Thursday, January 21, 2010

Parshas Bo 5770

Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Bo

7 Shevat 5770/January 23, 2010

There is a classic comic that depicts a mother in typical miffed ‘lecture mode’ standing poised to begin a harangue. Her teenage son, lying on his messy bed, looks at his watch and says, “If this is a lecture how long will it be?”

One of the mistakes we make as parents (and educators) is that we lecture too much. We are afraid to allow our children to suffer the consequences of their own poor decisions. However, if we did so we would not have to waste our breath preaching to children who usually don’t want to hear our stern rebuke anyway.

The challenge is that we love our children and we so badly want to shield them from their own mistakes and foibles. But in so doing we stunt their growth and rob them of valuable opportunities to mature and learn about life.

When a child forgets his homework at home on a regular basis and his mother rushes to school to bring it to him, she is doing so out of love for her child. However, the reality is that the child will fail to learn that in the adult world when one forgets papers at home on the day of a vital meeting, no one is coming to bring them to him.

When we are able to help our children learn lessons about life without preaching to them, the message has far more potency. For example, if a child leaves a mess of toys on the floor and his parents ask him one time to clean up, and the child fails to do so, the wise parent will not say anything. After the child goes to sleep the parent will clean the room and quietly put the toys away… in the garage. When the child comes down in the morning to find the room spotlessly clean and the toys that were left out nowhere to be seen, he will wordlessly learn that failing to clean up has negative ramifications.

This lesson is inherent in the story of exodus. Before each plague G-d sent Moshe to warn Pharaoh about the disasters that would befall the country if he did not free the nation. When Pharaoh reneged there were no repeated warnings. In a sense, the consequential plagues did the talking!

As is true for everything in life however, we must add that all of our wisdom and efforts can only bear fruit if we merit Siyata D’shmaya (Divine Assistance). I would like to share one such example:

On one occasion, I was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike with my wife and our (then) two children. We were in the car for some time and our restless children began fighting. I calmly told them that I could not drive with so much noise behind me and, if they did not stop, I would have to pull over until they could work things out. When their fight continued unabated I indeed merged onto the shoulder of the highway and shifted the car into park.

About twenty seconds later I noticed flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Our children noticed it too. I nervously asked my wife if she thought it was illegal to pull over onto the shoulder. But when the officer approached the car and I rolled down the window, I realized that he had pulled over to see if we needed assistance. “Is everything okay?” he asked. I smiled and replied, “It is now officer! Thank you so much.” The officer nodded knowingly and headed back to his cruiser.

I merged back onto the highway and we enjoyed the quietest trip we ever had. The two white-faced children in the back hardly uttered a peep for the rest of the trip.

Some lessons are impossible to replicate.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum