The Effort is the Reward

Dear Parents,

In his introduction to this week’s Parsha, Rabbeinu Bachye derives from the word ויקחו (let them take), that the actions of the Jewish People in connection to the contributions and construction of the Mishkan, need to be done בזריזות with alacrity, zeal.  He derives this from the fact that Shlomo HaMelech uses the same word קחו take, in exhorting a person to focus on Mussar, more than on amassing wealth (Mishlei 8:10). Even more than people are passionate, excited and zealous in making money, they must take that trait of zeal and use it to grow spiritually.

It is clear from Rabbeinu Bachye that the key to success in any endeavor is to pursue it with a fire, strong motivation and excitement.  One who lacks enthusiasm is not on a track to success and fulfillment.  How disheartening is it therefore, to see adolescents and adults who are unmotivated, blasé and indifferent about their studies, work and even, R’L, their Yiddishkeit.

It is clear from Rabbeinu Bachye that the key to success in any endeavor is to pursue it with a fire, strong motivation and excitement. In a powerful article (Mishpacha Magazine Edition 895, Jan. 19, 2022), Rabbi Yaakov Barr, a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor from London, England, identifies what he describes as a “disorder.”   It has become a pattern recently, that parent after parent detail difficulties they are having with their young teen or pre-teen, who are not interested in going to yeshiva and refuse to get out of bed in the morning.  They don’t do schoolwork and homework is out of the question.  After chatting with the child, Rabbi Barr then responds to parents’ concern that maybe their child is depressed or worse.  He suggests that their child has “CBB Disorder.”   “CBB” disorder is Dr. Barr’s own creation and it stands for “Can’t Be Bothered.”

Rabbi Barr goes on to state that he believes this is an emotional pandemic affecting millions of children around the world and ”is responsible for a vast number of our own Yiddishe boys and girls struggling in their Yiddishkeit and mental health today.”  There is no medication, over-the-counter or prescription that will help cure the situation. That would be an easy solution if it existed.  Rabbi Barr goes on to explain in detail what he feels is causing this disorder and some solutions.

Our modern world has ushered in a spirit of luxury and convenience, and all of us, including our children are reveling in it. Food and shopping can be ordered, and delivery arranged, all from the comfort of the couch, where we peruse the newspapers looking at which Pesach hotel takes our fancy. The stories of our great grandparents’ childhoods, working down in coal mines, sweat shops – their worries about survival, about what they would eat the next day – are from a bygone era to which we cannot connect anymore.

Aren’t we fortunate to be able to live in such comfort and ease?

A person was created to work, and within every person’s DNA there is the need to feel fulfilled and accomplished. But how? Only through perseverance and hard work. To have success in any major area in life requires this one vital ingredient.

But what if our comfortable world has made us become inherently allergic to hard work and conditioned to laziness? Well, relationships will break down and today’s exploding divorce rate becomes a natural but obvious consequence. Without “sweat and toil,” fulfillment becomes impossible to attain, and antidepressants are required to fill the void.  If we aren’t willing to work hard, then our Yiddishkeit – our connection with Hashem and His Torah – becomes a burden and a pain instead of a privilege and an honor. So, it’s no surprise that many will choose the easier path of giving it all up. 

… within every person’s DNA there is the need to feel fulfilled and accomplished. Where does the blame lie for our children’s CBB? Rabbi Barr has enough to go around, with both schools and parents taking their fair share.  He continues:

It is the nature of a human being to want to avoid work, and it’s the role of those responsible for their development to ensure that this does not happen. Too often our educational establishments are giving a green light to laziness. There are far too many schools, yeshivos and seminaries allowing their students to play the CBB system. As long as a child is not at the bottom of the class and not causing any trouble, he is left to float along, to continue his relaxed, stress-free existence, never facing demands to put in more than the minimum effort.

It is no surprise that I find those with chronic laziness usually above average in their academic ability. These children can get along even when they don’t do their homework, learn for tests or arrive on time for lessons. Why? Because no one really says they can’t.  Perhaps we have become too scared to demand improvement out of fear we will alienate our children. The reality is we are alienating them far more by indulging them with easiness.

If the remedy for CBB is hard work and determination, then parents have a major role in preventing this disorder. If home life for our children is a hotel existence, with no house rules, tasks or chores imposed upon them, then we are conditioning them to a life devoid of effort.  When a little Chaim or Rochel says, “It’s too hard. I’m not doing this math homework,” or, “I’m not studying for this test, ‘cuz who cares anyway,” what is our response?  Do we avoid the conflict and give in, or do we patiently and firmly work with our children to help them put in the required effort and help them taste accomplishment and success?

Let’s try to praise the effort instead of the result. If a child works hard but doesn’t achieve a good grade, then we fully acknowledge and applaud the effort spent – not as a token gesture, but because that is where success will come from.

The reality is we are alienating them far more by indulging them with easiness. Failure to work hard should come with some consequence for our children. The best example of this is when they fail to do their homework or get a low grade in an exam. Even if teachers and schools want to employ a range of unpleasant consequences so our children can learn from their mistakes, it has become the norm that parents rush to defend their children and demand leniency. Unfortunately, all we are doing is teaching them they can fail to work hard and get away with it. If we are going to try and help our CBB generation, then we need to step back and let our children face the consequences of not putting in enough effort.

Rabbi Barr concludes by pointing out that if we encourage and habituate our young children to work hard, we are giving them a greater chance of success in life, and of avoiding having to face far more serious lessons later in their lives. We are giving them a greater chance at success and satisfaction in life, in academics, in interpersonal relationships, in our Avodas Hashem and in everything we do.

Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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