The Power of Parental Influence

The story in the Torah where Dina is defiled by Shechem is
the classic case of a parent having a negative influence on his/her son/daughter
without considering the consequence of his/her action.

The posuk reads, "ותצא דינה בת לאה אשר ילדה ליעקב לראות בבנות
הארץ" – "And Dina, the daughter of Leah, who was born to Yaakov, went out to
see the daughters of the land."
(Bereishis 34:1)

Rashi explains the Torah’s choice of בת לאה and not בת יעקב
to tell us that she was like her mother. Just as Leah would venture out of her
home, as the posuk says, "…ותצא לאה לקראתו…" – "…and Leah went out to
greet him [Yaakov]…"
(Bereishis 30:16), so too Dina ventured outside
her home, and therefore fell into the hands of Shechem.

Let’s look back at the pesukim referring to Leah and try and
locate her "fault", and see how it affected Dina’s actions.

"וילך ראובן…וימצא דודאים בשדה ויבא אותם אל לאה אמו ותאמר
רחל אל לאה תני לי מדודאי בנך…ותאמר רחל לכן ישכב עמך הלילה תחת דודאי בנך" –
"Reuvan went and found aphrodisiacs in the field and brought them to his mother,
Leah, and Rachel said to Leah, please give me from your son’s aphrodisiacs… and
Rachel said [to Leah], therefore he [Yaakov] will sleep with you tonight in
exchange for your son’s aphrodisiacs"

"ויבא יעקב מן השדה ותצא לאה לקראתו…שכר שכרתיך…וישכב עמה
בלילה הוא. וישמע ה’ אל לאה ותהר ותלד…ותקרא שמו יששכר" – ”And Yaakov came
from the field and Leah went out to greet him…I have given for you…and he slept
with her that night, He [ referring to Hashem – Rashi]. And Hashem heard Leah
(‘s plan) and she became pregnant and gave birth…and she called his name

"ותאמר רחל אל לאה" – Leah did not initiate the switch.

"ויבא יעקב" – Yaakov came home and expected to see Rochel as

"מן השדה" – Leah did not go out to the field to greet Yaakov,
but waited till he came home.

ותצא לאה לקראתו" – Leah dressed herself up and went out to
greet Yaakov, hinting to him that she had exchanged places with Rochel. It
appears that she was forced to do so, so that Yaakov would not go to the tent of

"לקראתו" – Even though Leah went out, she had only one
intention: to greet Yaakov.

"שכר שכרתיך" – Leah did not show light-headiness in
approaching Yaakov as her decision was calculated.

"וישכב עמה" – Yaakov slept with Leah and seemingly did not
see anything wrong in Leah’s exchange with Rochel or the way she came to greet

"הוא" – The posuk should say, בלילה
ההוא – that night (Maharshah).
הוא alone, says Rashi (quoting Gemorah Nida 31a), refers to Hashem, Who
helped that Leah become pregnant with Yissachar.

The Gemorah above, according to Rashi’s explanation, says
that Hashem redirected Yaakov’s donkey toward Leah’s tent. Accordingly, Leah was
close to her tent when Yaakov appeared.

In addition, the very fact that Hashem intervened, even more
than usual, shows that He approved of Leah’s action.

"וישמע ה’ אל לאה" – To what was Hashem listening to? To the
desire and prayer of Leah to have more shevatim emanate from her (Bereishis
Midrash Rabah

"ותקרא שמו יששכר" – No less than Yissachar was the product of
Leah’s approaching Yaakov; Yissochar, the great tribe of Torah.

Why did Leah merit to have Yissachar at this point? Possibly,
because her first four sons were meant, as well, to strengthen her connection to
Yaakov. However, now, after having even more than her share of sons (4), her
craving for an additional son was completely for G-d’s sake; she wanted only
what G-d wanted, and more than anything else, G-d wants Bnei Yisroel to learn
Torah. Thus, Yissachar, the father of the great tribe of Torah was born.

"יששכר"—Above, the posuk says, שכר שכרתיך, hinting that the
שכר which Leah gave to Rochel was so great that her son born from that evening
merited to an everlasting שכר— from Zevulun—which allowed him to learn and grow
in Torah in peace.

From all the above, it is clear that Leah conducted herself
according to the very highest levels of behavior. However, even so, Chazal tell
us that there was a slight flaw in her level of modesty. The posuk says (Tehillim
45:14), "כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה" – "All the honor that can be given to a
king’s daughter [a Jewish woman/girl] is given when she is inside her home"
And this was the great honor given to Sarah when the posuk (Bereishis
18:9) testifies that she was in her tent (she was modest – Rashi).

