52 posts categorized "Children and education"

Unsupportive parents

Angry parents
Dear Rabbi,

My name is Sherrie. I live in California, and I became a baalas tshuva last summer, after attending a religious music festival (religious Jewish musicians are the greatest; I'm writing you because one of them told me that you rock!).

My parents are, in short, not particularly supportive of my decision. They think my keeping Shabbos is a waste of a day that could be spent on homework (I'm going into my junior year in high school, just turned seventeen), and that keeping kosher is a hindrance. Now, I have a lot of family issues - we don't have particularly great family dynamics in general. Anyway. So I wanted to ask your advice. Oh wait - I also go to public school and wear a kippah full-time. I got the impression from my musician friend - who's one of your fans - that you're not egalitarian, so I don't know if you like that, but it's what I've chosen to do. 

I've got to go. My mom is yelling at me. Thanks for listening!!


Dear Sherrie,

The way to get your folks on your side is to avoid any disrespect, and simply be a model daughter, just sweet, considerate, and loving; that'll be a showstopper! Disrespect to parents is worse than eating treif. Let them see how observant Judaism is simply making you a better person, but under no circumstances should you compromise on Shabbat, Kashrut, modesty, or what you know and believe is right (when in doubt, ask a rav that you trust). Be careful never to lose your temper, and even when your folks get all over your cage, simply grin and bear it - it'll cleanse your soul.

As for the egalitarian business, I'm not going to tell you what to do; if you're really searching for the truth, Hashem will help you get there. Most importantly, talk to Hashem for an hour a day in your own language. Make sure you read The Garden of Emuna too. Judaism without emuna is like a car without an engine - you won't get so far. May Hashem bless you always with all your heart's wishes for the very best, LB

Rapport is Everything

LB and Shlomi
Our children are good; they rarely do things deliberately to spite us.

People make a lot of demands from their children and then wonder why the kids don't do what they're told.

Then why don't they do what we tell them to?

Usually because we don't do what Hashem tells us to do.

But there's another big reason, that I learned from my beloved teacher Rav Shalom Arush: If you don't live it, you can't give it.

We can't expect our children to do anything that we don't do ourselves. In that respect, the best way to educate our children is to educate ourselves. If we want your children to enjoy being Jewish, then we must enjoy being Jewish. Genuine Judaism puts a smile on your face.

One more important point: the more a child enjoys being with a parent (or grandparent), the more he or she will be willing to learn from the parent (or grandparent); parental rapport is everything. Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat!

His name is Moishie, not Pigpen

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me!

Whoever coined the above expression didn't understand much about the human soul.

PigpenLet's take "Pigpen" for example. Charles M. Schulz never gave the little guy - one of his most famous cartoon-character creations - a real name. Ever since he became one of the "Peanuts" regulars in 1954, this little fellow has only been known by the name of "Pigpen".

"Pigpen" rolls with the verbal-abuse punches his parents, siblings, and friends dish out to him, but inside, there's no doubt that he's bleeding - constantly. Some smile when they read a cartoon featuring Pigpen. Personally, I both wince and shed a tear.

Think about this for a moment: Can you expect a child whom the entire world addresses as "Pigpen" to be neat and clean? Can you expect him to bathe or to pick up after himself? Can you expect his briefcase, his notebooks, or his desk to be orderly? Never in a million years!

Suppose we were to discover that this little boy's mother and father coined the horrendous nickname of Pigpen. We'd be furious and indignant, wouldn't we? We'd ask ourselves how can people be so cruel as to bury their child alive in a coffin of a negative self image, driven into him from an early age, that he's a filthy, messy, slob and a social misfit. What can possibly be expected of such a child?

Where do parents get the license to murder their kids with verbal abuse? Where do they get the right to call their children "lazy", "stupid", "fat", or "coward"? Insulting a child is every bit as cruel as beating him with a stick or stone; in many respects, the human soul is far more fragile than a human bone. Broken bones heal faster than broken souls...

Chumash Celebration, Vizhnitzer Cheder, Ashdod, Israel

As they near the age of five, Chassidic children are already reading fluently. They now begin to learn "Chumash", the Five Books of Moses. Traditionally, they celebrate this occasion by dressing the children up as Torah scrolls and making an important celebration with teachers and families participating, for this is the beginning of their life-long endeavor of learning Torah. Here, we see the Chumash celebration in the Vizhnitzer Cheder of Ashdod, Israel. These children, who grow up without TV and movies, already can recite all the weekly Torah portions from Breishit to Zot Habracha. They also know the Ten Commandments by heart both in Yiddish and in Hebrew, for they are all bilingual. Enjoy this clip, and may you have much joy from your children!

First Love, then Teach

Pyramid with Levi kids

Image above: LB with the Levi children of Chicago

If you don't love a child, you won't be able to teach him. If you are able to play with a child, you'll be able to share Torah with a child. Why the word, "share"? A child's soul is naturally hungry. You don't have to teach him Torah. If you share Torah with him, like you share a game or an activity together, he'll seek the Torah just like he seeks the game.

With the above in mind, retrace the past of all the young people who left the path of Torah Judaism. You'll undoubtedly find a parent or teacher (or both) who was tyrannical and foreboding. Children aren't geese - they can't be force-fed. What's more, force-feeding in Jewish Law is forbidden, for it's considered cruelty to animals. Are our children less-deserving than animals? No one has a license to be cruel, certainly not parents or teachers.

If you want to teach, you first must love. If you can't love, then don't teach. By robbing a child of his happiness, one robs him of his Judaism. Love a child and make sure that whatever you teach him puts a smile on his face.

I Prayed for This Child

The moving story of Hannah appears in the first and second chapter of Samuel I: Hannah had no children, and she begged Hashem in the holy tabernacle at Shilo that if He gives her a child, she will dedicate this child to the service of Hashem. Hashem heard her prayers, and Samuel was born.

When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the High Priest Eli in Shilo, where the little Samuel grew up devoting his entire life to serving Hashem. As Hannah presents her son to Eli, she says, "This is the lad I prayed for; Hashem granted me the request that I asked of Him" (Samuel I, 1:27).

In a beautiful age-old Jewish tradition, when we check on our sleeping children at night, and we see them like little angels fast asleep, we repeat the above passage as an expression of gratitude to Hashem, and we continue to pray for their spiritual and physical welfare and development.

Shraga Gold and the Shira Choir sing Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz's lovely rendition of Hannah's moving expression of gratitude in the following beautiful clip, which we hope you enjoy as much as we did. Shabbat Shalom!

Little Nachman Loves to Learn

In the clip we showed yesterday, Leonard Nimoy bemoaned that Yiddish was becoming a dead language. Unfortunately, he wasn't aware of the Chassidic communities that are so vibrant today in the USA and in Israel.

In today's amazing glimpse into the Chassidic world in Israel, we meet a little boy of four, who like other children his age, reads fluently. He grows up in a world of emotional and intellectual purity. His parents have no computer or TV. As such, after school (which is from 8AM to 5:30PM at age 4 already, with a 90-minute lunch break) Little Nachman is either outside playing or inside reviewing his learning. He does both with joy, as you can see for yourself: