Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 7th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 3 -7th of Cheshvan 5775
Parents disagree sometimes. We have an important role in life as Jewish parents. We are raising the next generation of our holy nation. It is they who will succeed and bring the world to its ultimate fulfillment on the slight chance that we don’t achieve that in our lifetime. Slight chance… of course. So charged with that important task, it's understandable that two very different people with two very different backgrounds and upbringings would have differing opinions on what is the best way to raise these children. How to discipline them, when they should go to sleep, how much emphasis should be put on their home and school work, what extra-curricular activities they should participate in, what is considered a healthy meal and what types of influence they should be exposed to.
In the Schwartz family for example on the above issues without naming sides here, so as not to influence anyone's opinion here, there is one parent who believes in corporal punishment and yelling at their children when they get on
his their nerves, who believes fundamentally in
that wise adage of he who spares the rod spoils the child. Feels that bed time
is when they conk out on the couch as long as they are not bothering him
them. Believes that homework is very important and that the child should
develop early on skills to do it on their own so that they will be better
equipped to handle challenges in life-for the parent will not always be around
to help them with it and that what would happen…? That same parent see's
nothing wrong with chips, pizza and leftover chulent as containing all the
basic elements of a nutritious meal and has no problem with extra-curricular
activities that do not cost money like playing with lego (as long as it is cleaned
up and not left all over the floor-all the time and running up and down the
street a lot of times which is very good exercise and does not have to be
boring and is really not that concerned about scary violent movies particularly
Star Wars and Harry Potter which contain very spiritual elements and the
secrets of the universe. The world is a scary place and it's about time they
started getting used to it.
Then there's the other parent. Parent number two believes that it is important to talk to one's child repeatedly in soft and caring voice-even though they're not paying attention. Corporal punishment should only be used as threat in the least scary of term in only the most extreme situations and can be couched in innocuous phrases such as "you just wait until Parent one comes home". They also feel that bed-time should be a time of bonding with stories of educational value despite the fact that the rest of the house is falling apart and they might have to run a clothing sale the next day and parent one has no clean socks in his drawer. Meals should contain things like protein and stuff that grows from the ground preferably green and our children should take lessons in Piano, violin, art, karate and/or tai kwon do (which the other parent seemed to thing was some Chinese dish) , little league and horse therapy. Money is no object when it comes to offering our children the opportunity to find their hidden talents-as deeply buried as they may seem. The other parent does not appreciate violence of any nature either. It is from the dark side.
So how do you resolve these types of conflicts between two seemingly well-intentioned adults who want only the best for their children? In the Schwartz family it took some time and years until this was worked out. But it was finally decided that the parent that remembered when the children's birthdays were, how old they were and how many hours they sat in painful labor bringing them into this world should have more of a say than the other parent despite the fact that the other parent might have Rabbinic ordination and years of Talmudic wisdom and is really an excellent tour guide. There was some objection at first, but after a few vegetarian dinners and nights on the living room couch offered the right motivation. As long as I don't have to do the homework and can have my pizza and chips.
It seems that this disagreement about how to raise Jewish children really goes back to the beginning of our people-hood though. This week's Torah portion spends quite a bit of time and ink describing the first set of Jewish parents and their challenges and disagreements. Certainly when we study and learn about our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who were the greatest individuals of all mankind, we can never attribute our petty foibles to their great and spiritual challenges and discussions. After-all Hashem never appeared to me and you. Yet the Torah means for us to learn from them. So let's take a look and see what we can find.
