Friday, June 4, 2010


Only works in Fire Fox

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach – Avos perek 3

22 Sivan 5770/ /June 4, 2010

A friend of mine related that he recently went to Yankees Stadium to watch a game. At the seventh inning stretch there was a minyan for ma’ariv at the kosher concession stand. After Aleinu, as the mourners began saying the final kaddish, a raucous cheer that erupted from around the stadium. Apparently, one of the Yankees had hit a homerun. The mourners waited a moment for the deafening hurrahs to abate before they continued. When they finished kaddish and the crowd began to disperse someone called out, “Nice davening guys!”

A respected educator quipped that perhaps the most dangerous word in the lexicon we use with our children is “FUN”. Children love to have fun and we, their parents/educators who love and cherish them, want to provide them with experiences they will relish. However, it is vital that one realize that for an experience to be enjoyable and memorable, it does not have to be fun.

For example, when a child comes home from shul it is inappropriate to ask the child if he/she had “fun” in shul. Shul is not a place where one is supposed to have fun. It is surely supposed to be an uplifting and enjoyable experience, but not fun! [I am not referring to youth groups or the like, but to actual davening.] Amusement parks, summer-camp experiences, and exciting trips, are all places and times for fun. But going to school, learning Torah, and davening, are not meant to be ‘fun’. [This is not to say that we should not offer incentives, or for a teacher to seek to make lessons fun. However, if every lesson and spiritual experience is “fun”, a child will hardly learn the meaning of sacrificing for the sake of a higher ideal.]

One of the great ideas that we need to help our children learn is that there are many experiences greater than fun. When one has to overcome difficult obstacles in order to achieve, it creates an inner transcendently blissful feeling, without having fun.

I have always felt that two of the greatest blessings one can merit is ‘simchas hachaim – joy in life’ and ‘sipuk hanefesh – inner fulfillment’. If one has those two qualities he can almost be guaranteed that he will live a fulfilling and satisfying life, despite the inevitable challenges of life.

One can only achieve simchas hachaim when he feels that his life is purposeful and that he is working towards aspirations and goals. That feeling is a byproduct of the struggle to achieve. Indeed there is no greater satisfaction and joy than perseverance and accomplishment. That feeling too is blissful and intensely pleasurable, but not fun.

Robert Brooks offers the following recipe for fostering self-esteem: “Make progress, in something challenging, that matters to you.” To truly foster self-esteem all three ingredients are necessary. It has to be worthwhile, it can’t be too easy, and it has to purposeful.

Self-esteem does not come from fun experiences, but rather from overcoming struggles for the sake of accomplishment. Fun surely has its place, but it must have its limits too.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum