The arrival of the Yomim Noraim brings with it the opportunity and obligation to revisit our attitudes, practices and assumptions about all aspects of our lives. It is that time of the year when we are/should be, open to considering alternatives to our current behavior. Just as Hashem comes close and beckons us to improve our relationship with Him, so should we take the opportunity to re-examine our relationships with those around us, especially our children.
We all know that our highest priority and obligation vis-à-vis our children, is to provide them with a proper chinuch. Drilling down to its core – what is the definition of chinuch? What is the essence of all of our efforts to raise our children? A fascinating insight into what chinuch actually is, comes from Rabbi Yechiel Yaakovson, a highly respected Mechanech in Eretz Yisroel.
The well-known Pasuk in Mishlei is the source. The Pasuk states: Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darcho, Gam Ki Yazkin Lo Yasur Mimena (22:6). Loosely translated, it means – Provide a chinuch for a child that is in accordance with his/her way, so that even once the child matures into adulthood, he will not deviate from it. Rav Yaakovson points out that the goal is to set the child on a path that he will continue on by himself. Put another way – Chinuch is getting the child to want to do that which I am training/encouraging him to do.
Every effort that we put into our children needs to be re-examined in light of this eye-opening revelation. Although a broad and deep topic, the main focus is to look at our actions in raising our children in their totality and determine whether the approach we are taking is one that will help the child love what we want him to do, or G-d forbid, hate it, rebel against it or be disinterested in it. There are several prerequisites to set the stage for such a chinuch. Love is the foundation, while discipline, rules and consequences are the walls. Within such a structure, real Chinuch can begin to take place.
If I’m overly harsh and demanding, and don’t make Torah and Mitzvos an enjoyable experience for the child, then I can’t claim my actions will be helping my child to want to be a Torah observant Jew when he or she grows older. On the other hand, if I make no demands, indulge my child’s immature wants, he or she will grow up with little regard for the specialness of being a mentsch and a Torah Jew. Finding the middle path, inspiring our children and developing within them a real love and genuine appreciation for what we value so highly, requires wisdom, forethought and hard work.
We are enjoined to make an accounting for our deeds. Our role and abilities in successfully shaping our children’s destiny should be way up there on our list of priorities that vie for our attention this High Holiday season. May Hashem reward our introspection and efforts with eternal Nachas from our precious children. May we all be blessed with a year of health, peace, prosperity and in growing ever closer to Hashem and His Torah.
Kesiva V’Chasima Tova
Have a wonderful Shabbos,