So we have Avraham, who in last week's portion was promised children that would become a great nation and yet his wife and life-partner Sarah remain barren. Sarah comes up with a kind of a novel out-of-the-box approach and recommends that her husband take their maid servant Hagar (no not the horrible guy from the cartoon) to be his wife, perhaps that will change their "karma" and she will then have children. Incidentally our sages tell us that Hagar was no simple cleaning lady, she was in fact the daughter of Pharaoh in Egypt that had tried to take Sarah to be his wife. So this was a girl with a royal upbringing. Which perhaps might explain why right after she immediately becomes pregnant she started acting like a JEP or Jewish Egyptian princess that she was-sorry I couldn't resist. Sarah-whose name actually means princess, obviously realizes that this is a problem and in no uncertain terms tells her dear husband that something must be done and Avraham after close to a century of marriage knows better to argue with the woman and Hagar is pretty much made to feel uncomfortable enough to flee. An angel appears to her and tells her to go back home, obviously this Hagar was not a simple person as well. After-all Sarah wouldn't just choose anyone to be her husband's wife.
Part two of this story takes place in this week's Torah portion after Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak and she begins to notice that Hagar's little Bar Mitzvah boy Yishmael is beginning to go down a path that would not be the best influence on little Yitzchak. Our sages note that when the Torah tells us that Yishmael was "playing" with Yitzchak the word playing was merely a polite euphemism for idolatry, murder and illicit relations. Not the best kid to have around in the home of someone who is destined to be by the end of the Parsha the pure offering to God and the grandfather of the tribes of Israel. In quite a memorable speech and with no room for any uncertainty Sarah tells Avraham
"Send away this maid servant and her son, for the son of this maid servant will not inherit with my son with Yitzchak."
It is not easy to miss the subtlety over here. Remember Yishmael is also Avraham's son. His oldest and first born child after 90 years of waiting. To the wife that his wife had given to him. Yet Sarah is quite clear. This is her son; the maid servant's son. As special as she may be she ain't your real wife and he ain't your real son. This is not what we are here to do. If you missed that the Torah is quite clear in the next verse
"And this matter seemed very bad to Avraham in regards to his son".
Now Avraham pretty much knew his children's birthday as well as Sarah did so there had to be another way to work this thing out. So Hashem steps in and who does He side with?
And Hashem said to Avraham 'It should not be bad in your eyes on the lad and on your maid-servant. All that Sarah says to you listen to her voice because it is through Yitzchak that will be called your seed.
O.K. so first of all note Hagar is not your wife, she is your maid-servant. Second of all the child is called the lad but Yitzchak is your real seed. And in case you didn't get it and feel bad Hashem continues
"And also the child of the maid-servant I will make a great nation for he is your seed"
Yishmael is not your child. He is the child of the maid servant, he is your seed though-although unlike Yitzchak your seed will not be called through him. But he will be great because of those good genes you gave him. Avraham, now having clarity on the situation rises the next morning and fulfills this test as well that Hashem placed before him and puts his faith in Hashem and sends Yishmael and Hagar out camping. Interestingly enough once again angels come rescue them for Hashem heard the crying of Yishmael and even more fascinating and quite the incredible epilogue of the story after passing of Sarah Avraham remarries Hagar and Yishmael himself is noted to have done Teshuvah and comes back to bury his beloved father. The extent of his Teshuva is so remarkable that one of our greatest sages-who's buried right up the road from us in Karmiel is none other than the great high priest Rabbi Yishmael Kohein Gadol. It seems that it became an acceptable and even righteous name to name ones children. Although I haven't heard it given recently…
Our sages though note something interesting about this first argument between parents about the raising of this first Jewish child. The first thing though to note is the special relationship between Avraham and Sarah. By none of the other Forefathers an Mothers does it refer to them in the same way as the Torah does Avraham and Sarah. For repeatedly Sarah is called Eishet Avraham Sarah the wife of Avraham. Rivka Rachel Leah are never referred to as the wife of_____ yet Sarah in almost every chapter is always connected to Avraham as his wife, his spouse, his partner. What's also fascinating as well as we don't as well find by the other Forefathers any fights or arguments about the raising of their children. Sure they each had their challenges. Esau was no picnic and neither were the 12 tribes and the Fathers and Mothers certainly had different approaches and opinions on how to raise them. Yet it is only by the husband and wife team of Avraham and Sarah that the Torah shares with us that there was disagreement and even conversation and communication about how to deal with the raising of their child. Lesson one perhaps you have to be a team a dedicated husband and wife and then it is alright to disagree about how best to raise the children. Perhaps that is even the only way that critical communication can happen.
But what were they arguing about. What was the essence of their debate. Did Sarah, the paradigm of kindness, who welcomed every guest into her home night and day-pagan or not and who even gave this woman who was the daughter of her oppressor to her husband begrudge her? It doesn't resonate and the Torah which never hesitates to share the flaws of our great people doesn't make any mention of any jealousy. And Avraham, what was he thinking? Did he not recognize that Yitzchak was his son that was meant to inherit him, and that having Yishmael who was certainly a pretty bad and perhaps even dangerous kid around needed to be sent to some rehab center somewhere? What's the real story here?
So once again our sages shed some light unto this story as they note that Hashem commands Avraham to listen to all that Sarah said to him-hinting that there was another conversation that took place. And they share with us that Avraham told Sarah I understand that you want me to send him away. But what will all the people say? Avraham who was preaching kindness for so many years sends away his oldest son and the wife that he raised to such heights! It will be a desecration of Hashem's name. And we are here to honor Hashem's name to create a world that honors Hashem. Sarah counters this argument but Yitzchak is the one with who the nation will come from and it is critical that he not be connected in any way to the desecration of Hashem's name that Yishmael is causing. Let Hashem once again judge and tell us what the right path to take is. And it is here that Hashem steps in and tells Avraham that just as in the last incident when Hagar had to be sent away, listen to all Sarah says for it is through Yitzchak that your descendants and that nation will come.
It is truly an amazing portion and insight into the building of the Jewish name from these two great individuals who for years had been focused on spreading the word of Hashem and His light to the world. Avraham-the man is focused on the big picture. We have a job to do. We may have to curtail our own spiritual perfection and environment with some less savory for Yishmael is also my son…also Hashem's son. We have to do whatever we can to increase Hashems glory despite the challenge. Sarah, though understands that the big picture of reaching out to the world is no longer the priority. The priority is creating a family and a nation that will inherit the legacy and fulfill the destiny of Avraham. In this case the purity of that family and the danger of any influence that would detract from Yitzchaks ability to grow to be the second of the Patriarch is of paramount concern. It is only after that is accomplished that Yishmael and Hagar will be able to once again return and only then can they achieve the greatness that they are meant to achieve and become.
It is not easy raising Jewish children. But our forefathers and mothers have set the path for us. One thing that is certain and that is found by all of our Patriarchs is that there are challenges involved. There are doubts, there are two paths that can be taken and there are sometimes conflicting priorities that have to be weighed. Yet when faced with those challenges ultimately we have to recognize that we are never alone. We are engaged in holy work, perhaps the holiest work and therefore we know that we have Hashem that is there to help us and guide us. Perhaps the greatest lesson is in how we have to know to turn to Him when faced with those challenges and question. Our Father in Heaven has quite a bit of experience with children that don't always turn out the way he wanted them to. Yet He is still there for us. For it is through us and our children that ultimately His name will be sanctified.
Have a positively grand Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The first 45 years of Parenting are the hardest.” – a Jewish mother (hi momJ)
"I am your Fathaaar"-Darth Vader JJ
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. Which of the following was a Bilu’im settlement?
A. Rishon LeTsiyon
D. Rosh Pina
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
"And Hashem opened the eyes of Hagar and She saw the well"-Everyone has the status of a blind person for a man only sees as much as Hashem allows him to see. Until Hashem comes and opens up our eyes for even though the well was near Hagar she only became aware of it when Hashem opened up her eyes.
