This past summer the Kollel was privileged to host Rabbi Orlowek at a Torah Retreat Weekend, where he lectured extensively on issues of chinuch that parents face. During his stay in Melbourne he also gave a number of talks. This article is a synopsis of one of these lectures and was prepared for publication by Mr Avrohom Kaye.
WHERE'S THE GAP?
The title of our talk points to an implication - that we have to build a bridge - that there is a gap. We must realise that we, as parents, have power - our children love us and need us. They want to respect us and follow us. We have more power than we expect.
On the other hand, we are all "immigrant" parents. The child says "My father is from the old country; doesn't know very much; talks with an accent." Even if you are raising your children in the same place where you grew up, the situation applies. The world of today changes so fast that the child says, "My father doesn't understand, my mother doesn't know." The modern child has a natural grasp of technology and most adults stagger to keep up.
COMPETE FROM STRENGTH
We are all at risk. As much as we want to bring up our children sheltered from outside influences - it is extremely difficult. We must show our love and compete in the area of our strength.
Here's an illustration of this concept. After the divorce was finalised, the mother would take her 11 year-old son every month to Las Vegas. The child was attending a frum school and the mother was attempting to win him over to her and her lifestyle. What could the father do to compete? The advice - be a "tatte".
Don't just shower him with toys and have "fun" - that's just another form of Las Vegas. Be a real father - listen, care, participate. Five years later the father and son came to see me. The father had won, had beaten Las Vegas and the Yetzer Hara.
Being a father or mother doesn't mean: I gave the child over to the school and now it's up to the school to raise him. That's not the way. The Gemara says ( Bava Kama) that if one wants to lose money, then employ hired workers and don't supervise them. This doesn't mean that you have to breathe down the teacher's neck, but you must show an interest in the child's schoolwork, inspect it and give praise and encouragement. Remember that schools are limited in what they can achieve.
A Modern Orthodox father, sending his son to a chareidi (so-called Ultra-Orthodox) school, once complained to me that he was being undermined buy the school.I answered that it's not possible for a school to undermine a parent's position. The parent had the child during the pre-school years, has more time with the child than the school, has more love, more money. How can a school undermine a parent, that is, if you are a parent. If you're not a parent, then anything can undermine you. Parents must realise that since they have the power, they also have the responsibility.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LOVE
What is the true source of love? Why do you love someone? The Torah tells us "You shall love your fellow as yourself - I am Hashem."
(Vayikra 19:18). This embodies three mitzvos
Love between man & man - love your fellow;
Love between man & G-d - I am Hashem;
Love between man & himself - love....as yourself.
This shows that you must also love yourself. Why should I love myself? Do I do great things, am I such a righteous person? - because Hashem says so:
The Klausenberger Rebbe said that every trade needs a particular quality or element to be present in order to be successful. What quality does a teacher need - to love children. You have to love them not because they do something good, but for themselves.
Once a teacher approached Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky and confessed that he didn't like a particular student. Reb Yaakov insisted that the parents be told, in order for them to change the boy's class if they thought fit. That's how important this aspect is!
Reb Yerucham says "Why does Hashem count Bnei Yisrael - He knows how many they are. Just as someone counts his money regularly, even when he knows how much he has, so too Hashem counts the Jews." It's to maintain a connection and express His love, so to speak. Love means connection, involvement. One must want to be with the child and spend time together.
Love must not be based on the child's behaviour, otherwise there will be occasions when it won't be forthcoming. You have to want to know the child, to get to know the person inside.
If you want your child to know you and to value what you value - then you have to appreciate what they value. You show interest and they will reciprocate.
You have to speak your child's language. We are the adults and we have to take the step of communicating with the child.
In adult terms I have two actual examples of this. Shortly before the Second World War my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Simcha Wasserman, went to France and established the first new yeshiva there since medieval times. The Rabbi sat for a month to learn French in order to make the communication easier and warmer.
In a similar vein, my own son was in Vienna, teaching Iranian Jews who had just fled Iran. He spent six weeks learning Farsi in order to communicate and learn something of the culture. In today's world we have to learn our children's language and culture.
You have to be able to communicate, to take the time to recognise the problem and to create the atmosphere so that the child feels comfortable enough to speak openly. Of course not everything a child says can be taken at face value - children can distort or even lie about circumstances.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
How does a child know you love him? Are you interested, do you listen? Listening doesn't mean obeying. A parent doesn't have to do what the child asks, but he should certainly listen.
Recently I was contacted by a Jerusalem mother. It was only weeks from her son's bar-mitzva and he had closed up, wouldn't speak to anyone. The child agreed to speak with me. Before the meeting I called up the boy's rebbe to learn of his background. On hearing that the boy was willing to speak, the rebbe took him for a long walk outside of the school precinct. Within ten minutes the boy opened up and explained his problem. Unfortunately his father was ill in nursing home and wouldn't attend the bar-mitzva. The boy felt lonely and embarrassed - how would it look to everyone else if his father wasn't with him at the bar-mitzva?
Once the problem is acknowledged it can often be solved or alleviated. In this case an important uncle sat with the bar-mitzva boy and greeted his guests and the boy felt secure and comforted.
You can focus on what separates us or you can focus on what brings us together.
In Eretz Yisrael today the Israelis are divided by so many political/religious/cultural differences. There is a real lack of accord between secular and religious, Ashkenazi and Sefaradi. But when Israelis meet at a foreign airport they will inevitably sit, talk and exchange experiences. When one is out of one's element, one relates to another and seeks the connection. When we're all together again then we focus on the differences.
RESPECT FOR TEACHERS
In the home do not talk negatively about a teacher. This will adversely affect the child's attitude to his teacher and he won't hold him in respect. A story illustrates:
A father brings his daughter to the community Rabbi. "Please help us, Rabbi. My daughter wants to marry out. Talk to her." The Rabbi talks to the young woman, to no avail. The Rabbi then says to the distraught father: "How can I help? In your home you always criticised me, ridiculed my authority and put me down. Consequently your child has no respect for me and obviously won't listen to me. And now you want ME to help!"
Once a seven-year old was always complaining at home about his rebbe, who could apparently do nothing right. I said to the boy "Make a list of everything that upsets you. But also, for every point that the rebbe does wrong, give me a point that the rebbe did right!"
Always focus on the positive points of the teacher and show how you respect your children's teachers.
The Alter of Kelm said that there are two things every child has to know about their parent.
(1) That the parent knows more than I do;
(2) That the parent uses this knowledge for my benefit, to help me.
If the child doesn't accept these two fundamentals, then he won't learn or benefit from the relationship. This same concept also applies in a teacher/student relationship.
Rav Tzvi Feldman z"tl, the mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York, and a talmid of Kelm, used to stress the following during the Yomim Noraim - concentrate on the words Avinu Malkeinu.
Avinu - my Tatte loves me so much. However, maybe he can't help me because he is weak, old or poor or whatever.
Malkeinu - The King for sure has the power to help, but maybe he doesn't love me. The Eibeshter combines both qualities and therefore can and will help us.
LOVE PAVES THE WAY
A father's show of love has a powerful and long-lasting effect.When Rabbi Reuven Feinstein made a bar-mitzva for his eldest son, his father and gadol hador, Harav Moshe Feinstein, was unable to attend. Rav Reuven understood and still knew that his father loved him and his family deeply. He gave three reasons for this certainty.
The first reason was how his father warmed his clothes for him in the very early winter morning hours, in order to make his getting up for cheder that much easier. The second indication of his father's understanding and love occurred in a bungalow colony where the family spent summer vacation. There were few diversions for the children and Reb Moshe spent much of the time learning with his son. On the occasions when the colony truck was taken to town to purchase provisions, all the children were allowed to sit in the hay-lined back of the open truck and enjoy the bumpy ride. When Reb Moshe noticed that the truck was about to leave, he would tell his son to close the books and go enjoy the ride.
The third expression of this love was shown by the fact that Reb Reuven was always seated at his regular place at the Shabbos table, regardless of which guests were present (unless a gadol hador was present).
EMPATHY & UNDERSTANDING
If a child falls, don't say "It's nothing, you'll be OK." It WAS something and he did feel pain, even if only momentarily. If you say that it's nothing the child can have two thoughts:
(1) Father doesn't understand (me);
(2) Father doesn't care (about me).
If it is really only a scratch, then a hug, kiss and sympathetic word is still the best reaction.
Love is defined as "if it's important to you, then it's important to me." As shown above by Rav Moshe - of course learning Torah is more important than a truck ride. But if at this stage it's important to you, then it becomes important to me also. This is what penetrates - Tatte cares about me, Tatte understands me.
(Paraphrased from "My Child, My Disciple", authored by Rabbi Orlowek)
I believe that the most important value which parents can impart to their children is the knowledge that no person is ever alone. Every Jew not only possesses the merit of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, but Hashem remembers the sacrifice of countless generations who placed their belief in Torah-true Judaism above all else.
There is no doubt that Hashem will extend His siyata dishmaya (Divine assistance) to any parent who is continuing to imbue his/her child with a Torah-true chinuch (upbringing).
Back to Homepage
Shema Yisrael Torah Network