The Midrash (Tanchumah Vayishlach 7) calls Leah a
woman who had a habit of leaving her home to see things. Why? Not because she
actually did, but a slight flaw (Rav Simcha Zissel z"l explains that her sin was
taking Rochel’s night away from her) on her level resulted in a larger flaw on
the part of her daughter, Dina, which led to Dina’s difficulties and a great
conflict between the Jewish people and the nations.

Our lesson: parents’ actions have a tremendous effect on
their children. One small wrongdoing or even mishap or inconsistency in their
behavior can lead their child to walk down the wrong path and can bring havoc to
Am Yisroel as a whole, ח"ו.

The following true story (names have been changed) brings
closer to home the lessons learned from Leah and Dina.

A certain Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel has a student dress code
as well as a list of rules incumbent upon each student to live by in the

After a number of weeks into the year, one student began
ignoring the Yeshiva’s dress code and rules. After being reminded numerous times
to comply, the student eventually found himself in the office of the Rosh

"Why do you find it so difficult to follow the rules of the
Yeshiva?" asked the Rosh Yeshiva. "You knew before you joined us that we had a
dress code and a list of rules."

"HaRav", answered the student, feeling somewhat intimated on
the one hand, but partially relieved on the other hand because of the pleasant
and concerned tone of the Rosh Yeshiva. "Why should I wear a hat and jacket if
my father doesn’t? I don’t think my father is any less of a yire shamayim
than the bachurim (students) in the Yeshiva!"

"To tell you the truth", answered the student, when I break a
rule, it’s not because I ignore it. Rather, if I don’t think it makes sense,
then why should I do it?"

"Now I understand the source of this student’s behavior",
thought the Rosh Yeshiva to himself. "While his difficulty with the dress code
is clear, what he may not realize is that this divergence legitimizes in his
mind the rejection of the other rules of the Yeshiva as well."

The truth is, the student is not to blame, for his father, by
dressing contrary to the dress code of the Yeshiva, has implanted in his son’s
mind the notion that the rules of the Yeshiva are negotiable."

"I hear your point", suddenly responded the Rosh Yeshiva,
after organizing his thoughts, "I’ll talk to you again later, b"ezras Hashem."
As soon as the student walked out of the room, the Rosh Yeshiva picked up the
phone and called the boy’s father.

"Tell me", asked the Rosh Yeshiva, "are your aware that the
difference between the manner in which you dress and the Yeshiva’s dress code is
causing confusion in the mind of your son?"

"Harav", returned the boy’s father, "wearing a hat and jacket
for davening is just not me. However, I have explained many times to my son that
while in the Yeshiva, he must comply with all the Yeshiva rules. Also, my son
sees how I am growing in my observance, in my learning, etc. He knows that my
not wearing a hat and jacket is not an act of rejection."

"No one thinks your actions demonstrate active rejection",
responded the Rosh Yeshiva, "but in reality you are telling your son to do one
thing, and you, yourself, are doing another."

"Your child obviously has great respect for you, and
therefore wants to imitate your actions. However, the result is confusion in the
least and outright rejection of the rules of the Yeshiva and even the Yeshiva
itself, at most."

The above true story illustrates the fact that even if a
parent has the best intentions, his effect on his children is so strong that it
can cause the exact opposite of that which he had intended.

Even if a parent does no obvious wrong, the true test of his
actions will only come out in his children’s behavior. If they act poorly, it is
a sign that their parent acted poorly as well. On this the Midrash (Bereishis
80a) says, quoting Yechezchel 16:44, "As a mother (behaves),
so (does) her daughter (behave)."

Whereas the slightest imperfection in Leah’s actions led to
the unfortunate episode of Dina, what can we, who have true lackings, expect
from our actions?

With one wrong word, or even one slanted glance, we can cause
irreversible harm to our children. The only answer is to be on continual and
strict guard in front of our children: to ensure that we only speak and act
according to the highest standards of behavior in their presence.

A parent needs to constantly remind himself that his/her
child has imbedded in him two tape-recorders: one which records the comments and
actions directed by the yetzer tov and one which records those of the
yetzer hora
. Every comment in front of his/her child is recorded and remains
forever. Only the tape which records the comments, etc. of the yetzer hora
seems to work better than its rival. One wrong comment can leave its mark, never
to be erased.

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