Like Parent – Like Son

“It’s my fault that Reuvane didn’t show,” responded Reuvane’s mother on the telephone to the
Rosh Yeshiva. "He actually wanted to come to the Yeshiva, but I told him that
none of the boys were leaving the house. Who knows what that despot from Baghdad
has in mind, and I want my boys to be close to me in case he tries anything. Did
the other boys return to the Yeshiva?" she asked.

"Yes, the other boys returned, although I must admit that
some staggered in a bit late, still showing signs of a leibedick Purim,"
answered the Rosh Yeshiva.

"I must admit, Rosh Yeshiva," continued Reuvane’s mother, "I
have a weakness when it comes to my children’s safety. For example, each day I
walk my seven-year old son to cheder, even though it is close to home, for fear
of something happening to him on the way."

“What does your husband say about this?” asked the Rosh
Yeshiva.

“My husband? He comes back from work late at night and leaves
again early in the morning. He leaves everything up to me.”

“Aren’t you worried about his safety, as well?” asked the
Rosh Yeshiva.

“Yes, of course,” answered Reuvane’s mother, “but he can’t
just stay home, people depend on him to supply them with their security needs.”

“I see…,” muttered the Rosh Yeshiva to himself.

“What did you say?” asked Reuvane’s mother.

“I said your husband is a brave man.”

“Thank you.”

After hanging up the phone, the Rosh Yeshiva leaned back in
his swivel chair and began to analyze Reuvane’s mother’s approach to the present
threat of war with Iraq and the effect it is having on her son. “She doesn’t
realize what she’s doing!” he said to himself. “She’s taking an intelligent and
physically and emotionally healthy boy and turning him into a mouse!”

In walks one of Reuvane’s teachers. “Didn’t you tell me that
you feel Reuvane is afraid of things?” asked the Rosh Yeshiva.

“Yes,” answered Reuvane’s teacher. “I see it in his learning
as well. As soon as he faces a difficulty, his engine shuts down. He feels
overwhelmed and either looks to his friend for help or just sits satisfied in
his ignorance.”

“Terrible!” exclaimed the Rosh Yeshiva. “Reuvane is such an
intelligent and clear-thinking boy. Today, I learned that his unwillingness to
face challenges in learning stems from a general fright of facing any type of
challenge. Any unknown weakens his heart and drains his strength of character
and it all stems from the chinuch (education) he receives at home. Why do
you think he didn’t come to the Yeshiva today? Because he woke up late? Not at
all! He was told that he can’t leave the house because of Sadam Hussein’s
threats of war!”

“You know, Reb Shlomo,” said the Rosh Yeshiva to Reuvane’s
teacher, “most parents feel they have been given a ‘precious stone’ on the birth
of a child. This ‘precious stone’ has two demands on its parents. One, to guard
it from harm. This every parent knows and feels instinctively. However, there is
a second demand which not all parents are aware of and others ignore – to polish
the ‘stone’, constantly and effectively, so that its full beauty and grandeur
surfaces.”

“This precious ‘stone’ is a child’s neshamah. And its
up to the parents to help their child to slowly but surely remove the extraneous
layers which cover it, to push off those influences which negatively affect it
and to encourage their child to fulfill those positive commandments which
increase its shine.”

“What I mean, Reb Shlomo, is that the underlying obligation
of parents is to give their children the tools to deal with the battles and
obligations of life. This is the secret to their children’s success or failure
in their ability to have their own ‘stone’ shine in the future and to eventually
help their own children’s ‘stones’ shine as well.”

“An overstressing of the first obligation – to protect the
‘stone’ from harm – leaves the second obligation of shining the ‘stone’
unattended to. This leaves the child at a terrible disadvantage in the myriad of
tests and opportunities he will face in life.”

“Reuvane has good middos (characteristics),” Reb
Shlomo reminded the Rosh Yeshiva. “Maybe that will help him succeed in life.”

“Having good middos (מידות)
doesn’t mean to smile and talk softly. It
means to להתמודד
– to confront situations with a plan, with
direction and with confidence. As the author of the sefer
אורך אפים
on anger says, a person who has good
middos
is only called an עובד השם
– a G-d-serving person – if he struggled to
reach the level he has attained. Only once one has confronted situations and
battled to change himself and overcome his natural desires, can he truly be
called a person with “good middos”.

“If a child is overprotected, he cannot develop the ability
to stand up to the battles of personality development and life’s daily
challenges. This will not only cause him to lose these battles, but will whither
away his ability to face them at all. At every opportunity, he will try to avoid
a challenge and certainly a battle. As time goes on, he will become weaker and
weaker, until even the smallest test will bear heavily upon him. A person of
this nature will eventually become a burden to others and to the community as he
will depend more and more on others for help and support. The mother’s initial
‘protection’ of her child may eventually become the ‘burden’ of the society.”

“What parents don’t understand is that their every act, and
in our case Reuvane’s mother’s response to the war in Iraq, makes an
irreversible imprint on the soul of their child. Reuvane’s mother is not merely
keeping Reuvane home from Yeshiva, but she is replacing the message of the
Yeshiva, with her own message – one of worry, self-protection, ignoring of the
opinion and request of the Yeshiva, ignoring the need for a young man to learn
Torah and to be part of the tzibur (his fellow-classmates) and most of
all – when one faces a threat to his personal, physical safety, no matter how
low the possibility of it actually occurring, she is teaching that one should
put aside all one’s obligations, whether physical or spiritual, and surround
himself with the protection of brick and mortar.”

“The Torah’s message, on the other hand, is to have trust in
Hashem (Yishayahu 26:4, Yirmiyahu 17:7, Tehilim 32:10,
40:5, 62:9 and in many places), daven for and believe in Hashem’s protection (Bereishis
28:20, Yehoshua 24:17, Tehilim 25:15, 25:10, 27:14), respect the
opinion of talmidei chochomim, certainly of his own Rosh Yeshiva, avoid
missing Torah learning (Chazal say that the posuk,
"כי דבר ה’ בזה"
"The word of Hashem he belittled"
refers to one who had the opportunity to learn Torah and wasted it), be strong
in the face of adversity (Tehilim 27:24, Yehoshua 1:6), do not
weaken the hearts of others (Devorim 20:8), rather, serve as a good
example for others and make a Kiddush Hashem.”

“When Reuvane’s mother said she was afraid of war, she was
revealing one of two things: Either she was expressing a lack of
בטחון
– trust in Hashem, or she was afraid of her
sins. The first point is well understood, while the second point needs
explanation.”

"The Gemorah in Brachos (60a) brings an episode where,
while walking in the streets of Jerusalem, Rebbe Yishmael ben Rebbe Yosi saw
that one of his students looked afraid. Rebbe Yishmael called him a sinner,
quoting the posuk, "פחדו בציון חטאים"
"The sinners in Tzion were afraid" (Yishayahu
33:14). Rav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyohu Vol. 5 p.72) explains that
fear in this world has no value. It ruins the present and cannot help the
future. Fear overcomes a person because subconsciously he is afraid of the sins
he has committed, only the yetzer hora exchanges this fear for fear of
events in the world."

"In either case, Reuvane’s mother certainly should not have transferred her
fear to her sons. Let’s hope, Reb Shlomo, that Hashem will cover His people with
His protecting Hand and save us from the wrath of our enemies. Let’s also hope
and pray that Reuvane will recover from this "war" and become a big
בוטח בה’
– and put his trust in Hashem."