I saw Inside Out the other day. I’m with all of the critics- it’s great. A.O Scott’s review is terrific as usual. Joe Morgenstern too. I only wish they would have had more scenes inside the heads of more characters. The movie made a case for sadness finding its place alongside joy. Pixar often has serious themes animating its films: elitism versus egalitarianism in the Incredibles, family versus individual and the purpose of art in Ratatouille, but Inside Out makes us think about the religious experience. Does melancholy or sadness play a role? Should the joy of avodat Hashem dominate the experience or should the anxiety of doubt play a role? I almost felt like the film was arguing for a little more footnote 4 from the Rav’s Halachik Man and a little less of the neo-chasidus. The film struck a compelling balance with joy initially being scared of sadness but ultimately embracing her as a real component of one’s inner life. In school we often are faced with the conflict of teaching a student the material versus making the process of learning a fun and engaging experience. It’s best when the two goals are not in conflict but they often are. It’s not a good idea to think about engaging students by simply making the learning fun and happy. It’s probably better to think about engaging the student wholly by taking seriously his or her joys, anxieties, fears and doubts. And the best, most honest way to do so is is for a teacher to share his or her own joys and sadnesses about Judaism, to make oneself vulnerable, to engage in self-revelation. Someone recently shared an article by Rav Moshe Weinberger on the topic (Klal Perspectives Spring 2012):
In this lecture, Rav Soleveitchik insisted that the only way to inspire the observant is by having them actually observe inspired Yiddishkeit in the parents, rabbis, teachers, and mentors of the generation. “…I do not believe that we can afford to be as reluctant, modest, and shy today as we were in the past about describing our relationship with the Almighty. If I want to transmit my experiences, I have to transmit myself, my own heart. How can I merge my soul and personality with the students? It is very difficult. Yet it is exactly what is lacking on the American scene” (The Rav. R’ Aaron Rakefet, Vol. 2, pages 168-169). In essence, there needs to be a fundamental reconstruction of the traditional model of the teacher/rabbi. On another occasion, the Rav explained that, “the disconnection of modern man from living examples of religious experience has made selfrevelation an educational necessity.” It is fascinating that the most sought-after speakers and teachers generally are not known for their scholarship. Their effectiveness is in their ability to inspire – not by dazzling their audiences with brilliant insights, but by sharing their own experiences and struggles in Yiddishkeit. Self-revelation has become an absolute educational necessity.
The point is that the more real we are as teachers, the more real our students will learn to be.
I agree wholeheartedly with teachers and rabbis sharing their life experiences and being real. I always did like hearing Rabbi Weinberger and other of my favorites speak for their ability to share from their heart and not from their scholarship. This is what drew me to lead a more Torah observant lifestyle in my twenties. However, to keep that inspiration going well into your adulthood is challenging and difficult.