Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
About eight years ago, I was out walking when our son Shlomie, then 16 years old, called me on my cell phone. He asked me if I heard the news. “What news?” I asked.
“Tatty,” he blurted out, “[New York City Mayor Rudy] Giuliani committed adultery!” “And” I said/asked, not knowing what he wanted from me or how he wanted me to respond. “How could he do this, Ta? I know [President Bill] Clinton did things like this, but Giuliani? He seems like such an honest, decent man,” Shlomie said, with confusion and hurt in his voice.
After a few moments of silence I told him that this is really not fit for a phone conversation, so I invited him to discuss this with me in person upon his arrival from yeshiva later that evening.
That unforgettable “Kodak moment” came to mind as the tawdry details of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s stunning downfall recently unfolded throughout the media. More than a few people contacted me, asking how they should respond to their teenager’s questions/ comments about this matter. Thus, the writing of this column.
Now back to Shlomie: Home from yeshiva, we went for a walk at which time I allowed him to express his disappointment with Giuliani and his bewilderment at how people do these kinds of things. When he wound down, I told him that everything that happens in our lives contains lessons to be learned – and this was no exception.
I told him that my take was that human frailty is such that the only way to prevent one from losing his or her moral compass in a moment of weakness was by establishing boundaries. I then gave him several concrete examples of boundaries that I set in my personal life. I asked him, “Shlomie, think back over the years growing up in our home. Did you ever see an unaccompanied woman come to our home to meet with me (and seek my advice) after dark or when there weren’t lots of people walking around our home?” and “Why do you think that the door to my study is almost completely made of glass?”
I explained to him that I decided long ago to set these boundaries – and others – in order to lessen the likelihood of being placed in a precarious position. (It was quite interesting that despite growing up in our home, Shlomie was unaware of the aforementioned two ‘boundaries’ I had set in my life, since we had never discussed them previously.) We talked about the dictum of our chazal (sages) of “ain apitropis l’arayos,” loosely translated to mean that no one can assume that he/she is immune to temptation. We also spoke about our chazal, in their wisdom, having established boundaries for us such as yichud (the prohibition against secluding oneself with a non-family member of the opposite gender) – in order to help us live within the Torah’s mandates.
Further, I emphasized the deep commitment and love that his mother and I share with each other and with our children, and how disruptive dishonesty can be to relationships. We talked about how trust is built and expanded over a period of time with loved ones, and how important it is to always be truthful with the people we care about. (Here are two quotes I find meaningful: “The first lie is always the hardest” and “There is no such thing as a single lie.” The latter means that when one is not truthful, he/she will inevitably need to lie many more times to “cover” for the original one.”)
I advise parents to not get flustered if and when your child raises this topic. Take it as a supreme compliment that he/she is comfortable discussing these matters with you. Keep in mind that you cannot guide your children if they don’t seek your advice.
Don’t make sweeping generalizations like “Frum people don’t do these things” or “Gentiles or non-frum people do.” That might carry the day now but, sadly, no community is without its bad apples. Your message to your child will be demolished and your credibility diminished when he/she discovers that we are not completely immune to poor and immoral behavior, and that there are deeply moral people outside our community.
Talk about our community’s family values, commitment to marriage and low divorce rate, and the Torah’s eternal lessons to help us maintain our spiritual and moral compass in the most trying of circumstances.
Talk about trust. It is an invaluable lesson for your teen to learn – now in his or her relationship with you and later in life when establishing his or her own family.
Do listen, for the real discussions take place when you stop lecturing and start listening. Create an environment where your child is comfortable asking you anything.
Always keep in mind that a repressed question is an unaddressed – and unresolved – one.
And Good luck!
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.
To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s Dvar Torah Sefer, “Growing With the Parsha” or his popular parenting tapes and CD’s – including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children” – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
This is the story of a Holocaust survivor who began her odyssey in Dej, Romania. Chanele Anne Grun Kempler was a teenager when she came to Auschwitz, almost 20 when she immigrated to Montreal and became a famous artist, and 64 when she passed away, alone in her bed, in 1994, on her chest a letter from Yad Vashem informing her that the painting she offered to the organization would be admitted and displayed.
It’s not that I think contractors, painters and tile guys are exclusively greedy, deceitful incompetent people – I think they are just poor businessmen or women!
I look into the flickering flames of the Shabbos candles and I am thankful for the warmth and light that emanates from them and illuminates our home.
Widow of world-famous nuclear scientist and human rights activist, Dr. Andre Sakharov, and an outstanding activist in her own right, Yelena Bonner was invited to speak of the suffering she endured in Stalinist Russia. Instead, the 86-year-old leader of the Russian human rights movement chose to speak about Israel and the Jews. Why?
I wonder why bullying exists in our community and in society at large? I was very surprised at a 30-year-old client’s explanation.
The rebbe had told Meir and Yehudah to take turns, but that wasn’t working out so well.
The sage Hillel summarized the entire Torah by saying, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it.”
Sometimes it is hard to help people, and sometimes you can help people by just using whatever it is you have at the time – even an amazing fishing rod.
Musial told the taunted Jackie Robinson: “I want you to know that I’m not like many of the other guys on my team.”
Brooklyn resident David Siller, currently studying in Israel at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah in Beit Shemesh, was awarded a trophy for finishing 3rd in his age group (14-18) in a 5-kilometer race for the benefit of the Benjamin Children’s Library of Beit Shemesh.
Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.
These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.
All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.
A surefire way to gauge the generation in which a person was raised is to have him or her fill in the following sentence: Where were you when ?”
Baby Boomers would ask, “When President Kennedy was shot?” Thirtysomethings would respond, “When the space shuttle exploded?” Today’s teenagers would reply, “On 9/11?”
One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/responding-to-your-childrens-questions-about-the-spitzer-episode/2008/03/26/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: