“And Yaakov said to them [the shepherds]: My brothers, where do you come from?” (Bereishit 29:4) .
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky asks why Yaakov calls these shepherds whom he had not met before ‘My brothers’?
He explains that Yaakov wanted to rebuke them (for slacking on the job*) and we know that one should only give rebuke in a calm, gentle and friendly manner so that the recipients of the rebuke areaware you are only trying to benefit them (Rambam, De’ot 7:7). Therefore, Yaakov preceded his rebuke with words of brotherhood and friendship.
Later in our Sidra the Torah states: “And Yaakov said to his brothers: ‘Gather stones!’ and they took stones and made a large mound [as a witness to his oath with Lavan]” (Bereishit 31:46) .
Rashi teaches: The expression “his brothers” actually refers to his sons, but he called them ‘brothers’ because they were standing by him in troubled times.
From here we learn an important fundamental in educating children and students. It is not sufficient, explains Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, for a father or teacher to simply hand down relevant knowledge; rather, they should also show the children and students how to take action themselves. The reason for this is that they should not always feel under the influence of their seniors, but also as partners in actualising potential.
This idea complements the words of Rabbi Chanina (in Gemara Berachot 64a) : “Don’t read ‘Banayich = your children’ but ‘Bonayich = your builders'” – because even they should be builders and partners to the deed itself.
* See Rashi on Bereishit 29:7.