Our children come home from school, outings, friends’ houses, shul etc. bearing interesting information of all manner and sort. Other times we receive reports, not from, but about our children, which might not always be positive or encouraging. Our job is to listen carefully and pause for thought, then react and take action appropriately. The question we so often face is – what to believe, how much credence do we put in the information that’s reaching our ears or inbox? When do we zealously pursue a concrete plan of action, when do we delve in further and when do we ignore?
There is a very straightforward approach that is alluded to in this week’s Parsha. The Torah tells us (30:1) after the birth of Leah’s first four children to Rochel’s none “…And Rochel was jealous of her sister…” Rashi explains that Rochel was jealous of Leah’s good deeds. How does Rashi know that!? The Pasuk says she was jealous – what justifies learning it not according to the simple Pshat – that Rochel was jealous of the fact Leah was having all these babies and she was not having any? The Gur Aryeh (Maharal’s commentary on Rashi) says Chalilah – G-d forbid, that this Tzadekes was jealous in the usual sense of the word. What the Gur Aryeh is saying is – look at the macro to understand the micro. Delve into your understanding of Rochel’s total personality in order to properly interpret her actions and feelings in this one circumstance. She is a tzadekes, so then you must interpret this jealousy as a permitted and even healthy type. It is most reasonable to assume that a person doesn’t stray far from their usual pattern of behavior.
The same holds true for people we encounter in our lives, and most especially children. Often they will mix reality and imagination in painting a picture of their day, their teacher, friend or a particular incident. Perhaps it’s easier to see this when we receive a report of unflattering behavior on the part of our own children. Is it fact or fiction or somewhere in between? How to react? Look to the macro – see the general pattern and draw your initial impressions from the overall picture. Then, gather all the facts and carefully and calmly analyze what needs to be done.
By working on and developing this balanced approach to events in the life of your children, you will be able to deal with stress inducing news with greater equanimity, balance and good judgment. You will give your children, their teachers and friends the gift of judging favorably as required by Halacha, and judging negatively only where the Halacha indicates its permissibility and advisability. Learn to avoid the sound-bite mentality when negative news goes viral and is accepted as fact before anyone has had time to give the matter a second thought. You will stay calmer and most importantly you’ll be able to analyze and deal with challenges in the most objective, positive manner possible.
Put another way – get in the habit of judging the totality of children and others and keep judgments about occurrences in their life to an overall perspective with the whole child or person in mind.
Best wishes for a positively `whole’some Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann