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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Ribbono Shel Olam’

Ki Seitzei – Kiddush Clubs Beware!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

You will not have much time this week for your gathering – the haftorah is very short, only ten pesukim.

(Let me be clear. I most certainly do not support Kiddush Clubs for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the what should be obvious lowliness of leaving a shul minyan to go and have a whiskey party, and not being able to wait until after davening. Despite efforts to combat these gatherings, I know they still exist and figured I would warn “the guys” about the brevity of this week’s haftorah.)

Short, yes, but very sweet. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has sweet things to tell us about the rebuilding of Yerushalayim after the destruction and exile.

One message that immediately jumps out at us comes from the third and fourth pesukim whose phrases we should all recognize.

Ki yamin u’smol tifrotzi. . .al tiri, ki lo seivoshi ve’al sikalmi – for you will spread out to the right and to the left. . .do not fear, for you will no longer feel embarrassed nor humiliated.” (Yeshaya 54:3-4)

I hope you know where in the davening these phrases are mentioned. Correct! They are in the Lecha Dodi we sing on Friday night at Kabbalas Shabbos forming the theme of two stanzas:

Lo sivohsi velo sikalmi mah tishotchachi umahtsehemi, bach yechesu aniyei ami vinivnisah ir al tilah – Do not be embarrassed, do not be ashamed! Why be dejected? Why moan? All My suffering people will find comfort in you and a city will be rebuilt upon the hill!”

Yamin u’smol tifrotzi ve’es Hashem ta’aritzi, al yad ish ben partzi, venismecha venagila—to the right and left you will spread out and you will praise Hashem. Through the hand of the descendant of Peretz (Moshiach), you will then be joyous and cheerful.”

Thus, the Navi Yeshaya fulfills the role of comforter, telling us of the amazing times we will yet experience with redemption and the coming of Moshiach. This is why this section of Navi was chosen by Chazal to be one of the “sheva d’nechamta,” one of the seven haftoros after Tisha B’Av whose design is to console us over the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash.

So, we encounter these themes in the haftorah this week, but we also meet them during each Kabbolas Shabbos, which leads us to the following question: What in the world do these themes have to do with Shabbos? Why are we singing about Yerushalayim in Lecha Dodi?

In fact, analyze this.

Did you ever wonder why it is that the majority of the stanzas in Lecha Dodi do not discuss Shabbos at all? The first two stanzas are directed toward Shabbos but, beginning with the third stanza of “Mikdash Melech” and continuing all the way to “Bo’ee BaShalom”, Shabbos is not the theme; rather, the destruction of Yerushalayim and the hope of its renewal and rebirth with Moshiach is the topic. Why?

In addition, we know that we are not supposed to mention anything on Shabbos that could bring feelings of sadness. Why then do we sing about the destruction of Yerushalayim in the middle of Lecha Dodi? In fact, for this very reason, amazingly, there are some Sefardic siddurim that do not list the stanzas in Lecha Dodi that bring up the destruction of Yerushalayim (Asifas Gershon Shabbos, page 194). Why then is this appropriate when strictly speaking, it would appear to be improper to bring up the tragedy of the Churban Bais HaMikdash at this juncture on Shabbos? How do we explain most of Klal Yisrael reciting these stanzas?

The Vilna Gaon in his commentary on the Siddur explains the following famous midrash:

“Shabbos came before the Ribbono Shel Olam and complained, ‘Each day of the week has a mate (ben zug). But I have no mate!’ Hashem replied, ‘Klal Yisrael will be your ben zug!’”

What exactly does this Midrash mean? How does each day of the week have a mate? And how is Klal Yisrael the mate of Shabbos?

Answers the Gra, on Sunday, light was created, but the creation of light only became complete on Wednesday, when the sun, moon, and stars were formed. Hence, Sunday is a ben zug with Wednesday. On Monday, the waters above and below were separated by the rakiah, firmament, but the creation of water was only completed when Hashem created the fish on Thursday and placed them in the waters below. Thus, Monday’s ben zug is Thursday. On Tuesday, Hashem separated the sea from the dry land. This was concluded on Friday when Hashem made the animals and man to inhabit the land. Tuesday partners with Friday. Shabbos was indeed alone, without a ben zug, until the Ribbono Shel Olam made Klal Yisrael the partner of Shabbos. But how is Klal Yisrael the mate of Shabbos?

The Siyum HaShas

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

We doubt anyone attending last week’s massive Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium will forget anytime soon the breathtaking sight of more than ninety thousand people breaking out into dance and song in celebration of the Torah following the delivery of the siyum by Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Malkiel Kotler. Or the chills they experienced as Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgott recited the Kel Moleh Rachamim prayer in honor of the victims of the Holocaust who died Al Kiddush Hashem. Or the inspiration they felt as tens of thousands of Jews prayed together as one. All were testimony to the centrality of Torah to Jewish identity, fealty to the Ribbono Shel Olam and submission to His Will.

In a very real sense, every day in the lives of countless Jews around the world is a testament to Torah and halacha – getting up in the morning with the Modeh Ani prayer and going to sleep at night with the Shema, putting on tallis and tefillin, davening, being scrupulous about kashrus and taharas hamishpachah, seeing to it that children are Torah-educated, striving to lead homes anchored in Torah and mitzvos.

But last week there was an added dimension. Jews around the world publicly declared the centrality of Torah to Jewish identity and as that which connects Jews everywhere. They celebrated the study of the entire Talmud by thousands almost as one from one end of the world to the other. The texts were the same. The methodology was the same. The commitment was the same. Even the singsong cadences were often the same.

And virtually the entire world was focused on the proceedings at MetLife Stadium. The secular media seemed fascinated with the notion that in an age of high-tech gadgetry and spectacular scientific breakthroughs, grown men had committed themselves to building every day of their lives around the study of ancient texts while still more than holding their own with the rest of the world.

From this perspective, Agudath Israel of America’s monumental undertaking in organizing the MetLife Siyum HaShas was nothing less than a historic contribution to the Jewish people and deserves the gratitude of all Jews. We believe the event inspired Orthodox Jews in America to a greater participation in the new Daf HaYomi cycle, to a deeper camaraderie with their fellow Jews, and to walk with even greater pride as the world came to know more about what we truly are about.

Learning As A Child

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

I’d like to believe that I at least have average intelligence. And when in need of inspiration or to learn something to facilitate my personal growth, I gain much from adult tapes and books. I’m greatly inspired by the words of the plethora of writers and speakers who target their words to adult audiences; their sentence structure and vocabulary meant only for us grownups. Their valuable lessons are often arrived at through a series of logical steps any adult with reasonable intelligence should be able to follow. And follow I do.

Then why, as a middle-aged woman, do I so much enjoy listening to Rabbi Juravel, whose tapes are geared to the average five- or six-year-old? Why do I so often find that it is the tapes meant for children that speak to my heart best, motivating me to make quick, positive changes?

Maybe it’s because while my head may enjoy intellectual material, my heart responds best to simple language.

Months ago I was listening to Rabbi Juravel’s Chanukah tape. He told a story involving two horse-and-wagon drivers, Rav Mordechai and Rav Pinchas, who earned their living by taking people to their destinations. Rav Mordechai’s horses were faster than Rav Pinchas’s, making Rav Mordechai’s traveling service more expensive.

On one Chanukah there was an upcoming fair on a Sunday, a long distance away. The townspeople had to leave on Motzaei Shabbos to get to the fair on time. Those in a better financial position used Rav Mordechai’s superior traveling service, while the poorer people used Rav Pinchas’s, which was less expensive but had slower horses.

When the people came to Rav Mordechai’s house after Shabbos, Rav Mordechai, in a rush to get his customers to the fair on time, quickly recited Havdalah and the Chanukah candle lighting without saying the words of the berachos properly and with kavanah. But Rav Pinchas behaved differently. When his customers arrived at his house that Motzaei Shabbos, Rav Pinchas said the berachos slowly and carefully – and with kavanah.

