Friday, June 13, 2008

Acheiving a Harmonious Shabbos Table Part 3 - Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern



Part 3

by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.


The Shabbos table is among the best settings for providing one of the most important needs of children: receiving proper attention from their parents.

Every week young children look forward to their family’s Shabbos meal waiting their turn to give over what they have learned in school about the weekly parsha or an interesting story. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for parents to not only give young children their undivided attention, but to also ensure that the other children do not disrupt.

Parents also should be careful not to doze or fall asleep while their child is speaking. Imagine how you would feel if your spouse started to doze while you were eagerly trying to share your feelings with him or her. Your child would feel the same way. Commonly occurring during summer Friday night meals, after serving the gefilte fish, parents may suddenly start to feel the end-of-the-week exhaustion and slowly drift into dreamland, while their young child is giving over his D’var Torah. When this occurs, it is a tremendous disappointment for the child.

The following story illustrates the damaging effects of parents’ inattention to their children’s Divrei Torah. A cheder rebbi once asked his class, “What is the most important thing in your lives?” One student answered, “Saying brachos and bentching slowly with kavanah.” Another said, “Cleaning up after you brush your teeth after each meal.” A third boy said, “Wiping your shoes from rain and mud before entering the home, and being careful to remove soiled shoes before sitting on the couch.” (Note how each child repeated what his parents taught him—consciously or subconsciously—about what’s important and meaningful in life.)

Suddenly, Yossi, who was seated in the corner, shouted out, “Cholent!” causing the entire class to burst into laughter. The rebbi turned to Yossi and asked, “Did I hear you correctly? Did you say cholent?”

“Yes,” replied Yossi, with a straight face.

Once the rebbi realized that the boy was serious and not looking for attention, he decided to wait until the break before speaking to him, so as not to disrupt the lesson.

When the rebbi approached Yossi, he asked him, “Tell me, Yossi, where did you pick up this wild idea that cholent is the most important thing in one’s life?” The boy shrugged his shoulders and refused to answer. But the rebbi persisted, and finally, with a bitter look in his eyes, Yossi blurted out, “My father!” The rebbi couldn’t believe his ears. “What!” he exclaimed. “Do you mean that your father taught you that? I have known your father for years, and I can’t believe that he would ever say such a thing.”

Still, Yossi sat in silence, and again the rebbi persisted to get a proper explanation. Finally, Yossi opened up and started to talk. “Even though my father never openly said so, it’s the truth and I’ll prove it to you. Each Shabbos, we take turns saying what we learned about the parsha at the Shabbos meal. My turn is during the daytime cholent meal, after the entrée is served.

Sometimes when I have much to say and my father is anxious to eat the cholent, he screams to my mother, ‘Cholent, nu, where is the cholent!’ Even when he eats the cholent, he shows no interest in what I’m saying. He just nods his head and says, ‘Yes, yes,’ to all I say. He’s not even bothered by the fact that no one else is paying attention to what I’m saying. If my father can interrupt my D’var Torah for the sake of his cholent, then it is quite obvious that cholent is more important than the Torah. Therefore, anything that is more important than the Torah must be the most important thing in the world.”

The rebbi was taken aback by Yossi’s story, and after a moment’s thought he retorted, “Now, Yossi, you know that can’t be true. Do you mean to say that if your father had a choice between learning with his chavrusa or eating cholent, he would eat a bowl of cholent?”
Yossi thought a moment and replied, “I’m sorry rebbi, but you must be referring to his Torah. That is more important than cholent, not my Torah!”

This story teaches us how important it is to listen to a child’s D’var Torah at the Shabbos table. Another important lesson that we can derive from this story is how much children learn from their parents’ behavior. This incident caused the child to have a major misconception that there is something more important than Torah, chas veshalom.

When Yossi’s father learned of what happened in school, he immediately changed the whole atmosphere at the Shabbos table. Now, whenever any of the children say a D’var Torah, he stops the meal and requires everyone to listen intently. Afterward, he briefly summarizes the D’var Torah to ensure that the entire family understood it, and finally, warmly thanks the child for teaching the family something new. Eventually, Yossi’s attitude changed toward his father, and he came to realize that Torah was indeed more important than cholent.

In addition to making time for the children’s Divrei Torah, parents should also praise, compliment and show appreciation to each child’s individual participation and assistance during the meal, whether they helped to serve or clear, washed the dishes, prepared the food, sang zemiros nicely or gave a good D’var Torah. This positive attention will automatically build the child’s self-esteem and confidence, and will help create emotional stability. Because compliments and displays of appreciation are enjoyable, they also naturally motivate and give the child an incentive to do a better job the next time.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Alexander Gallery)

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