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Parshas Shmini/Parah - Are We Raising Children or Do We Raise Our Children Up?      22 Adar II 5779

03/29/19 08:47:45


Parshas Shmini – Are We Raising Children or Do We Raise Our Children Up?

One of my mottos with regard to educating and raising children is “school is for information; home is where they learn”. The average Jewish family spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on Jewish education - the information which, in turn, feeds applied learning. Those dollars are invested in our children’s future, and like any other investment, active involvement is required: our children’s needs and progress have to be checked and nurtured to yield the best results. The home, however, is the epicenter for our children to learn how to conduct themselves, to develop a depth of understanding of the values we, their parents, hold dear. Home is where the information our children receive in school or yeshiva is truly ‘learned’. A good chef uses prime ingredients, treating each item with respect and care in order to create a masterful meal. Our children receive information (ingredients) from school and bring them home to ‘digest’. The home is the crucial environment for creating the best possible level of applying those pieces of information, nurturing a matrix which synthesizes the ingredients for a life of clarity of values, proper conduct, and respect. For a master chef, proper cooking utensils, precise temperatures, and, above all, timing, are essential details. The learning at home, the creation of the product, has many components which in a profound way, relates to the food produced by the master chef. The home is not limited to parents. It includes siblings, nutrition, safety, security, and so forth. Everything contributes to the end result!

Money spent on tuition is the cheapest part of educating our children. That may sound ridiculous, but in a sense, it is far easier to write a check (maybe even easier or less work to pay by credit card) than to guide, nurture, and ultimately help our children truly learn through synthesizing the ‘information’. It is the real learning that takes place in the home that is so challenging and, in most cases, ignored or overlooked. As parents we have an obligation to nurture the information that our children receive. There is no question that as parents when we observe our children doing something wrong, we reprimand them, teaching and instilling the proper course of action and behavior. But are we working on troubleshooting in advance prior to the incident to avoid any dangerous behavior or mishap? Are we as parents only reacting to situations that have already occurred, or are we trying to think ahead so as to avoid situations that can spare the hurt and pain a child may suffer either physically, spiritually or emotionally?

By definition, the term ‘parent’ means sacrifice, from the moment the child is conceived until the parent is no longer able to care for their child. As parents, we need to understand that we must sacrifice, not only for our children’s physical well-being, but also for their spiritual well-being. When a child asks for something spiritual (within reason) that may cost time, money or effort, the parent must figure out a way to nourish and nurture that request. If we desire our children to grow up with sincere religious and observant commitment, we need to show them we are committed to that very goal for ourselves and for them, even when it may be inconvenient. If a child wants to grow more connected to Judaism, we should do whatever it takes. Imagine a scenario where a child wants to daven with a minyan and is makpid/strict upon himself, making sure to always attend minyan. Perhaps an extreme example: Consider the child who arrives in Los Angeles from Israel in the late evening. After a grueling twenty-five hours he wants to head north to Los Angeles to catch the last minyan and then drive back down to San Diego. I can’t speak for most, but I’m sure a few kids at that point would like to go straight back home and daven privately without a minyan. I’m also sure that most parents at nine-thirty at night would rather drive straight home instead of driving north from the airport to L.A., finally arriving home at one in the morning. The parent in question wants to show and encourage the right thing to do. Not only doesn’t he complain, he is overjoyed by the commitment and dedication of his son. He must do whatever it takes, within the limits of possibility, to insure his child receives the religious training, learning and experience despite the hardship that may fall upon the parent. These are the attributes we parents need to inculcate within our persona, openly expressing , the desire to our children that we will do anything spiritually and religiously for them.

This has been the case for parents and children throughout history. We sometimes find tragedy when proper supervision is not provided especially when it come to adult children. We find this in this week’s parsha Shmini where we read about the death of Aharon’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. In Vayikra 10:1 the Torah states: “Vayikchu Bnei Aharon Nadav VaAvihu Ish Machtaso, Vayitnu Bahein Aish, Vayasimu Aleihen Ketores, Vayakrivu Lifnei Hashem Aish Zara Asher Lo Tziva Osam”. “ Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu each took fire pans, placed fire and then incense on them. They offered it before God, but it was unauthorized fire, which God had not instructed them to offer”. In truth a Jew must do and perform every Mitzva by immersing and giving of himself to such an extent that his soul is spent - to the degree that he is lifeless and completely out of energy after doing a Mitzva. If that were the case, wouldn’t it be nearly impossible to do another Mitzva after expending all his energy on just one command? Rav Pinchas Yustman* explains that the Mitzva itself, being that it was commanded by Hashem to perform, aroused the person and gave renewed strength and vigor to him so that he looks forward to doing the next one. Quoting the words ‘VaChai Bahem’: ‘And you shall live by them’,explained by all ‘not to die from them’. Even if we ‘kill’ ourselves over a Mitzva, the very act of doing the Mitzvah with all of our being allows us to become stronger and do more Mitzvos.

Nadav and Avihu did the service in the Mishkan with the highest regard and an incredible measure of mesiras nefesh/self sacrifice. They did this to the degree that they actually killed themselves. Why? The renewed energy of the performance of their Mitzva did not work this time. Why? The reason given is because only after doing a Mitzva, a Mitzva literally means something we were commanded to do. In this case there was no command; Nadav and Avihu did this on their own. This is noted by the special cantillation mark ‘meircha kefula’ a double meircha on the word ‘Lo’ meaning they were NOT commanded. As great as they were, Nadav and Avihu acted on their own, without direction from Hashem. Their father Aharon knew they were great and righteous men; he couldn’t fathom them doing something wrong.

We as the parents need to guide our children when to do the Mitzva when we are commanded and not to do the Mitzva when we are not commanded. It’s not about us; it’s not for us to determine if or to decide when. At the time that Hashem when He wants us to do the command, we do it. We need to be all-encouraging, to consistently nurture the desire of our children to fulfill their Avodas Hashem. This, will in turn, will give them the strength, courage and attitude to want to do more.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Pinchas Menachem (Elazar) Yustman (1848–1920) The Piltzer Rebbe, also known by the title of his main work, the Sifsei Tzadik ((and in his early years known as Reb Mendel of Ger) was a Chasidic Rabbi who after the passing of his brother-in-law Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, became a Rebbe for some Gerrer Hasidim, in Pilica, Poland.

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780