A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth

The Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 44 – Knowing the Student

This skill demands that the educator recognize the inner character of his students. He does so by getting to know them, individually, in every way–from the innermost potentialities of their souls to the outermost circumstances of their lives.

"Knowing" creates a unification between the "knower" and the "known." This truth is understood from the statement in the Book of Genesis: "And Adam knew Eve." (This means that they were united on every possible level until they became "as one flesh.")

The same can be said of other types of knowing. For example; Torah scholarship. The more intensely one delves into its message, the more that message enters into one's being (literally into one's flesh), so that even one's instincts and reflexes become altered. This principle applies as well to the study of people. When a teacher devotes himself to learning about his students, he deepens the bond of unification between himself and them and thus promotes the flow of influence, both quantitatively and qualitatively. As we will see presently, unification is the property of the soul which derives from the sefirah (channel of Divine energy) of da'at ("knowledge").

This particular level of knowing, when something becomes totally integrated into one's body and personality is called "recognition"–in Hebrew, ha'carah, a word used as a synonym for "marriage," which, of course, fits with how Adam knew Eve. This term also describes the unification between souls in the teacher-student relationship.

There are two elements which together define recognition as it applies to the teacher student relationship. One is knowledge of the essence of the student–his or her soul, talents, abilities and limitations, those things that relate to the student's inner reality. The second is knowledge of the student's environment or the outer reality–the student's occupation, economic standing, habits, relationships, etc. The educator needs both sets of information if he is to bond with his students and influence them wisely and potently.

Essence and environment represent the two complementary dimensions of a person which an educator should seek to discover in order to deepen his bond with his students and enhance his effectiveness.

The ability to perceive essence requires a developed "inner" eye on the part of the educator so that he can penetrate deeply into the personality of his student and actually "see" his or her inner being. This coming together of souls (the educator's and the student's) "eye to eye" is a prerequisite to the binding of teacher to student that characterizes true knowledge and recognition.

We can see how this skill of recognition fits with the two-step process of education–inspiration and integration. In the beginning, the educator works with the raw, coarse an unpolished material. He acts on pure faith, believing (even without visible supporting evidence) that there is a point of beauty and perfection in every student. By revealing his students' spark of inner Godliness in his own mind's eye, the educator activates the potentiality within them, thus beginning the process of its actualization.

Information about environment comes only through effort and legwork. It requires time, energy and devotion on the part of educator to actually share and explore the circumstantial reality of his students, visiting them at home and work, assisting them with health problems, participating in family festivities and rites of passage. All this expands a teacher's range of knowledge of his students and thereby deepens and tightens the bond between him and them. Thus the channel of influence becomes widened.

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