In Parshas Vayechi Yaakov Avinu blesses his children before he dies. The Passuk is a bit enigmatic, “Ish kvirchaso barach osam”, each man according to his blessing, he blessed them. This means that Yaakov identified the strengths of each of his children, each one’s innate blessing, such as Yehudah’s natural quality of leadership, and then he gave him a bracha blessing him for what he was already blessed with, his quality of leadership. Why did Yaakov need to bless his children, kvirchaso, according to what each one was already blessed with?
Rav Yerucham Levovitz teaches a crucial point of chinuch here. Each person is blessed innately with their own unique spiritual strengths and those strengths are what he or she needs to best serve Hashem. The best bracha we can give someone is to bless their strengths, to help them develop their natural abilities even farther. Yaakov wanted to bless each of his children by seeking out how they were already blessed, what their individual strengths were, and then blessing them that those strengths should be further developed and nurtured.
Hashem gives each person a unique set of talents because those are the talents Hashem wants each of us to develop and refine to serve Him best. Yaakov didn’t have a vision of what a successful child of his must look like and measure each one up by how they fit or didn’t fit the standard. He set the precedent for parents going forward that we must look at each child and find their talents, identify their strengths, and bless our children by helping them develop their best areas and see their strengths as their best tools for building themselves.
It is easy to identify weaknesses, it is much more helpful to identify strengths. For with wisdom, a child’s strengths can be harnessed to help them grow out of their weaknesses. For example, let’s say there is a child who isn’t sitting quietly in class as they are supposed to. They’re making noise, moving around, and distracting other students. The tempting thing to do is highlight his weakness and focus on fixing it directly - we’ll give you an incentive to sit still and quietly or we’ll punish you for not sitting still and quietly. The model that Yaakov Avinu gives us for chinuch is different. The Yaakov model says we need to look for the strengths of this child and use those innate strengths to solve the issue. Maybe the child is very bright and grasps material the first time the teacher talks and is bored 70% of the day. Our job is to ask how we can use his strength here to help? Maybe he can work on interesting enrichment material, maybe we can come up with a creative way he can help the teacher, maybe he can design review games for the class with his free time, maybe he can run errands, maybe he can help out in another classroom a couple times a week. This method takes more effort, but it pays back more reward too.
The Parsha spends many pesukim detailing Yaakov’s descriptions of each child before we’re told he blessed them k’virchaso, according to their blessings. It takes time and effort to think through each child’s nature and strengths, and figure out how we can bless them according to their blessings, help each one develop further with the unique talents and skills Hashem blessed them with.