Bringing Torah To Life – Teaching Children Kibud Av V’Eim

29 12 2009

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The following is one article from this week’s Torat Imecha: Women’s Torah Weekly. To read the rest of the edition and other editions click here.

Also, check out the full length version of this class:

The Mussar Revolution

We continue with our discussion of how to teach children the value of kibud av v’aim, respecting parents. Children from age ten to thirteen are maturing rapidly. You need to move the relationship from imitation to discipleship and friendship. This is achieved by showing the child how much you value their opinion and by sharing beliefs and ideas with them. Inviting a discussion with your child shows him that you think he is important. Recognize that they have their own unique value and that they are not just an extension of you. Rebellion is the consequence of feeling that one can’t have a self. Build a relationship with your child. Nurture bonds of love. The more time you give them, the more affection and intimacy will develop, and the more they will have to lose by disobeying.

Show your child that you value him but expect him to still treat you as a parent. Listen to him and be empathetic. When something about his behavior bothers you, explain it in a nice way and place in his hands some of the authority to correct it. If he respects you enough, he will not want to disappoint you.

At this age, jealousy, lust, and honor are big forces in a child’s life and he will need you to teach him skills on how to handle them before temptation overpowers him. Children may become envious and demand possessions that you don’t think they need. Talk to them about independence and individuality and being happy with what Hashem gives us. If you do a good job at getting the point across with examples and stories, your children will feel less pressured to conform. If you see that they cannot stand up to the test, try not to force them into conflict. Sometimes you might just have to give in. If you really can’t, try to understand them and use your authority to put limitations on how far their resentment takes them.

Kids this age are baalei taava – lustful. Girls should be taught the laws of tzniut and boys should be trained in shemirat einayim. For girls, taavah expresses itself many times in the desire for admiration. Lay down the right foundation by teaching them the joy of discipline. Self esteem comes from self discipline. Stretching yourself beyond your limitations gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Train them to take pride in overcoming base desires. Teach them yirat shamayim by your own example. Listen to them, be willing to extend yourself if possible, and then exert your authority.

Kavod, honor, is much harder to deal with. Children have an insatiable need for acknowledgment and appreciation. If they feel slighted it will be hard for them to control themselves and they may react by saying and doing things they shouldn’t. The Netivot Shalom writes that insulting a child is like pouring oil on a fire. Criticizing and devaluation destroys their self esteem. Always express acknowledgement, validation, and appreciation. If they feel they are being mistreated, listen to them, restate their complaint, acknowledge that you think differently, state the thing they did, and assert your authority. Children who are hypersensitive will interpret any disapproval as complete rejection. Build your ability to acknowledge your child’s inherent goodness. Help them develop a sense of security, value, and trustworthiness. Then you can credibly say, “A girl like you, who I acknowledge and believe in, shouldn’t be doing something like this.”

In summation, in early childhood take advantage of your children’s desire to follow and teach them the basics of kibudav. They should learn to respect and listen to you. In return you should listen to them and make fair decisions with their interests in mind. In mid childhood, be an example for your child in how you treat your spouse and your own parents. Cultivate a relationship of discipleship and friendship in the late childhood and early teen years. Be an empathetic listener but remain authoritative. Get your decision across in a way that the child feels he’s been acknowledged and that it is not your ego speaking, but the Torah. We’ve only touched on this topic which is so broad and complex. Applying these basic principles will get you off to a good start on the challenging road of chinuch.

Torah to Get You Through Your Day

24 12 2009

I just wanted to say thank you so so much for this website. It has helped me so much. I listen to the Shiurim while I clean up, do washing, exercise on the machine, anything. It just helps fill my life with Torah and I am so grateful. So far I have listened to Rebbetzin Heller and the Shabbos Halacha and Shmiras HaLashon. I really enjoy them all. Thank you!


Check out the Classes Shuli has been enjoying: Turns Commuting Into Torah Learning Time

22 12 2009

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– Matthew Clark Wayne, PA

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Chanukah: How To Be a Modern Day Maccabee

13 12 2009

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Hanoch TellerChanukah: How to Be a Modern-Day Maccabee

When the Torah tells the story of the akeida, the greatest act of Jewish heroism, it says about Avraham, “V’ani v’hanaar nelech ad koh, I and the boy will go hither.” Why does the Torah use the term “koh” and not “sham?” “Koh” is a hint for “kaf heh.” We will walk towards the 25th of Kislev.

Where did the Macabees get their extraordinary courage? Our forefather Avraham embedded it within their genes. From where did Avraham derive his strength? The midrash tells a parable of a bandit who would sit at the crossroads and ambush people as they came close. A sagacious man, who noticed that the bandit had no feet, walked over and stood behind him. The bandit could do nothing, since he could not move.

Life is really a test. The bandit is our evil inclination. The clever man is Avraham who realized that the yetzerhara has no power unless the person himself activates it. He established that wisdom for his future descendants. The Macabees understood that they were being tested. They were determined to pass with flying colors. In life, if we understand that our trials are not truly real, but rather just Hashem’s way of gauging our reaction, then the challenge of the test is greatly diminished.

Another method of handling life’s challenges is to cultivate the power of gratitude. Feeling grateful for what we have, as opposed to being miserable for what we don’t have, helps us maintain our happiness. A bracha is about appreciation. Saying a bracha and meaning it will trigger feelings of gratefulness.

Another way to stay courageous is to utilize the concept of “bashert” – destiny. Many people use bashert to blame their failings or laziness on Hashem. Rabbi Dr. David Gottlieb explains the true meaning of this concept. An ego investment is investing time, energy, and effort into something that you hope will succeed. If it doesn’t, you may feel devastated. On the other hand, if you never try you’ll never succeed. Making bashert part of your repertoire will prevent you from feeling crushed when a project fails. In a sense the person says, “It’s not me who failed, it’s just my project. I’ve done all I could. My challenge is to take the experience and apply its lessons for the future.”

A third and final idea, advocated by the Chafetz Chaim, is kaparah – atonement for sins. The next time you suffer, think “This is an atonement for my sins.” Then you will have taken a painful experience and turned it into something meaningful.

On Chanukah, let us try to implement some of these strategies in our lives so that sparks of the extraordinary courage of the Macabees remain with us throughout the year.

Parshat Vayishlach: The Dual Meaning of the Ox and the Donkey Based on a shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

3 12 2009

Parshat Chayei Sarah: Overcoming Self Interest

As Yaakov nears the land of Israel, he sends angels as messengers to his brother Esav. The Shem MiShmuel finds several aspects about this incident puzzling. Why did Yaakov tell Esav, “I had an ox and a donkey in the house of Lavan?” Additionally, since he was met by the angels of Israel while the angels of Chutz L’aaretz were still with him, he selected angels from both groups to go to Esav. Why did he need both types of angels and what was the difference between them?

The Shem MiShmuel explains that there are seven inhabited continents that comprise the world. The land of Israel is at the center with three continents on each side. Shabbat, similarly, is the focal point of the week. We prepare for Shabbat during the three days that precede it, and we bask in the glow of the previous Shabbat for the three days that follow.

The Gemara says there are weekday angels and Shabbat angels. The Shabbat angels correspond to Eretz Yisrael, and the weekday angels relate to the other six continents.

The midrash on Breishit discusses a disagreement about the day on which G-d created angels. Rabbi Yochanan maintains that they were created on the second day, while Rabbi Chanina states that they were created on the fifth day. The Shem Mishmuel suggests that both opinions are correct. An angel’s mission is to be a conduit between the spiritual world of Hashem and the physical realm of man. An angel is supposed to connect Hashem’s infinite being with our finite world. Hashem sends his spirituality down to us. We elevate our physical world, delivering it back to Him. The angels participate in this process.

The angels who were created on the second day were very close to Hashem. The physical world was just beginning to take shape. These weekday angels were charged with the mission of transporting spirituality to the physical world. On the fifth day, Hashem created the Shabbat angels who would serve man, who would be created the following day.

Man’s purpose is to activate the spiritual dimension found within the physical world, and return it to Hashem. During the week we benefit from the spiritual power brought down by the weekday angels. On Shabbat, we take all the physical struggles of the week, and with the assistance of the Shabbat angels, create a holy gift for Hashem.

This movement from spiritual to physical also applies to our world. In the six continents, the weekday angels work to bring the life giving force from the higher spheres to the lower world. In the land of Israel, where there is a yearning to connect to Hashem, the Shabbat angels help transform the physical back into spiritual.

This pattern is also found with tzaddikim. One kind of tzaddik excels in serving Hashem through prayer and kind deeds. He elevates his physical existence to spirituality. There is another kind of tzaddik who is outstanding in Torah learning. He uncovers Hashem’s manifestation of spirituality as found in the Torah, and internalizes it within his physical form.

This is what Yaakov meant when he told Esav that he had an ox and a donkey. The ox symbolizes Yosef Hatzadik, who elevated physical to spiritual. The donkey refers to Yissachar, who excelled in Torah.
There are also two types of evil. The ox corresponds to the evil person who will destroy anyone blocking his path to power. This is psychological energy, derived from the ego, flowing from above downwards. The donkey represents immorality and unbridled pleasure. This is physical energy moving up.

The Eved Hashem fights the evil of power. The Torah scholar battles the evil of immorality. Esav, whose fundamental evil was tyranny, joined hands with Yishmael, who signified physical pleasure. Therefore, Yaakov sent him a message, “I had an ox and a donkey.” In a sense he was saying, “I have Yosef and Yissachar,” who can counteract your dual evil.

Yosef and Yissachar are typical of Jews throughout the ages. As we read the parsha describing the encounter of Yaakov and Esav we can discern what our purpose is – to bring heaven to earth and earth to heaven. May we merit to succeed in our mission.