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November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yakov Horowitz’

Changing Schools (Part II)

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.

We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Two weeks ago, we discussed the following questions parents ought to explore before making the decision to switch their child’s school setting:

Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best? Which rav knows our family best?

This week, we will talk about the following:

Have we explored all possible reasons for our son’s lack of success in the current setting? Is the difficulty he is experiencing a one-year phenomenon or does it follow a pattern of poor performance over a number of years?

There are many reasons why a child underachieves in a particular school setting. But they can be broken down to three basic categories: The shortcomings of the school he is currently attending, educational or social challenges that he may have, and poor chemistry between him (and family) and the current school.

I would encourage you to begin by focusing on the second of the aforementioned points, namely your child’s learning and social profile. That component will help you address the other two segments more easily. This is because it is not uncommon for parents to switch their child’s school, only to find out later that the issues that complicated their child’s experience in the initial school followed him/her to the new setting. (A similar pattern often manifests itself with “retention” – having an underachieving child repeat a particular grade, hoping things will improve in the next round. Recent studies indicate that in a significant percentage of these cases, the problems are merely ignored and not solved at all.)

Start by thinking back to the past few years of your son’s school experience and ask yourselves if there were any signs of the problems he is currently having. Keep in mind that children, like adults, rarely change their learning styles and/or personality traits. We hope to improve the weaker points of our overall temperament – but our DNA doesn’t change.

I encourage you to explore the learning profile of your son in order to better understand the challenges he is facing this year. Is he a visual, auditory or textual learner? (Keep in mind that I only addressed the main learning patterns despite there being other, lesser- known styles such as kinesthetic learners.) Does he have attention issues such as ADD? Does he have impulse control challenges? (Please visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, to review three columns I wrote on learning profiles named “Different Strokes” along with three columns on ADD.)

Answering all of these questions will help you understand your son better, as you try engaging in a forensic analysis of what is really going wrong this year. Having this information will also help you develop the “medical records” (see previous column) you can share with individuals whose advice you may seek in deciding if you ought to switch schools.

Finally, I would strongly suggest that you get an educational evaluation from a credentialed professional. Most school districts in the United States offer free educational/psychological assessments of students – including those who attend non-public schools. Your child’s principal or the director of special services can probably direct you to the appropriate office to arrange for an evaluation. If you find it difficult to access district services, consider contacting Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel’s Project LEARN (Limud Education Advocacy and Referral Network). LEARN helps parents navigate the path from determining that their child has special education needs to obtaining the services they are legally entitled to. Mrs. Steinberg can be contacted at 212-797-9000 x 325, or via e-mail at lsteinberg@thejnet.com.

Part III: More questions: How well does our child adjust to change? Are we truly open to exploring the way we parent our children?

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder andmenahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey,and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapesand CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Changing Schools (Part I)

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Asking the Right Questions:

Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.

We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Note to readers: This subject requires a series of columns, due to the high-stakes nature of the school placement/change issue, and the large number of parents who are confronted with making these difficult decisions. How prevalent are these questions? Over the past decade, the percentage of calls to our Project YES office dealing with school placement issues has consistently hovered around 40 percent. This means that four of 10 callers were requesting assistance with school placements for their children.

I hope you find these columns helpful.

* * *

I like the way you framed the issue by asking me to provide you with a list of questions. This will help you make the call yourselves rather than having me make it for you. I believe it is healthiest for parents – and parents alone – to be making these types of da’as Torah decisions. Thus, in the end, it is your decision to make – as you alone will need to live with the consequences.

I always encourage parents to discuss substantive matters with da’as Torah. However, I have found that there is a great deal of confusion as to the difference between an eitzah (advice), a p’sak (Halachic ruling) and a brachah (blessing). (I encourage you to visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, and read my “Answers About Questions” column for more details on this complex and often misunderstood issue.)

As per your request, here are some questions. I’ll add some suggestions afterward.

1. Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best?

2. Which rav knows our family best?

I think these are, by far, the most important questions for you to explore. Most parents in your predicament often look for high-profile individuals who do not know their children – such as leading roshei yeshiva, rabbanim or mechanchim – to help them decide whether or not to switch schools and which school to switch to if a change is to be made.

However, I have found that regardless of their wisdom, tzidkus (piety) or stature people who do not know your son and/or your family simply cannot and should not be asked to give you substantive advice regarding such a complex matter like changing your son’s school placement. That would be like going to a renowned heart surgeon and asking him for medical advice (whether to operate) without giving him your medical records.

If that individual has the time to do everything necessary to get the “medical records” of your son, by all means take advantage of the opportunity. But keep in mind that the higher the profile of the person you are going to, the more likely it is that there are incredible demands on his time. Trust me, you do not need an overworked, busy person right now. Remember that getting the “medical records” would mean receiving input from the current rebbe/teacher, inquiring about your child’s personality and current social interaction, reading any educational testing you’ve done, and reviewing report cards. You get the picture.

If you have access to a leading rosh yeshiva, rav or mechanech, you will be far better served doing all your homework first and then, armed with all relevant information, consulting with him as per your final decision.

With that in mind, I suggest that you look for one of the following: 1) a current or former rebbe; 2) the principal (if you are comfortable letting him know at this stage that you are considering a school change); 3) your son’s summer camp rebbe or learning director; 4) your shul’s rav; or 5) an educator who lives on your block.

Picture the concentric circles of a bull’s-eye, and think of your son as being in the middle of those circles. Whoever is in the center of his life is best suited to give you the help you need.

More questions in Part II.

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 D’var Torah sefer, “Growing With the Parsha,”or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Man Serving Hashem … The Center Of Creation

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the “The Dreamer” (Beraishis 37:19). And, while the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef’s life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.

He engendered the envy of his brothers when he shared his two dreams with them. He correctly interpreted the dreams of the ministers of Pharaoh, and later rose to glory when he was called upon to shed light on the dreams of Pharaoh himself. The two original dreams of Yosef, and their significance in the events of the lives of the children of Yaakov, compel us to study them carefully and glean important messages from their meaning.

Yosef’s first dream (Beraishis 37:7) was about 11 sheaves of grain in a field, bowing to the center sheaf – representing the 11 sons of Yaakov bowing to Yosef. His second dream (Beraishis 37:9) was all about heavenly matters. In this dream, the sun, the moon and the stars were bowing to him.

Yosef aroused the envy of his brothers when he related these dreams to them. However, Yaakov Avinu had a different “interpretation” of the dreams of his son. While he adopted an external pose of annoyance with Yosef, the Torah relates “V’Aviv shamar es ha’davar – And his father [Yaakov] ‘guarded’ the dreams [and anxiously waited for them to come to fruition] (Beraishis 37:11; see Rashi).

Yaakov Avinu Waiting And Watching

This causes us to question – what did Yaakov Avinu see in the dreams of Yosef that the brothers missed?

Rashi lists several similarities between the lives of Yaakov and his favorite son, Yosef (Eleh toldos Yaakov, Beraishis 37:2, see Rashi). In that light, it is interesting to note that Yaakov Avinu also dreamed of the same two elements, gashmius and ruchnius – earthly and heavenly matters – when he was sleeping in Beis El, on his way to the house of Lavan (Beraishis 28:12). He dreamed of a ladder standing on earth that reached the heavens.

However, that is where the similarities ended. Yaakov’s dream was all about transcending the earthly and climbing the ladder to dwell in the presence of Hashem. The central figures in Yaakov’s dream were the angels. Yosef’s dreams were about Yosef, with all participants in the dreams paying homage to him.

That being the case, the brothers of Yosef seemed to be correct in their contempt for their brother’s view of things. Why, then, did Yaakov guard the dreams and expect positive outcomes from them?

The answer may be that Yaakov understood the deeper meaning in the dreams of his son. Yosef was thinking of man in his highest state – as the center of the briah (creation) itself. Yosef was not egotistical; he was thinking about the awesome responsibility of man to serve Hashem. Yosef, who was to become the visionary leader of the entire world, and who was the virtual bechor (firstborn) of Yaakov, was dreaming of the limitless potential of the human being to become the center of creation.

After all, Hashem created this world – earthly and heavenly things – so that man can serve Him and thereby bring shleimus (fulfillment) to His world (Rashi Beraishis 1:1, Beraishis Rabbah 1:6). Yaakov’s dreams were about angels; Yosef dreamed about heavenly humans.

Yaakov realized that the brothers misunderstood Yosef. He was upset that Yosef shared his vision with his siblings and aroused their envy. At the same time, Yaakov was “guarding” the dream, and hoping for its eventual fulfillment. As Rashi explains, Yaakov was hoping for these lofty dreams to come true.

Passing The Tests

Over the following 22 years, Yosef was severely put to the test. He was sold as a slave and sent to Mitzrayim, demoralized and alone. He was tested by the wife of Potifar, and then spent 12 years in a dungeon. Having passed the trial of loneliness and deprivation, he was then faced with a greater challenge: glory and royalty. Yet Yosef remained the humble servant of Hashem throughout these divergent phases in his life (see Rashi, Shemos 1:5). His faith in Hashem remained intact, and of all our great avos and shevatim, he alone earned the title of Yosef HaTzaddik, Yosef the righteous one.

Yaakov’s confidence in his son was rewarded. Yosef emerged from his trials and tribulations as the deserving leader of the world. The sheaves of the world, the people, were paying homage to him as they came to Mitzrayim to purchase grain for their families. More importantly, the heavenly objects were bowing to him, as well. Yosef had brought meaning to the world of Hashem. All celestial bodies joined in paying tribute to Yosef – and to his creator, Hashem.

Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos.

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, email udi528@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133

Leadership

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

As Yaakov makes his way back to the land of Canaan, several events – spanning the full range of emotions – transpire in rapid succession.

The sequence (Beraishis 35:16-29): Yaakov and Rochel are blessed with the birth of Binyamin Rochel died during the childbirth of Binyamin and was buried in Beis Lechem.  Shortly thereafter, Reuvein committed a significant misdeed, by interfering in the affairs of his father, when he moved the bed of Yaakov from the tent of Bilhah to his mother Leah’s tent Finally, Yaakov arrived home to the land of Canaan where he was reunited with his aged father Yitzchak.

Many meforshim (commentators) seek to shed light on the logical thread that ties these events together. Additionally, they address the fact that the Torah seems to interject a census of the 12 sons of Yaakov in the midst of these pesukim without an obvious reason.

Rashi creates a sequential chain that pulls these seemingly disparate facts into a coherent progression. The joyous birth of Binyamin brought about the tragic death of Rochel and her burial. After Rochel’s demise, Yaakov moved his bed and possessions from Rochel’s tent to Bilhah’s.

Reuvein felt that, as the firstborn, it was his place to defend the honor of his mother Leah. As Rashi explains, Reuvein felt his mother Leah would be offended at the notion of having Bilhah assuming the role of “akeres habayis” (the primary wife) at this point.

Thus, Reuvein took matters into his own hands and moved his father’s belongings. Once this incident was recorded, the Torah reverts to the fact that, after Binyamin’s birth, Yaakov’s 12 Shevatim (Tribes) were now complete and listed their names. Finally, Yaakov’s arrival at the home of his father is noted.

Shedding Light On The Actions Of Reuvein

Rashi offers a second explanation for the interjection of the listing of the 12 sons of Yaakov in the midst of this sequence. Quoting a Gemara (Shabbos 55b), Rashi points out that even immediately after the actions of Reuvein, he was listed with the other sons – with the respectful title of firstborn (Beraishis 35:23) – to lend significance to the fact that he remained a tzaddik (righteous person). In fact that Gemara notes that Reuvein did not sin at all.

Ramban takes this defense of Reuvein two steps further, by pointing out that the Torah specifically mentions that Yaakov immediately heard about the actions of his firstborn (Va’Yishma Yaakov, 35:22) to inform us that he did not punish him at that time. Additionally Ramban maintains that the Torah lists these two themes in one passuk – even through these is an unusual space in midst of this passuk – to show that Yaakov accepted Reuvein even after this act.

Why The Punishment?

After this rousing defense of Reuvein, Yaakov’s actions in the twilight of his life, as recorded in Parshas Vayechi, require explanation. As he blessed his children, Yaakov admonished Reuvein for his impulsive actions, and took from his firstborn’s rights to Kehunah (priesthood) and Malchus (royalty), which were given to Levi and Yehudah, respectively. (See Rashi, others, for the reasons that Yaakov delayed his response until close to his death).

If Reuvein had not sinned, why, then, was he punished so severely? And if he was listed as the firstborn immediately after his misdeed, why did he lose those privileges later on?

The Responsibility of Leadership

I would like to suggest that Yaakov was not “punishing” Reuvein by any means. Yaakov still considered Reuvein to be his firstborn and began the Birchos Yaakov by noting “Reuvain bechori ata – You are my firstborn” (Beraishis, 49:3).

Losing the leadership role, however, was inevitable once Reuvein had demonstrated that he acted impulsively – without proper reflection. If an individual responds impulsively to situations that arise, he or she may be subjecting him or herself to the consequences of poor decisions.

However, as a leader, this type of impulsive actions can be nothing short of disastrous. A true leader must always be reflective and measured in his or her responses.

Leadership of any kind – in one’s class, school, peer group, or any other social structure – is an honor and privilege. It is also a significant responsibility, one that is best exercised with restraint and reflection.

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, email udi528@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133

Negotiating With Our Teenager: Understanding The Dynamics Of ‘The Deal’ (Part II)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

Our eldest child is in 10th grade at a local Bais Yaakov. She is doing well in school and is generally well-behaved at home. However, over the past year or so, everything we tell or ask her becomes a full-scale negotiating session. It doesn’t make a difference what the issue is – curfew, when to do her homework, when to clean her room, etc. It is draining our energy and eroding our relationship with her.

Here are our questions:

1. Is this normal?

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

3. Do you have any practical suggestions for us?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds (Continued)

Two weeks ago we discussed the notion of your need as parents to nourish your self-esteem and realize that when your daughter negotiates with you she is, in a roundabout manner, acknowledging your authority. We also noted that you would be in the best position to effectively parent your child when you are confident, comfortable, and in control. That means speaking calmly and not lashing out verbally, and developing an aura of tranquility.

As for the practical tips you asked for, here are some techniques that you may wish to share with your teenage daughter – explaining to her that she is far more likely to achieve a satisfactory response when doing so. Another way to pose this would be to establish these factors as “ground rules for negotiation” in your home. (These two approaches are different. The first is more progressive, the second more authoritative. Both are okay, so choose the one that suits you better.)

Negotiating 1.0:

1. A respectful tone must be maintained (no negotiation under fire).

2. Your daughter should share with you the reason that she finds it difficult to fulfill your request.

3. She should make a “counteroffer.”

4. Assign a “value” for how important this is to her.

Here are some details for each of these:

1. A respectful tone must be maintained (no negotiation under fire).

This simply means that in order for your daughter to have her request listened to, she must present it in a way that is respectful to you. Please remember to keep calm if she is hostile or emotional. Yelling back shows you are not in control.

Keep replaying this mantra in your mind:

· I am the adult in this discussion.

· I am in charge.

· I need to demonstrate leadership and not yell back.

If this doesn’t work for you, tell your daughter that you are upset and need a few minutes to think clearly. You will get valuable time to reflect, and will also be exhibiting good habits to your daughter.

The best way to stop your daughter from yelling is to calmly say that you cannot respond to her when she is that upset. Suggest that she take a timeout and try again later in a more respectful manner.

When she does come back, do not begin the conversation by discussing her previous outburst. Leave that for the end of your talk or, better yet, for later that day. You should suggest that she apologize, without serious discussions about the temper tantrum – as that will then become the main event and distract from the conversation at hand.

2. Your daughter should share with you the reason that she finds it difficult to fulfill your request.

Explain to her that this will help you take her request more seriously. “Can I stay out until 11 p.m., since all my friends are leaving at that time?” is far more explanatory and reasonable than “Can I stay out until 11 p.m.?” As a parent, it is important to understand how important peer pressure is at this stage in your teenager’s life. Please don’t tell her not to care what her friends think of her. That is one surefire way to create a chasm between you and her.

3. She should make a “counteroffer.”

If your daughter is unhappy with your 10 p.m. curfew, she should say, “I’d like my curfew to be 11 p.m., please.” She should not say, “I can’t do that” or “No way.”

This value, that she should take the position of a reasonable adult and make you a counteroffer, is important to teach her.

4. Assign a “value” for how important this is to her.

In my recent column, “Is Everything A 10?” (http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=895&ThisGroup_ID=238&ID=Newest&Type=Article), I wrote a paragraph about the concept of having children express the (relative) importance of things to them by assigning them values. Here is that text:

One of the techniques I have found most helpful when mediating disputes between rebellious adolescents and their parents is to give the teenager six or eight index cards and ask him or her to jot down a request or concession that he or she would like his or her parents to grant on each of the cards. Then I ask the teen to stack the index cards in priority order, with the most important request on top. Finally, I have the teen assign a value from 1-10 for each of those requests, with 10 denoting something that he or she would consider of paramount significance and 1 representing a matter that is not terribly important.

I then hand a similar number of index cards to the parents of the adolescent and ask them to do likewise. And while this exercise is certainly not a miraculous cure for friction between teens and their parents, it is often helpful in establishing healthy dialogue and effective problem solving in a strained relationship.

In a similar vein, it may be helpful for your daughter to inform you how important this request is to her on a scale of 1-10.

One final point:

There are three possible outcomes. You may agree with her, meet her halfway, or you may need to stick to your guns and deny her request outright. If and when you are flat-out sticking to your guns, be sure to validate her feelings and let her know that you took her request seriously. Explain to her that you, too, have things that are a “10″ to you.

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 D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parsha, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Negotiating With Our Teenager: Understanding The Dynamics Of ‘The Deal’ (Part I)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

Our eldest child is in 10th grade at a local Bais Yaakov. She is doing well in school and is generally well behaved at home. However, over the past year or so, everything we tell her or ask her becomes a full-scale negotiating session. It doesn’t make a difference what the issue is – curfew, when to do her homework, when to clean her room, etc. It is draining our energy and eroding our relationship with her.

Here are our questions:

1. Is this normal?

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

3. Do you have any practical suggestions for us?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Nowadays, we keep hearing (appropriately so, I might add) that kids need healthy self-esteem. I think that with the incredibly complex and challenging job we face, parents need to nourish their self-esteem as well.

With that in mind, I will share with you a short phrase I tell people whenever the issue of negotiating with kids comes up in the Q&A segment of a parenting lecture: “only the boss negotiates.”

Think about it. When you are attempting to secure a pay raise at work, the only one that you approach is your boss or supervisor. Why? Because no one else in the hierarchy of the business has the authority to grant you additional compensation for your work aside from him (or her).

Thus in a roundabout manner, whenever your teenage daughter negotiates with you, she is acknowledging your authority in a very profound, albeit indirect, way. It’s almost as if she approached you and said the following things in sequence (all things in parentheses are unspoken sentiments):

1. (I know that I need to listen to you because you are my parent)

2. (If you refuse my request, I will have no choice but to accept your decision)

3. (Now that we got that out of the way), “Can I please stay out until 11 p.m. instead of 10:30?”

Now, doesn’t that sound better?

While we are in the parental “self-esteem-building mode,” please consider the fact that it is also a compliment to the two of you that the lines of communication are open between you and your teen. Trust me, that’s not always the case. In fact, when parents tell me that their teens are completely ignoring their house rules, I almost always send them for professional counseling – as that is a clear sign that there is a complete breakdown in the “chain of authority” at home. Reclaiming that takes wisdom, time and patience – and the willingness to change.

This “self-esteem-for-parents thing” is very important since you will be in the best position to effectively parent your child when you are confident, comfortable and in control. That means speaking calmly, not lashing out verbally, and developing an aura of tranquility.

Getting back to the analogy of your boss at work, think of how your respect for your boss would diminish if he yelled at or refused to listen to subordinates when they discuss things with him. You would correctly feel that he is not in control of things. So having the self-confidence to feel in charge and in control of your household will position you to effectively parent your teenage daughter when she “negotiates” with you.

Now, to your first two questions:

1. Is this normal?

This is most certainly normal. Kids have been doing this forever. The tone may have changed over the years, due to a number of societal changes (explaining the reasons for this is beyond the scope of this column), but kids have always tried to negotiate with their parents.

