The Power and Challenge of Routine

Dear Parents,

The value for students, parents and teachers alike of spending a full five-day week in school, the opportunity to resume a `normal’ routine, is hard to measure.  After summer’s relaxed pace, on-and-off school days and then a beautiful extended Yom Tov break – we now all yearn for consistency and predictability! Contrast that to the chaos and instability Noach and his family endured in the Teyva (Ark) for 12 long months!

…the opportunity to resume a `normal’ routine, is hard to measure. Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma Parshas Noach Os 9) describe for us the role that Noach played in the Teyva; he was the sustainer of life for all the creatures that were fortunate to have been welcomed on board.  The Teyva was a microcosm of the universe, and Noach in a manner of speaking, played the part of the Almighty in that his efforts and involvement were the reason the animals and humans remained alive.

Noach ended up with no routine – for his responsibility was to care for each individual’s needs in the most timely and appropriate manner.  When the elephant wanted his meal at 3:00 AM –Noach was there.  When the worm needed a warm resting place, Noach was at his service.  This is Hashem’s way – and Noach was able, almost perfectly, to emulate Hashem for an entire year. This was undoubtedly the greatest uninterrupted act of Chesed in human history!  How Noach managed to do it is beyond us – we can, however, learn from him how not to conduct affairs in our own households.

Our homes should not resemble the Teyva – not inside, nor outside and certainly not schedule-wise. Our homes should not resemble the Teyva – not inside, nor outside and certainly not schedule-wise.  While we can never overemphasize the need try to individualize – nevertheless, there need to be limits to time. The family needs to have one mealtime, set homework times and set bedtimes. School nights need to be planned out beforehand, and the `Noachs’ of your family – Abba and Imma are not to be on active duty 24/7, nor do the residents (your children) have the right to make demands at whim. They certainly cannot be allowed to lash out when they feel their needs or wants are not being immediately satisfied (a là the lion!).

Just as children’s physical growth cannot really be observed, because it happens so gradually, so too does their education progress – from day to day and week to week.  The demise of most diets comes when the consumption of `just one piece’ of chocolate cake is deemed insignificant – until `just one piece’ keeps occurring.  The derailing of a child’s educational progress comes similarly when `just one night off’ is justified because `it can’t possibly make a difference,’ until you have numerous `just one nights.’

True growth comes in tiny, incremental, almost imperceptible steps. This is the power and the challenge of routine. True growth comes in tiny, incremental, almost imperceptible steps.  Since it can’t be observed – one might say what’s the harm in going out of routine just this once? The ability to stick with it, to reserve the exciting and new experience for a special occasion only, and instead favor another night of homework, play, supper, shower, bedtime routine, is ultimately what creates successful students.

Best wishes for a restful and (wonderfully) routine Shabbos,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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