Thursday, March 11, 2010

Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei/Hachodesh 5770

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei/Hachodesh

26 Adar 5770/March 12, 2010

There is an old rule in education that “You have to choose your battles.” If we want to have any chance that our words will have an effect on our children without them immediately tuning us out we cannot afford to make a big deal out of every little thing our children do

Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman shlita, the Mashgiach and Spiritual leader of Camp Dora Golding would often tell the camp staff that to be a successful and efficacious counselor/rebbe/parent, etc. sometimes you have to be able to “not see/hear.” Of course an educator must be wise enough to know when he/she must intervene. But there are many situations when disciplining a child will end up having a severe backlash, and saying something to the child will be ineffective. At times such as those it is best for the educator to pretend that he did not notice what happened.

There were many times over the years when I have employed the wisdom of “hear no evil/see no evil”, and it is indeed an invaluable piece of advice.

Last year while preparing a shiur for Shavuos evening I found a source for this idea in a responsa of the Noda B’Yehuda. At the end of a letter regarding a certain matter the Noda B’Yehuda (Oh’c, Tinyana, 24) concluded that he was aware that his halachic ruling was not being upheld. He wrote, “And I hide my eyes from this (practice) because it is better that they should be considered inadvertent (transgressors), than malicious.”

As parents/teachers we often do not realize just how critical we are of our children. Although children (by definition) require constant guidance and education, if we pick on every little thing they do wrong they will feel that they are under attack. Consequentially, they will only listen to our tirades with half an ear at best.

For example, eating dinner together as a family is incredibly important, and studies show that it has a very important effect on the family unit and on a child’s sense of belonging. But we have to ensure that the dinner table does not become a battleground replete with orders and shouting. Recently a father told me that he came to the realization that he and his wife were being too critical at the dinner table. He said that he and his wife sat down to discuss which behaviors they would be particular about and which other ones they would overlook. He reported that although it was/is hard for him to bite his tongue, since he has begun doing so his dinner table has a more pleasant atmosphere.

The gemara in Megilla (18a) quotes a sagacious expression, “מלה בסלע משתוקא בתרין - If a word is worth one coin, silence is worth two.” Many times despite our best intentions we would be wise to remain silent. As we all know, how often do we have to ‘use’ a lot more words to rectify the damage caused by a few quick witted words said without forethought!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum