Erev Shabbos Parashas Mishpatim 5776

Dear Parents,

In studying the myriad cases and circumstances of harm and damages discussed in this week’s Parsha, one might wonder how fine, caring and upstanding members of the Jewish People could get themselves into such predicaments, cause such loss to one another and end up with a whole panoply of disputes landing them in court (Beis Din). Wonder that is, until one has the opportunity to observe a school carpool in 2016. Talking and especially texting/social networking on cellphones while at the wheel has caused innumerable near (and some real) crashes by and between the finest people. Frayed nerves, impatience and dissatisfaction abound. The potential for loss of property and injury, G-d forbid, grows exponentially when drivers distract themselves with their communications device.

This is in addition to the general distractibility caused by speaking and texting which creates further issues for the afternoon carpool. It is understandable that the minutes spent waiting should be put to good use, but getting absorbed in the phone and not noticing when to move forward and not giving undivided attention to the children as they enter the vehicle creates its own set of problems. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to be as big a problem for drivers who are either reciting Tehillim or listening to Shiurim during the wait time.

The posted sign very clearly states “SAFETY FIRST: NO CELL-PHONE USE DURING CARPOOL” and other than attending to an emergency, drivers should not be using their phone on carpool line.

I’ve reprinted below, part of an earlier letter about carpool and cellphones, that speaks directly to the parent-child relationship.“One of the most poignant and important occasions in the day of an elementary or pre-school child is that magical moment when they greet a parent at the end of a long school day.There are many variations and styles of this encounter based on the nature of the relationships different parents have with their children. One constant, however, should be that the mother or father acknowledge their child in some positive manner, even if understated. Those of us at school derive special pleasure when we see children climbing into their parent’s car, and receive a kiss, a smile or an enthusiastic “how was your day?”

Sadly, those encounters are becoming few and far between. More often than not, the drivers on our carpool line are busy on their cell phones and pay scant attention to their children as they approach and enter the car. While they are making productive use of the wait time, they end up squandering the golden opportunity of starting off the second half of their child’s day on a great footing.

I hope this little insight will help refocus and direct your attention to your child(ren) at these most opportune moments. Let’s keep technology as a tool for enhancing our quality of life, and not as a replacement for the things that matter most.”

Like most things in life that are important and good, what is being asked of you is not easy. Like all things that are good but hard, the reward and satisfaction of rising to the occasion is limitless.

Best wishes for Hatzlacha and for a focused Shabbos!

Rabbi Kalman Baumann


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