We Can Do More to Stop Bullying

Educating Jewish children with the same methods as public school kids is, at the very least, a major disservice. Before looking elsewhere for guidance on bullying and the like, let us ask ourselves: Did I try to do everything the Torah teaches on the matter?

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

One of the highlights of the Kohen Gadol’s avodah on Yom Kippur mentioned in this week’s sedra was the lottery he made to determine which goat would be brought as a korban and which would be sent to Azazel.

Why did he have to make a lottery? Couldn’t he just choose on his own?

When Eliyahu HaNavi wanted to prove, once and for all, that Hashem is the only true G-d and that the avodah zarah of Ba’al was worthless, he set up a challenge. Both he and the neviei haBa’al would bring a bull onto their mizbe’ach and the mizbe’ach upon which a heavenly fire descended would be proven truthful.

The neviei haBa’al paraded with their bull towards their mizbe’ach but suddenly their bull mysteriously refused to continue walking. Nothing they did helped. Eliyahu went over to the bull and quietly asked it about its behavior. The bull explained that it was hurt and offended to be used by the Ba’al while his friend was fortunate enough to be used by the side of Hashem!

Hearing the bull’s reasonable argument, Eliyahu explained to the bull that just like his friend, he too would be on Hashem’s side, because he would be key in demonstrating that the Ba’al is false. The bull accepted Eliyahu’s words and went on to fulfill his duty.

Similarly, Hashem wanted to show sensitivity to the goat. Had the kohen gadol simply chosen one, it could be interpreted that one was superior to the other. By making a lottery, it was clear that it was Hashem choosing each goat for its unique job. For this reason, the Torah mentions several times the fact that the Azazel goat should “Stand before Hashem,” during the whole process of the lottery and the offering of the other goat. This was to demonstrate that he is no less “before Hashem;” he, too, is an essential part of bringing atonement for the Yidden.

Why does the Torah share all this information with us?

To cultivate good middos by Yidden. If Hashem shows extra sensitivity to an animal, who does not have feelings like a human, how much more so must we be sensitive to a fellow Yid.[1]

Aharon HaKohen and Eliyahu HaNavi were both in positions of power and could have done as they saw fit regardless of how the animals felt. But a Yid doesn’t bully, even a bull.

In the second sedra of this week, we’re given the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’reiacha komocha.

In this week’s Pirkei Avos we learn that “One who publicly humiliates his fellowman has no share in the World to Come.” We also learn, “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of Hashem; it is even a greater love since it was made known to him that he was created in the image of Hashem.”

As the Alter Rebbe said: “The Torah is all fine character traits. Even the punishments there are in truth acts of kindness and goodness. There can be no fine character traits without Torah; there can be no Torah without fine character.”[2]

How fortunate we are to have Toras chaim as our guide for life!

Before looking elsewhere for guidance on how to prevent bullying and the like, let us look into the mirror and ask ourselves: Did I really try to do everything the Torah teaches regarding the matter?

A Yid has a natural tendency towards goodness and kindness; it must only be cultivated and nurtured. Educating Jewish children using the same methods as are used for public school kids is, at the very least, a major disservice. They have a neshamah and the only way to reach their neshamah is through Torah.

From a very young age, Yidden are meant to be indoctrinated with the above-mentioned values of love and sensitivity. And, above all, they must see good examples of these values by the adults they look up to.

We have the greatest tools at our disposal; let’s make every effort to use them to the maximum.

[1] Alshich, 16:20

[2] Hayom Yom, 23rd of Elul

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  1. Bullying has nothing to do with the kids- its generational misunderstandings
    Being nice is not the solution – it’s the deeper healing and that starts with the adults doing that in their own life

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