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Using Time Effectively

As we come to the end of the school year and prepare for the summer break, in the words of the Ramchal in the Mesilat Yesharim: it is an appropriate time to evaluate what has been in the past and how we view the future.

This evaluation on the past is twofold as we can see from the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot: “לפני מי אתה עתיד ליתן דין וחשבון” – before whom are you going to give an accounting. We see that the Mishnah uses a double language: דין and חשבון. what is the difference between them? One of the commentaries explains: Din – Judgment is an accounting for the actual deed that a person has done, some better and some worse. However: Cheshbon – accounting is an evaluation how I actually used my time. Did I manage to extract the maximum benefit from the time I had at my disposal?

This is a very positive exercise to do before one goes on holiday. The times when we are not busy can be very dangerous (spiritually and physically) if we have no structure and we just “hang around” waiting for something to do or to happen. As Chazal say: – doing nothing, brings a person to boredom, and boredom brings a person to sin.

Let us make sure we use our summer properly so that we can say: not only have our actions been positive but we have also used our time effectively. This way when we come back to our normal regular schedule, we come in not from a feeling of emptiness but from a feeling of tremendous fulfillment.

Letting Go

We tend to think that only when our children are older it is important to “Let Go”, with the understanding that they adults and can be responsible for themselves. However the truth is that this is applicable to all children at all ages.Human nature is to want to control one’s life by themselves, and children are no different. It is an important part of their education to give them the ability to be able to make those decisions, so that they can have more control over their own lives.
Just like parents learn to ask questions and get advice and it isn’t a contradiction to the fact that they can stand on their own two feet, so too the kids even though they might need the advice and guidance of their parents, they still have to be able to stand firm themselves.

We are afraid that our children might not succeed, however failure can be a powerful lesson for a child what not to do or what he should do next time. If we don’t let go, we are withholding this important lesson from them.

The Hebrew word “אחריות” (responsibility) comes from the word “אחרית” (end). Responsibility means that what comes out in the end is on my shoulders. No person can be held responsible for something if he has no control over it. Therefore if we want to teach our kids to be responsible, we have to give them the ability to do things by themselves and take control where they can. LET GO!!!

Disagreement with the Right Intention

Sometimes it seems we are our own worst enemies. As a people we are known to disagree and argue a lot, which in the end can ח”ו bring about terrible consequences. However this is not necessarly a negative trait.As we see in many places in Chazal there is a very important place for מחלוקת and the tremendous positive results one could get from a disagreement. It all comes down to one’s attitude. As the Gemarah in Eiruvin states: Three years Beit Shammai an Beit Hillel disagreed, couldn’t come to a conclusion, and specifically in that case the Mishna in Pirkei Avot says that a disagreement with the right intention (לשם שמים) is that of Hillel and Shammai.

As the commentaries write: if the purpose of the מחלוקת is to find the truth and is not a question of pride and honour and who comes out better, then what we will get out of such a disagreement is a closer look at the truth and ultimately a much closer relationship between ‘warring’ sides.

The Gemarah tells us how over the years many of the Halachot were forgotten, and it was only through this power of true discussion, albeit sometimes even heated, that they were able to reconstruct that which had been lost.

We live in a generation that everyone has to be right and the ‘Truth’ at times is somewhat irrelevent. We need to look a bit beyond ourselves and use this trait in the correct way. Then not only won’t we see all the negative forces ח”ו that can come out, rather on the contrary we will see a greater and deeper outpouring of wisdom, and regardless of what we hold, it will only bring us closer to each other.

B”H we will have the strength for this and then all the needless hatred that brought about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash will disappear and then the true glory of Hashem can come back בביאת משיח צדקהנו אמן

Completing the Teshuva Process

Sometimes When we talk about Teshuva – Repentence – what comes to our mind is looking back into our negative behavior and making a plan for how we can change. However the main focus seems to be around the negative. Hoshei’a the prophet in relation to Teshuva says:

קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל- ה` אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו, כָּל-תִּשָּׂא עָו‍ֹן וְקַח-טוֹב, וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים, שְׂפָתֵינוּ

 Take with you words and return to G-d and say to him: any raising of sing and take goodness.

(Hoshei’a 14:3)

What does it mean: Take goodness? Says Rabeinu Yonah: this refers to Tefila which is one of the basic tenets of Teshuva.  It is  a basic requirement that a person pray to Hashem to forgive his sins, and then Hashem will focus on all the “goodness”  and take that as  the main criteria. This means that we could have a tremendous dposit o good deed which could potentiall boost us up, however we are so blinded and blocked by our negative ways the the positive path seems completely paralyzed.

By davenning to Hashem we can at least remove this blockage which will no longer encumber us in our upward journey and all the goodness that is already there can take a more dominant role in our lives. But as the above verse states: “Take words and return to Hashem.” – these words refer to the stage before Tefila, and that is of Teshuva and Viduy – confession, and only then will the prayers help.

If so, then we are back to square one and how to tap into the wellspring of all the good we have done? Says Rav Dessler zt”l: everyone one of us done many mitzvot, some we do with more feeling  and depth and some with less. If we focus on those that we have more of an affinity for and try to connect a bit more to them, even if we have not really started the Teshuva process and the wall of negativity  is still blocking, there can be no doubt that this minor effort in itself will break through the darkness and the light will shine through.

B”H with this effort of just connecting a bit more (to those things that we already feel connected) Hashem will consider it even as the beginning of the Teshuva process, and with this more positive approach will help us to conclude the full Teshuva process.

Respecting Property

A child causes damage to another’s property, or steals from a friend, even though from a pure Halachik perspective he is exempt (being that he is a minor), however what about from an ethical point of view? Are we obligated to stop him or not?

What about is he is eating something treif or speaking Lashan Hara, what are our obligations? Are they the same in all the above scenarios?

The Rambam writes: “ראוי לבית דין להכות את הקטנים על הגנבה כפי כח הקטן כדי שלא יהיו רגילין בה” – It is incumbent on the Beit Din to beat the child for stealing (according to his strength) in order to avoid such behavior in the future. R’ Yosef Cairo in his commentary (Kesef Mishna) however clarifies that we only find this law in relation to behavior between man and man (בין אדם לחבירו) but in issues between man and G-d (בין אדם למקום) there is no such rule.

On the laws of בין אדם למקום it is not clear how far we have to go to ensure proper behavior, however on the issues בין אדם לחבירו it is clear according to all opinions that parents have to “go all the way” and if there are no parents to fulfill this role the obligation fall on the Beit Din.

We see the importance of educating our children to respect others and their property. It is not good enough to rely on the gan, school or neighbor. Every person has to do their part to ensure the continuous harmonious living between people in all ways.

The Power of Youth

From the moment of their birth, children are extremely sensitive to their environment, and as they grow older and mature they appreciate more and more the nuances within the social group of which they are a part.

Based on the verse in Eicha : “שאי אליו כפיך על נפש עולליך” – Lift up your hands towards Him for the life of your young children – says the תנא דבי אליהו that a person should daven and do everything he can to ensure that his children do not become involved in inappropriate behavior. And then the תנא דבי אליהו continues : “ If a child hears inappropriate words from his parents’ he is obligated to speak out, lest the effect of these words leads to tragedy”.

Says Rav Volbe Zt”l: we see from here how parents have to be careful about what they say or do in front of their children. A child notices every word or action and digests it. He listens very carefully to a raised voice, notices when anyone gets angry etc. It is impossible to foresee how spiritually destructive the setting of an improper example can be.

Conversely, a positive behavioral message from parents can have a great spiritual effect on children. If parents are meticulous in their behavior within the family unit and also externally to others, whether it be in their observance of mitzvoth or purely in the way they interact socially, this will be picked up in detail by their kids.

May Hashem give us the strength and ability to do what is right and appropriate, so that we could be that proper example for our kids.

The Power of Speech & Silence

The Torah writes that when G-d created man he became: “נפש חיה” – a living soul, which Rashi explains means: the ability of speech, and that is what makes him different from animals. It is with this power that man can relate to others and build a human society.

This strength is not only used for interpersonal relationships but also as a tool to connect to Hashem through the medium of Tefilah, Viduy and learning Torah. And it could also ח”ו be used in a negative way: causing strife, Lashan Hara etc. which rips apart the fabric of human society.

However the Gemara in Chulin says that the expertise of a person in this world is his ability to stay silent! If so how do these two fit together?
The answer is that in order for speech to be effective depends on if a person knows when to keep quite. If we always are speaking, the words become cheapened and less in value. But the person that weighs out his words and is not so quick to speak, when he actually does say something the impact is much greater.

How true is this in relation to our children. One of the key factors in chinuch is working out the balance when it is important to say something, and when it is important to keep to the saying of the Rabbis: לא מצאתי טוב משתיקה – I didn’t find anything better than silence.

Davenning with Children

One of the old age questions that parents have is: Should I bring my kids to shul? At what age? And if so, what should my expectations be insofar as their participation and actual presence inside? (Verses playing outside)

The source for bringing children to shul, is a Tosfot on the Gemarah in Moed Katan regarding the fact that there is an obligation to bring all children, even the babies to the Beit Hamikdash for the Mitzvah of Hakheil. So too it would seem one should bring their children, even the babies to shul.

However that might be good for a baby to get the atmosphere, but a child whom is not lying in a crib and cannot sit down and appreciate the spirituality, says Rav Volbe zt”l that it is preferably not to bring them to shul, if all they are going to do is play inside and outside.

But the problem is not so much the interference to others as the image and perspective the child gets of a Beit Knesset which he can carry through his life. If the image he carries is one of awe and respect, than there is a chance when he is older that he will treat the shul with the same respect.

To summarize: it is preferable to bring them older verses younger, when they are at a stage that they can truly appreciate what a shul is.

May Hashem accept all our Tefilot, and the Tefilot of all of Am Yisrael