A Chabad on Campus colleague and friend, Rabbi Dr. Reuven Leigh at Cambridge University in England, retweeted a thread by a prominent Professor Cesar Hidalgo of the University of Toulouse, captioning it as something Chabad on Campus Rabbis might want to use as a Yom Kippur sermon (- click for his tweet)

The basic concern of Professor  Cesar Hidalgo in this tweet thread is that the educational system conditions children of all grade levels, even through high school and college years to do schoolwork for a grade. We do the assignment, take the tests, and then get assigned a grade, and then we’re done with it.

But then in grad school (or even in certain advanced courses even in other settings) the student submits work which isn’t graded instead it is returned for suggestion for improvement, critique of style or emphasis on areas that needed to be addressed. Good graduate work often requires lots of back and forth between teacher and student until the final product is approved and accepted. Dr. Cesar Hidalgo’s concern in his tweet thread is that this runs against the grain of all prior schooling. Grad students expect to submit and be done with, get their grade and move on, and it takes a lot of adjustment to realize that the goal isn’t the grade but an improved product, which takes back and forth, edits and redo’s, rethinking and rewriting. And the same is true of work in the real world, (parenting, as well) much of it isn’t pass/fail or graded but continued efforts to strive to make it better and better. 

My friend Rabbi Dr. Reuven Leigh is right! What a powerful Yom Kippur message! A common sense is that we fast and pray, G-d gives us a pass, and we’re done when the fast ends. No such thing! We’re in this for the long term, a continuous and ongoing effort at personal improvement and increased connection, a back and forth process of growth and development. This doesn’t end when the fast does…