Bereishit Rabba (it has been proven in the Schwartz family as well as there is a tradition that the recitation of this Midrash works when you lose something to help you find it)
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Remembering the Holocaust – The modern State of Israel was built upon the ashes of the holocaust. And there are quite a few museums that one can visit to learn and to memorialize the 6 million Jews that perished in during World War II. Most famous of course is Yad Vashem which is perhaps the most moving and comprehensive memorial in the world, its historical museum and video testimonials are overwhelming and moving. The children's monument, coomunities and heroes monuments are also very powerful and if you have time certainly the archives are the place to research relatives who may have been there. However besides Yad Vashem there are some samller and just as meaningful musuems. The Ghetto Fighters museum right outside of Akko and the childrens museum was the first museum in Israel and is also very powerful. Yad Mordechai in the South tells the story of the Warsaw Ghetto and Mordechai Anilevitz where one can learn about the Resistance. And in the old city of Jerusalem by Mount Zion there is the Martef HaShoah the Holocaust chamber which contains a memorial cemetery with tombstones dedicated to communities that have perished as well as a powerful historical timeline of the history of anti-Semitism that preceded the holocaust. In general I prefer to visit places that uplift and connect with the life of Israel yet a trip to Israel and a true appreciation of our country and how fortunate we are when we remember our ancestors who never merited to realize the dream of coming here.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Funny different Parenting approaches from the classic 70's
And from the king of Fatherhood and Parenting the great Bill Cosby
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY TOP TEN LIST OF OF THE WEEK
I know it's a week late..but still goodJ…
IF JEWS CELEBRATED HALLOWEEN- THE HALACHOS (LAWS)
1) No trick or treating until sundown. This year not before 5:54PM in the NY area. Children may trick or treat earlier for Chinuch (educational purposes), but it’s preferable if they wait until the zman.
2) A scary costume is preferable, but b’dieved (2nd choice), one dressed as a princess or a Minion has fulfilled the obligation of dressing up.
3) One who turns off the lights and pretends to be away is called a sinner!
4) Shaving cream used for tricks does not require kosher supervision.
5) If Halloween falls out on Shabbat (like this year), trick or treating within the eruv (a string around the city allowing Jews to carry outdoors on Shabbat) is permissible. If there is no eruv, one still trick or treats, but the custom is to cut a hole in bottom of the plastic jack o’ lantern so the candy goes to waste.
6) To be considered a trick, one must damage property valued at at least one perutah (approx. 5 cents). A trick must also inconvenience the victim by at least 6.7 minutes. In case of emergency, there is a lenient position of 4.8 minutes one may be allowed to rely on. Consult your Halachikauthority (your Rabbi).
7) The pumpkin should be placed on the top step, to the right of the door.
It is preferable to use a real pumpkin as a jack o’ lantern. B’dieved (2nd choice), plastic is also acceptable.
It is preferable to use a real pumpkin as a jack o’ lantern. B’dieved (2nd choice), plastic is also acceptable.
9) One does not make a blessing before trick or treating, because it is not certain that the homeowner will be home. (And one may not utter Gd’s name in vain.)
10) When giving candy, one must give an amount at least the size of an olive (about five candy corns.) Some are of the opinion that it has to be at least the size of an egg (twelve candy corns.) This opinion is preferable.
11) When egging cars, one should be careful not to drop any eggs prior to throwing them. Remember, Ba’al Tashchis (the sin of wasting)!
Answer is C: BILU was a small group of Jewish Socialist idealogues and students that moved to Israel in the late 1800's motivated to aquire land in Israel (which they were not able to own in Russia) and to create a socialist society. They called themselves Bilu based on the verse Beit Yacov Lichu VaNelcha- the house of Jacob shall go and we shall go forth from Isaiah. The end of that verse that they failed to mention was we shall go forth in the light of Hashem…the group which never was more than 50 people landed in Mikve Yisrael one of the early religious settlements and then moved to Rishon. However the first settlement they established was in Gedera which ultimately failed. Many of them went back to Russia or died of starvation and disease and some enede up joining some the kibbutz movements that started. Only one of them survived to see the establishment of the State of Israel