In the end, Rav Mordechai’s horses and everyone on them were significantly delayed, as they fell into a river that they mistakenly thought was frozen and had tried to use as a shortcut. As a result, they all arrived at the fair when it was almost over. Meanwhile, as Rav Pinchas and his customers were on the way to the fair, Rav Pinchas and everyone else in the wagon fell asleep. The horses, having gone down this route before, trotted along the familiar path, ignoring the seemingly frozen lake and able to bring everyone to the fair on time.

After telling this story Rabbi Juravel offers this explanation: “Why did Hashem help Rav Pinchas, but not Rav Mordechai, get to the fair? Well, we don’t know. Hashem always has His secret reasons for what He does. And Hashem never tells us His secret reasons. But we do know that Hashem likes it better when a person makes berachos slowly and with kavanah, while He doesn’t enjoy it when a person rushes through berachos without kavanah.”

“Hashem always has His secret reasons…” is a simple reminder to trust Hashem despite not understanding His ways. But then comes this powerful message: “[Hashem] doesn’t enjoy it when a person rushes through berachos…”

The words “Hashem doesn’t enjoy it…” echoed in my head.

Every morning, when I opened my siddur, those words reverberated in my head and reminded me to slow down. Not a long drasha. Not a mussar schmooze about giving a din v’cheshbon after 120 years on the quality of my davening. Not even a lecture about the power of tefillah (although surely all the things just mentioned have their places). Rather, just a “simple” statement – a statement to children. Just an image of having made Hashem sad because I rush through my davening and act, chas v’shalom, like I don’t like to spend too much time talking to Him.

As another example, I recently got a powerful dose of inspiration and chizuk when listening to a tape. A 1996 children’s tape by Rabbi Shmuel Kunda, titled “Where’s Zaidy?” featured these simple yet powerful, profound words: “But the Ribbono Shel Olam sometimes sends us on trips to places we never heard of for reasons [of which] I have no idea. But we can be sure that everything the Ribbono Shel Olam does is for a good reason. So when we hear the sounds of the shofar, we should think of it like the voice of the Ribbono Shel Olam telling us to believe that everything He does is for a good reason – and for the best.”

Making It To The Simcha

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Here is an amazing story. I recently made a bar mitzvah for my second son. I went to have my daughter’s hair done in Flatbush, and had to be at the hall two hours later. When I got into my van it would not start, even after trying to start it a second time. My seven-year-old daughter, sitting in the back seat, said, “Mommy, the van won’t start? Hashem will help us.”

I quickly called Chaverim, but they weren’t able to help me. The same held true for my neighbor. After explaining my situation (of attempting to get to my son’s simcha) to a second Chaverim member who came to help, it was thought that perhaps the problem was due to the van’s starter or alarm. As yet another Chaverim member arrived to help his colleagues, I’m thinking about how much I need Hashem’s help. What am I going to do, I’m wondering, as I am supposed to pick up my mother-in-law in a half-hour in order to take care of something before the simcha.

While watching, with my daughter, the Chaverim members try to get the van up and running, a frum lady walking down the street saw the commotion that was taking place concerning my van and asked me what was going on.

I told her about my dire predicament, adding that I wasn’t yet dressed for the affair, had no makeup on, my daughter also wasn’t ready, and that everything I needed was in the van.

Despite not knowing me, the woman offered me her car keys and told me to drive to and enjoy my simcha. She told me she had two cars, so getting around would not be an issue for her. She also gave me her address. I asked her if she was for real.

After realizing that her offer was genuine I looked at her in disbelief, astounded at the kindness of the Ribbono Shel Olam for suddenly sending me such a shaliach.

This wonderful person was fulfilling the mitzvah of nosei be’ol chaveiro.

The story ends with one of the Chaverim members getting my van to start, and us getting to the hall on time to enjoy our beautiful simcha.

May Hashem have mercy on us in our personally turbulent times, and help us carry, lighten, and perhaps unload our packages altogether. May Klal Yisrael have ahavah, achavah, shalom, v’reius for each other in rich, deep and benevolent ways.

Winning The Blame Game; Losing The War: Teaching Responsibility to Our Children

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Schools have long been grading students on responsibility. But in recent years, teachers report that marks in responsibility have been plummeting. This is an alarming phenomenon – but it is not a coincidence. Responsibility is becoming a rare virtue.

We live in a world where politicians, executives and professionals fail to act responsibly or take responsibility for their actions. Parents, teachers and students often follow suit. Instead of behaving with responsibility, people often are reckless and shift the blame for their mistakes onto others.

A senior politician who “forgot” to report income blames his Turbo Tax software. Homeowners who bought homes with risky mortgages blame the banks for taking them away. CEOs seeking bailouts for their companies travel in exorbitant private jets. Slowly, the very fabric of society withers into a total mess, as the culture of irresponsibility infiltrates our homes and lives.

According to expert mechanchim, this plague of irresponsibility lies at the crux of many chinuch problems. Children and adults are becoming less accountable and less responsible. They are blaming everyone but themselves.

“My child isn’t doing well because he doesn’t have a good rebbe.”

“I didn’t behave because another girl made me be chutzpadik.”

“I’m late because the bus came early.”

Maybe your child doesn’t have a good rebbe, but that doesn’t preclude his halachicobligation to learn Torah. Maybe the girl sitting next to your daughter is disruptive, but that doesn’t grant your daughter a license to misbehave. Maybe the bus came thirty seconds early, but you could have been at the stop sooner.

This culture of irresponsibility is extremely damaging, both on an individual level, and to society at large.

At the last Agudah Convention, Harav Mattisyahu Solomon shlita addressed the painful issue of “When Children Stray.” He said that the phenomenon of children rebelling is a reflection of Klal Yisroel’s rebellion. When the Ribbono shel Olam cried out in anguish, at the beginning of our galus, “Banim gadalti veromamti – I grew and raised children and they betrayed me,” Klal Yisroel should have felt that pain, and responded immediately, “Tatte, we are sorry and we want to return and be loyal to You.”

Unfortunately, Klal Yisroel did not hear the message. Hashem decided that the only way to bring them back is to let them personally feel the pain that kavayochal He is going through.

This refusal to apologize is blatantly irresponsible. A responsible person not only behaves correctly, but also admits errors, accepts blame and does whatever he can to repair the damage.

As Yidden, the ability to take responsibility lies at the heart of our existence. In Parshas Mikeitz, Yaakov Avinu refused to allow Binyamin to travel to Mitzrayim with his brothers. Although the family’s food supply was dwindling, and the Egyptian viceroy had made Binyamin’s presence a condition for purchasing more food, Yaakov feared for Binyamin’s life. Until Yehuda arose. “Anochi e’ervenu” – I will guarantee him, he said. I will take responsibility.” And so, the history of Klal Yisroel unfolded.

This was not the first time Yehuda accepted responsibility. When Tamar presented the staff, cloak and ring of her unborn child’s father, Yehuda said, “Tzadkah memeni” – she is expecting my child. He did this at great personal sacrifice. Yet it is of this union that Malchus Beis Dovid was born, and it is this sense of responsibility that characterized it. Dovid behaved similarly after the episode with Batsheva.

In contrast, when Shmuel Hanavi asked Shaul why he had not killed the animals of Amalek, as Hashem had commanded, he said, “chamal ha’am” – the nation had mercy on the animals, so that they could sacrifice them to Hashem.” He blamed his mistake on the people. This was a two-fold lapse of achrayus. First, Shaul acted irresponsibly by not eradicating Amalek in its entirety, as he had been commanded. Second, he refused to accept responsibility for his mistake, and instead blamed the people. This twofold mistake brought untold suffering upon the Jewish people and cost Shaul his kingdom.

What Is Responsibility?

In regard to chinuch, there are two main aspects of responsibility. The first is the ability to fulfill responsibilities. A person who fulfills responsibilities is answerable to himself, to others and to the Ribbono Shel Olam. His behavior is disciplined, and he follows rules and regulations. He understands that as a member of a family, class and society, there are things he must and must not do.

A responsible person won’t come late to Shacharis, because he believes that it would be wrong to a) himself, because he will miss out on part of the tefillah; b) other mispallelim whom he will disrupt with his entrance; and c) the Ribbono Shel Olam, because his tefillah will be rushed and he may miss out on several Ameins, Amein yehei shemei rabbahs and other chiyuvim.

The second aspect of responsibility is acknowledging the effects of an action or decision and accepting its consequences. A child who does poorly on a test should be able to assess his behavior and come to responsible conclusions. He should tell himself, “I should have studied harder”, “I need to learn how to take better notes” or “I’m going to listen better in class” as opposed to blaming the teacher, the test or the class.

Teaching Responsibility – Role Modeling, Duties And Consequences

There are many ways parents can inculcate responsibility in their children. The first is to be good role models. A child who lives in a disciplined, structured home will grow up to be disciplined and structured – essential middos for responsible living. A child whose parents exhibit a responsibility to others will likely grow up with that same trait. This is required of us. The Torah teaches us, kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh. Parents who pursue chessed, are involved in their children’s schools and contribute to tzedakah, model to their children that we do not live for ourselves alone. This attitude is a hallmark of responsibility.

Another way to teach responsibility is to assign age-appropriate chores. Here, parents must tread a fine line between overburdening children and challenging them. If all choices and decisions are made by adults, and children have no responsibilities, they will be dependent and incompetent. If we expect too much of them, they will feel overburdened and again, incompetent, because they won’t be able to fulfill expectations. So parents need to carefully consider the duties they give to their children. Parents should also create rules and enforce them.

Children must be taught not only to act responsibly, but also to accept responsibility for their actions. Parents can teach this by allowing children to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Children should not get “bailouts” from their parents.

A chronic latecomer should not be given late notes. She should be made to experience the consequences of her lateness. Several doses of detention may be just what she needs to propel her out of bed in the morning.

Why Are People Irresponsible?

People behave irresponsibly because shifting blame is so easy and convenient. It is much easier to blame a person or situation than to acknowledge wrongdoing and change behaviors and habits. It is much easier for a parent to gripe about the rebbe than to learn with his child or hire a tutor. Sadly, in our easy-way-out society, the easy way usually wins.

This “easy way out” lifestyle stems largely from the plenty our community enjoyed in the past decades. Luxury homes, expensive vacations, designer clothing and $85 Kipling briefcases for children have become the norm. Ours is the “es kumt zich mir” generation, the era of instant gratification. “I deserve to get these curtains or buy this dress or take this break.” Even now, with so many amongst us struggling for parnassah, the trend continues. All this luxury comes with a very big price tag.

In Shiras Haazinu the pasuk says, “vayishman yeshurun vayiv’at” – Yeshurun grew fat and kicked [in rebellion]. Their rebellion was a direct result of the abundance that caused them to “grow fat.” Instead of thanking Hashem for His plenty, they attributed their blessings to talent and hard work. They said “kochi v’otzem yadi asa li es hachayil hazeh” – my power and the strength of my hand accomplished this great feat.

There is a certain sense of entitlement and power that comes from living on “easy street.” Children, who have every wish and whim fulfilled, may have a hard time telling themselves “no.” Incidentally, this phenomenon is not correlated to income level. The availability of cheap snacks and toys, bargain stores, and inexpensive clothing has created a society of low-income spendthrifts. Low-income children are just as easily spoiled as their wealthy counterparts.

Whatever their income level, parents must insist on withholding pleasures and giving children responsibilities, otherwise there is a very real danger they won’t develop the ability to do so – even when the pleasures they seek go against rules or societal norms, or could be harmful to themselves or to others. Such children also find it hard to acclimate to the demands of adulthood.

Parents who overly shield and protect their children do so in the name of love. But they are doing their children a great disservice.

When one girl felt pressured in high school, her father called the principal to complain. The menahelexplained that it was important for students to learn to cope with stress and pressure, because school is a training ground for life, and life is full of tension. The father answered -

“My daughter will not have any stress or pressure in her life. I will protect her.”

One can only marvel at the “kochi v’otzem yadi” mindset that brings a father to make such a statement. And one can only hope that his daughter is able to overcome her bewilderment when life hands her a challenge that is beyond her father’s protective reach.

Responsibility vs. Happiness

Not so long ago, all children had chores. It was a given that everyone who lived in a home had to help maintain it. Today, many parents believe that giving children responsibilities means robbing them of the joys of childhood. This attitude is also a reflection of society – where pursuit of happiness is a goal in life, and paradoxically, unhappiness and depression abound.

This unhappiness is largely the result of the lack of responsibility in our generation. Marketers would have us believe that we can purchase joy in a chocolate bar. But nothing could be more fleeting. Did anyone ever rejoice because he had really good chocolate two days ago? On the contrary, responsibility equals satisfaction, and satisfaction equals happiness. People are happiest when they are productive and responsible. Parents who wish to shield their children from responsibility because they want to grant them freedom and happiness, are withholding the keys to the very happiness they want to bestow.

Interestingly, every Jewish simcha is a celebration of responsibility. At a bris, we celebrate the entrance of a Jewish male into the Covenant of Avraham – a pact that brings with it the responsibilities of being a Jew. At a bar or bas mitzvah, we celebrate the entrance of a child into the responsibilities of adulthood. And at a wedding, we celebrate marriage – a union that again brings myriad responsibilities.

As a veteran teacher, I am in a unique position to track societal trends. Thirty years ago, when I would tell parents that their child had a problem, they would become attentive and apologetic. They would ask for advice, and work to improve the situation. Today, parents can’t accept criticism about their children. Complaints are met with disbelief or blame.

“Yanky can’t be misbehaving. It must be a problem in the class.”

“Menachem is not keeping up? He’s so bright. The material is way too hard for this grade level.”

“Of course he didn’t do his homework. You give them so much work, it’s impossible.”

So Yanky and Menachem and all the other sweet innocent little boys are never given the help or direction they need for proper chinuch and growth. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people in our generation are buckling under the responsibilities of adulthood?

It is time for us all to take responsibility for the way we live, spend money, and parent our children. Perhaps the current economic meltdown is meant to cure us of the societal ills that led to Vayishman Yeshurun vayiv’at – and perhaps our response to it will bring us to an era of achrayus, with the rebuilding of Malchus Bais Dovid.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Title: A Rose Among Thorns

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

A Rose Among Thorns


Author: Rochel Schmidt, LCSW


Publisher: Israel Bookshop Publications



 

            As the immediacy of the Holocaust continues to fade from the collective memory of the world, and even from that of too many Jews, due to the passage of time and the passing of the survivor community, publications of books such as A Rose Among the Thorns by Rochel Schmidt, become seminal events.

 

In dramatic fashion, Ms. Schmidt, in this novel based on historical fact, tells the tale of the heroic, and ultimately successful, efforts to preserve the life of a Jewish baby girl born in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz.

 

The trials and tribulations of the baby, Shoshana Raizel, and her remarkable survival are only part of the story — though her survival certainly signals the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

 

The faith of her parents and those who saved her bespeaks an emunah inthe Ribbono Shel Olam difficult for most of us to fathom and represents the quintessential response to the savagery of the Nazis and their plan for settling the “Jewish Problem.”

 

Likewise, readers cannot help but sense the author’s own personalfaith.

 

Adding to the impact of Ms. Schmidt’s literate and entirely believable narrative is her gift for detail. The emotional depiction of the overarching vulnerability of the Jews and the predicament of the victims of the Holocaust comes through on every page and should serve as an enduring statement of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

This is an eminently important read.


 

Our Son Refuses To Attend Day Camp

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Note to readers: With boundless gratitude to the Ribbono Shel Olam and with joyful hearts, we are pleased to inform you of the engagement of our son Baruch to Alanna Apfel of Los Angeles, daughter of Gary and Serena Apfel. For those who wish to extend mazel tov wishes to our son and his kallah, his e-mail address is baruchhorowitz@gmail.com. We can be reached at udi528@aol.com.

Yakov and Udi Horowitz

Rabbi Horowitz:

We are not quite sure how to respond to the request of our 12-year-old son, who is begging us to be “left alone” for the second “trip” (the last four weeks of summer) and not attend a local day camp.

He is enrolled in sleep-away camp for the first four weeks of summer and, by all accounts, he seemed to have had a wonderful time there in past years. In fact, last year he won the “Best Camper” award and we received excellent reports from the staff on visiting day.

Our dilemma is that he recently informed us that he wants to “hang out” at home for the last four weeks and not go to day camp – as he has for the past few years. He says that he is tired of being told when to wake up, when to be at meals, and when to go to sleep. He just keeps saying that he wants to be “left alone.”

He is our oldest child, and childcare is not a problem. But we are worried. Is this a normal thing for him to want? Is it good for him to be unstructured for so long?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

This past summer, I accepted an invitation to serve as a scholar-in-residence at a kosher summer vacation program in Canada. During my stay there, it was quite remarkable to observe the strikingly diverse manners in which people spent their “down-time.”

Some of them embodied the “A-type” personality throughout the 10 days – waking up at 6 a.m., davening at the first minyan, eating a quick breakfast, and briskly walking through the hotel lobby to begin a 12-14 hour day of touring and sightseeing. One evening during dinner, as I listened to one of the A-types tell me about all the sites visited that day, I told my wife that I almost got dizzy just listening to the report.

Others had the polar opposite approach to their vacation. Their idea of leisure time is to disengage from the frantic pace of modern-day life and basically leave their watch in their hotel room safe. One could sum up the vacation profile of the “B-type” people with the Yiddish phrase, Kim ich nisht haint, kim ich morgen – which loosely translated means, I am in no rush to get anywhere or do anything. It was interesting to note that several of the B-type vacationers were the quintessential A-type people in their daily lives back home, and that there were men and women in both groups – often with the two spouses having opposite profiles.

Just imagine what torture it would be to plunk down one of the B-types in a car full of A-types for an endless day of running from place-to-place touring. I think the B-type person would think that he/she is being punished for his/her sins, and not enjoying a vacation.

I often quote the timeless and sage advice of Reb Shlomo Wolbe, zt”l, who said that children should be viewed as the miniature adults they are – each with their unique personality. What he was trying to root out with his remarks was the notion that children can be lumped into one grouping and treated all the same, and instead reinforce the critical reality that they are all individuals – just like adults. When we follow his approach, we embrace the following words of Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) in Mishlei (Proverbs): “Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko – Educate the child according to his ways [and then he will not depart from it].”

Back to your son’s summer request, viewed through the lens of Reb Wolbe’s insight. This simply means that your son wants a B-type format for the second four weeks of summer. This may just be a manifestation of his personality – enjoying “down-time” in his own way. In fact I will make a bold prediction, and tell you that when your child grows up, he will probably carry that B-type vacation profile for the rest of his life.

(I think that this theme of viewing children as little adults – when implemented with wisdom and balance – is one of the most important concepts in effective parenting. And while I don’t like to harp on the negative, I would say that a one-size-fits-all approach is one of the most destructive mindsets that parents can have.)

Keeping all this in mind, I strongly suggest that you honor your son’s request. With the rigorous schedule that our teen children have nowadays, the last thing you want is for him to start a new school year burned out or feeling that he didn’t have a vacation.

I suggest that you consider making the following provisos:

1)Right now, before you give your blessing to his time off, clearly lay out your expectations for him during those weeks. For example, davening with minyan, learning with a chavrusah (study partner) or rebbe for a determined period of time, doing some chores around the house, etc. Make sure that you specify exactly what you want, so there is no confusion.

2)Inform him that since this is uncharted territory, you will consider the first of the four weeks to be a trial period, and that you will evaluate things after one week – with the understanding that should things not go well, you reserve the right to enroll him in day camp for the last three weeks. (Of course, you have the right to do that regardless of your preconditions. But it is always wiser to prepare your children for the consequences of their actions.)

Finally, enjoy your time with him. Kids grow up quickly, so trust me when I say that in a few short years, you will be very glad to get his undivided attention for just a few minutes – when he is a teenager!

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. He recently released his parenting book, Living and Parenting (ArtScroll). To obtain a copy, please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com, call 845-352-7100 x 133, or visit your local Judaica store.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/our-son-refuses-to-attend-day-camp/2008/06/04/

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