Thursday, January 17, 2008
Guest Post by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern on Chinuch
This is a guest posting by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern. He has been lecturing at EYHAT, Aish Hatorah's women's seminary. He has many of his shiurim available at Aish Audio HERE. Also, this guest post is also the introductory part of a new series on Chinuch that he will be contributing at torah.org. You can listen to his shiurim for free as well at Kol Halashon. Rabbi Morgenstern is on the lecture circuit in the United States frequently and speaks to groups primariily on the topics of family relationships, Shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, shidduchim & personal growth. You can reach him to inquire about having him speak at your mosad HERE (Bio, speaking, and contact information available there).
ACHIEVING SUCCESSFUL CHINUCH –
PRACTICAL TORAH ADVICE FOR RAISING WELL BALANCED CHILDREN
By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern
Yiddish nachas is one of the greatest wishes of every Jewish parent and preoccupies much of our lives. However, to borrow the Yiddish expression, "Vu koift men dus?" – where do we buy it? There are no easy answers or magic formulas.
The Jewish family and home are the cornerstones of our nation and the primary means of transmitting the Jewish Heritage. This transmission from parent to child, generally referred to as chinuch habanim, is one of the most important careers and endeavors of our lifetime and one of the areas in our family life that can always use improvement. Nevertheless, it is most complicated, as the human personality is far more complex than the most sophisticated electronic device or computer that will ever exist. The only clear and strong guide is our Holy Torah, and what we derive from it is the most reliable guide for understanding our children and ourselves.
“I WISH MY CHILD CAME WITH INSTRUCTIONS”
At my child raising lectures parents often ask me advice about a difficulty they are encountering with one of their children. Sometimes, the guidance that I offer solves their problem. However, many times, even when I give them a few different suggestions, they reply that they’ve tried all of them without success.
It’s quite obvious, that existing problems in family relationships cannot be solved in a question and answer session (or over the telephone).
At times, the guidance and strategies contained in these articles can help parents with their child raising problems, or at least prevent the situation from further deteriorating. However, parents should not feel discouraged or disappointed if, after applying the principles contained in these articles, are still unsuccessful in solving their problems. Unlike physical ailments that can be treated with a regimen of medication, there are no universal formulas to solve child-raising difficulties.
Child raising problems can be compared to a heart condition that is easy to treat when diagnosed in its early stages but will require major surgery if neglected. Similarly, these problems do not usually solve themselves and, if neglected, can necessitate professional guidance.
However, by implementing the guidelines and strategies contained in these articles in the early stages of a child’s life, parents can prevent child-raising problems from developing as illustrated by the following anecdote:
In the middle of a busy thoroughfare in Chelm, there was a large pit that caused injury to the townspeople, who were constantly falling into it. Although a small fence was erected around the pit to block entry to it, the people ignored it and were still stumbling into the hole. One of the town’s wise men came up with a brilliant idea: “Let’s build a hospital next to the pit to provide instant treatment for anyone who falls into it.” Upon hearing this, someone in the town exclaimed, “Fools! Why don’t you simply fill up the hole?”
During my Yeshiva years in Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, I was fortunate to hear vaadim from Rav Avigdor Miller. These vaadim were short talks focusing on different areas of midos improvement. After the vaad, we would be given 2-3 weeks to work on that particular mida before proceeding onto the next one.
I think that this same method would be ideal for parents. Parents should choose a section on a specific topic and work together to apply and implement the principles or techniques. (At times they may need guidance and assistance from someone experienced in child-raising problems in helping them implement the techniques.)
Only after parents have somewhat succeeded in a particular area, should they proceed further.
INTRODUCTION TO PARENTING
I. The Responsibility
The Mitzva of Chinuch Habanim is one of the foundations of Judaism. The Torah writes that Avraham Avinu was endeared to Hashem because "He will command his children and household to keep the ways of Hashem, doing charity and justice.” (Breishis 18:17-19, Rashi ad loc.)
Rav Elya Lopian comments (Lev Eliyahu ad. loc.) that even though Avraham had already passed ten nisyonos (tests) and kept the entire Torah, including the mitzvos d'rabbanan – Rabbinic ordinances (Yoma, 28b, Rashi Bereishis, 26:5),nevertheless, the Torah attributes his endearment because he transmitted the Torah tradition to his children.
The first mitzvah of the Torah is “Pru u'revu” (Bereishis 1:28). This is generally translated as “be fruitful and multiply” and simply meaning to have many children. The Shelah Hakadosh (Shaar Ha’osyos – Derech Eretz ; cf Shulchan Aruch O.C. # 231), writes that the purpose of the mitzvah is to raise children in Torah and mitzvos. Chazal term this commandment a "mitzva rabba" – a great mitzva, because the more Jews that are in the world, the more mitzvos will be fulfilled. (Tosafos Bava Basra 13b s.v. Kofin; Sefer HaChinuch mitzva #1.This is also indicated by the halacha that permits the selling of a Sefer Torah [Torah Scroll] to provide financial means for a couple to get married– Shulchan Aruch E.H. 1:2.)
Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch (Commentary to the Torah, Bereishis 1:2) explains how this concept is actually implied in the Torah’s words. He writes, “Pru simply means to have children, like pri – fruit of a tree. However, revu implies something greater. The children are to be replicas not only of the physical and bodily traits of their parents, but also of their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves. Accordingly, parents have to plant the spiritual and moral best of themselves in their children and carefully nurture their development. They must form, educate and cultivate them. Revu demands the founding of the home and the family, the nursery for human education.”
Thus, a child is born into a family not only for his material needs, such as love, food, clothing and shelter, but also to guide and mold his personality. The obligation of parents is to pour themselves into their children by raising, molding and creating a Jewish family.
This responsibility is clearly stated by the Chofetz Chaim who equates the parents’ child raising obligation to the mitzvos of Talmud (Studying) Torah, reciting Kriyas Shma and davening Shemona Esrei. He writes:
“Just like it is an obligation to learn Torah and daven Kriyas Sh'ma and Shemonah Esrei, and to fulfill all the mitzvos, it is an even greater mitzva for each parent to designate time to supervise the chinuch of their children in order to ensure that they follow in the ways of our forefathers.” (End of Sefer Chomas Hadas)
Due to our very hectic lives, busy schedules, personal involvements and pressures of earning a livelihood, parents sometimes forget that they have to be mechanech (educate & raise) their children!
When Hashem gives us the wonderful gift of a child, it comes with a tremendous responsibility of raising him to lead a life of Torah, mitzvos & midos tovos (good character traits).
Main points to work and focus on:
1) There are no easy solutions for successful child-raising. Like any other business, the more effort parents invest, the more nachas they will have.Transmitting Torah values to children is a vital part of child-raising.
(Picture courtesy of Rabbi Dovid Sears)
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