Friday, September 3, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Netzovim-Vayelech – Avos perakim 5-6

23 Elul 5770/ /September 3, 2010

Every parent has their own mode of parenting upon which their children love to reflect on and laugh about when they reach adulthood. One of my father’s classic idiosyncrasies was that when he would confiscate something from one of us he had a habit of stashing it in the first place he found. For example, on occasion we would find comic books hidden away under the fruits in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.

But nothing beats the football story: On one occasion, my younger brother Yaakov was playing with a football in the house. My father was becoming increasingly annoyed with the frolicking and, after a few repeated unheeded requests for the ball to be put away, my father confiscated the ball and stashed it away.

That evening my mother was not home and my father was making supper. He turned on the oven to preheat, and then went about the house taking care of a few things. A few minutes later the house was filled with the terrible stench of burning rubber. We all ran into the kitchen where smoke was billowing out of the oven. My father carefully opened the door and pulled out… a deflated and cooked football, that he had placed in there hours earlier. Needless to say Yaakov was not too happy.

Although bathing suits are still drying, and August has barely ended, many yeshivos and day schools are beginning this week. As an “early year” when Rosh Hashana is two days after Labor Day, they have to get an early start. [In camp we joked that the banquet - traditionally served on the last night of camp - would have to be eaten in the succah…]

In honor of the beginning of the academic year it is worth reflecting upon one of the most oft-quoted mantras of education: Each child is unique, and has his own strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and challenges. Therefore, each child must be guided in an individualized and personalized manner [Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko]. Every educator must remember that the most wonderful technique which ‘turns on’ and motivates one child, can be a severe ‘turn-off’ for another child.

A tray of raw potatoes, eggs, oil, and spices placed in a heated oven will become a delectable potato kugel, causing a satisfying aroma to waft through the kitchen. But put a football in the same heated oven and the football will deflate and cause a malodorous scent that disgusts all who pass by. On the other hand, try to play a game of football with a hot potato kugel and you’ll realize just how valuable that football is.

So the moral of the story is that we must understand what motivates and what deflates every child, and seek to build each one as best we can. And, if your child is playing football in the house, maybe put it in the bathtub, or better yet in the attic.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum