Thursday, March 23, 2017


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei/Hachodesh  
Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan
26 Adar 5777/ March 24, 2017

On Purim morning, I reached for a sefer off one of the shelves in my office, and, to my surprise, the whole bookcase collapsed. It wasn’t because I had drunk anything, as it was too early for that. The bookcase wasn’t exactly of the strongest quality (Walmart special) and was bearing more weight than it could hold. After someone had knocked into it a day earlier (one of those ‘tenants’ who live in our home, consume our food, time, and resources, and bear our last name…), it didn’t take much movement to cause the whole thing to buckle.
Two days after Purim we were hit with a massive snowstorm. Even after our driveway was plowed, I still had to shovel the top and sides of the driveway. It was quite a struggle to get our cars up and out of our steep driveway.
The following morning, I felt quite achy. No doubt it was the result of the shoveling from the day prior, and straining muscles that had not been used in some time.
Afterwards, I was thinking about the disparity between these two experiences, and how it relates to our lives, particularly as parents.
On the one hand, we all fear pushing our children too much. We live in fear that if we ask them to do the dishes at the wrong time, we might cause them to rebel and live on the streets. If we ask them to help set the table for Shabbos, they may storm out and go off the derech. While that may be an exaggeration, it does symbolize the fear every parent feels deep down in today’s day and age.
On the other side of the spectrum however, is the fact that if we do not teach our children responsibility by giving them (read – compelling them) opportunities to contribute to the family, such as household chores, and imposing other demands, and setting proper guidelines, those “muscles” will atrophy. Lack of rules and responsibilities unwittingly breeds entitlement and spoiled children, who feel they have everything coming to them. Such children are whiney, obnoxious, and unpleasant to be around, especially towards their well-meaning, overly-doting, parents
This leads us to wonder - towards which direction do we lean? Of course, our goal is the golden median, wherein we exert just the right amount of pressure, without overdoing it. But is it better to err on the side of exerting more pressure or by taking more of a hands-off approach?
The Gemara Bava Basra (21a) advises us to “Stuff it into him like an ox.” Most children do not learn responsibility from osmosis. For their own growth and maturity, they need to feel a modicum of pressure, in order to foster a sense of responsibility. The fact is that we seek to provide so much for our children, but they need to feel responsible to ‘give back’. That is the only way they can become productive, pleasant, and grateful people.
It’s generally far easier to just do something ourselves, than to ask our children to do it. It may be a struggle to get them to perform chores in the first place. Then, when they finally do them, we often feel sorry we asked in the first place. All of that notwithstanding, the fact that they have to contribute to the family and are held accountable for it, is an investment in the growth of the child.
Ironically, experience has proven that it is far more likely for a child to become rebellious if he/she was not parented enough, than if he/she is “overparented”. The underlying message conveyed to a child who is expected to contribute is that his contribution is valuable and necessary. It also teaches healthy responsibility.
The only way to be a happy person, is if you can give, and not only take.
More than any other holiday, Pesach, and particularly the Seder, is devoted to educating our children about our values and beliefs. Aside for ardently teaching through stories, parables, and lessons, and more importantly through our personal example, we need to maintain accountability, to ensure that our children live up to the standards we wish for ourselves and for them.
Then we can be confident that they will be able to shovel away the debris of their deficiencies without it wearing them (or their parents) out.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Chodesh Tov,

       R’ Dani and Chani Staum