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

That depends on how the negotiating is done. It is not disrespectful for your child to “negotiate” with you, provided it is done in an atmosphere of ne’imus and derech eretz. Your task as a parent is to train your child to act this way. (Next week, I will share some practical tips to help you accomplish that goal.)

As for whether you did this to your parents, why don’t you ask them? Their answer may surprise you.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.

To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah Sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Is Everything A 10?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

One of the techniques I have found most helpful when mediating disputes between rebellious adolescents and their parents is to give the teenager six or eight index cards, and ask him or her to jot down a request or concession that he or she would like his parents to grant. Then I ask the teen to stack the index cards in priority order, with the most important request on top. Finally I have him assign a value from 1-10 for each of the requests, with 10 denoting something that he would consider of paramount significance and 1 representing a matter that is not terribly important. I then hand a similar number of index cards to the adolescent’s parents and ask them to do the same.

While this exercise is certainly not a miraculous cure for friction between teens and their parents, it is often helpful in establishing healthy dialogue and effective problem solving in a strained relationship.

With this in mind, I wish that someone would gather Israel’s Orthodox Knesset members (who purportedly represent their observant constituents in Eretz Yisrael) and ask them to assign a value from 1-10 regarding the importance of moving the clocks from Daylight Savings Time weeks before the rest of the civilized world.

For those who live in the Diaspora and may not be familiar with the yearly tempest in a teapot, here is some background: Most countries in the Western world move their clocks back from Daylight Savings Time around the end of October. However, a number of years ago, religious Knesset members in Israel introduced legislation to implement the clock change a week or so before Yom Kippur in an effort to “shorten” the fast day for Israelis.

Not surprisingly, this issue provokes resentment among non-observant Israelis year after year, as they complain about losing an hour of afternoon sunlight during the beautiful fall season. This is compounded by the fact that due to Israel’s brutal summertime heat, some of the nicest weather days are in the fall. These days are now shortened by the clock change, with people around the country returning from their offices after dark during part of September and all of October.

So I ask our Orthodox Knesset members the following question: Is this matter really a 10 on a scale of 1-10? Is it even a five? Don’t we have more pressing matters on our communal agenda than this one? Why are we adding yet another point of contention in our already strained relations with our secular brothers and sisters?

There are certainly other solutions to this “problem” that do not require wholesale changes that affect the entire country for weeks on end. We could change the clocks in our shuls and homes if we wish to do so for the day of Yom Kippur – just as sleep-away camps in the United States do during the summer months. This is done in order to operate on Eastern Standard Time, which allows for night activities after dark and for the children to go to bed earlier. We could start prayers an hour later on Yom Kippur, or we could simply not change anything and “deal with it” – as the kids say. My wife and I were vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer, and we fasted on Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz until nightfall, which was at 11:15 p.m. So again I ask: Why are we needlessly provoking enmity over this non-issue?

What concerns me most is that this issue of the clock change is indicative of the “everything-is-a-10 mindset” that some (or many) in our community maintain. Certain issues are indeed a 10, and we rely on the da’as Torah of our gedolim to guide us as to which issues fall into that category. But in all other nonessential matters, we should practice the concept of darchei noam (paths of pleasantness), and be sensitive to the wants and needs of others outside our community. Keep in mind that no one was ever brought closer to Hashem by force.

Even if we don’t practice tolerance for its own sake, we ought to do so strictly for pragmatic reasons. I have no doubt that sooner or later (probably sooner) there will be a colossal pushback from secular Israelis who are resentful at their growing perception that observant Jews are not only appropriately lobbying for the right to practice religion as they wish, but are imposing their will on the broader community.

We went through this a few short years ago when Tommy Lapid and his Shinui party garnered 15 Knesset seats by tapping into anti-haredi feelings. At that time, there were terribly painful cuts made in yeshiva and family subsidy support, some of which still has not been reversed. But just because Lapid bungled his mandate and slid off the political radar, the feelings of those who voted for him did not diminish over the course of time.

We would be well served to maintain our perspective on non-urgent communal issues, and start acting as if we do not have a limitless number of cards in our deck to needlessly squander.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel 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, email estyk2@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/is-everything-a-10/2007/10/24/

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