Matters of education and guidance are relevant not only to children but to all people, regardless of age.

Although applied differently to children and adults, the essential aspects of education and guidance pertain equally to both.

An educator or counsellor must assess a pupil's essential character in order to ascertain his inborn abilities and natural virtues.

He must also carefully weigh a pupil's deficiencies and conduct.

Only then can an educator or counsellor organize the overall educational process - especially if he must correct some specific fault - since everything is contingent upon the essential character.

Some actions, when performed by a particular person, are considered seriously flawed - and the perpetrator degrades him self and others thereby.

But when someone else - of lesser abilities, of smaller stature, or of a different nature - performs these very same actions, they do not reflect poorly on him.

For example, if a person of prominence, renowned for his noble virtues, is not careful to refrain from prattling and the like, then this is tantamount to a desecration of G‑d's name, as the Talmud relates in several places, "A distinguished person is different." This is not the case with a simple fellow.

Likewise, if a man is excessively preoccupied with his appearance, primping himself with fine stylish clothing, and grooming his hair, this is a serious fault; for a woman, this behavior is quite acceptable.

An educator or counsellor may [mistakenly] aspire to elevate a simple person to the level of one who inherently possesses outstanding abilities and character, by stripping him of every speck of impurity, and by inculcating within him the sterling virtues of a high-minded person.

However, not only will he fail to affect any correction or improvement beyond that which the simple fellow is capable of reaching, but quite the contrary, by desiring to uplift him above his capacity to the station of an outstanding intellectual, and an individual of exceptionally refined character traits, the educator or counsellor will ruin him - he will cause him to veer from the [proper] path.

In the book Duties of the Heart, in the section entitled "The Gate of Introspection," chapter two, the author ponders and questions whether or not the standard of self-critique is the same for all people.

He concludes, "People's pursuit of achievement in Torah, and of matters relating to their [portion in the] world (i.e. the World to Come), varies in accordance to each person's perception, intelligence and clarity of understanding. Each person is obligated to ponder what is his duty in the service of the Creator, exalted be He, in accordance with his recognition of the Creator's general and particular beneficences."

It is self-understood that every person is obligated to learn to the extent of his grasp, by studying alone or by learning from lecturers at public classes.

One is enjoined to exert oneself to know the goodness of the Creator, i.e., Divine Providence, that G‑d watches over and provides life to all creatures, as the verse indicates, "You open up Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing."

One must also realize and acknowledge the Divine Providence extended to him and his family, in particular. Yet, the foregoing is obligatory only in proportion to the quality of one's essential nature.

This is axiomatic and requires no proof: a person's divine service must be commensurate with his nature and capabilities, as the saying, "Many attempted to emulate the ways of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and were unsuccessful."


The ideal education or guidance is possible only when geared to a pupil's essential nature.