchal, and he was telling us in no uncertain terms that they applied not just to the Avos, and not just to the great tzaddikim throughout history — they applied to each and every one of us.

A generation shattered by World War II was being told that they had an obligation, first and foremost, to discover and actualize the unique spiritual greatness that they possessed, and that this greatness was none other than the same greatness embodied by their forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. It was Rav Dessler who gave us permission, and, moreover, gave us a mandate to take these ideas seriously with every Jew we have the merit to engage with, bring these  concepts to life, and literally make them part of the curriculum for our children and students as they grow to become Jewish adults and find their place in the Jewish People.

In this, Rav Dessler echoes the opening of Rabbeinu Yonah’s Shaarei Ha’avodah, with which we opened Section I. Contrary to common wisdom, the launchpad for serving Hashem is not beating oneself up. It is building oneself up.[2] His clearly stated advice is know your primary, positive trait:

Michtav Me’Eliyahu, Vol. II, Parshas Lech Lecha [3]

The beginning of a person’s service of Hashem is that he will

recognize and reveal this dominant quality of his. He should

then develop it to its perfection using Torah guidelines and

approaches, and remain faithful to it.

However, he should not be satisfied with just this, for the

other attributes are also included within his personal obligation,

and in order to reach [his personal] completion, it is incumbent

upon him to develop these as well and bring the seed

[implanted within him] to its fruition.

For a number of reasons, when most people think about “working on their character,” they immediately hone in on their weaknesses and on what they do not do right. But if we break down the process that Rav Dessler is mapping out for us here, we will find that working on our weaknesses should come only after seriously investing in developing our primary strengths. Notice how robust the initial process of nurturing our natural core strengths is, and note how it must demand our full attention and energy before we work on anything else.

Click here to continue reading Drawing from Our Deepest Source of Strength.

Click here to read the Introduction to Nurture Their Nature.

Purchase a copy of Nurture Their Nature.

[1] Rav Dessler’s father, Rav Reuven Dov Dessler, studied many years under the Alter of Kelm, Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv Broide, a prime disciple of Rav Yisrael Salanter. Rav Dessler’s mother was a granddaughter of Rav Yisrael.

[2] Section IV is dedicated to developing this overarching “positivity principle” in Judaism.

[3] We are quoting these two paragraphs first, out of order, to drive toward Rav Dessler’s primary goal of getting us to first know ourselves, and build up our natural strengths, before we do anything else.

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