Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
"A wise child is a joy to his parent." (King Solomon, Proverbs 10:1)
"Three children have I. To the first I bequeathed my appearance, to the second I bequeathed my money, and to the third I bequeathed good character. When they were young, the child of my appearance received my fondest love. As they grew, the rich child was at the heart of my attention. But now, in my final days, I see with a vision these fading eyes could never perceive: better had it been for them and me, if good character had been the legacy of all three."
TEACHERS & ORTHODONTISTS
Parents will warn their children to avoid drugs and teenage pregnancy. Yet why don't we hear with such frequency a father instructing his child to refrain from being pessimistic or unkind? I have yet to meet the person who said that his father pressured him more about developing good character than he did about developing a high-paying career.
And what parent is there today, who is so cruel and uncaring, who would not take his child to the orthodontist and fork out large sums of money for braces? Yet does this same parent pay as much attention to his child's spiritual well-being?
Do you want your child to be wealthier than you? What about more kind and generous, more caring and considerate? If so, from where is he going to learn these values? Maybe you think comments made now and again, such as "share your toys," or "be nice" are the keys to generous and caring children. Or maybe you think they will learn to be good people in school - from a school that in fact teaches there are really no absolute values!! Unlikely.
Where do you think your child is going to learn values? Are you teaching them? Is the school? Is not your precious child going to spend much (if not more) time with his teacher than you? Would you place your child in the chair of an unqualified dentist?
When you select a school for your child, do you examine the teachers for their morals and values as well as for their diplomas? Is the school even qualified to teach values?
You may claim that you don't want your child learning values in school. But there is no such thing as a vacuum. Be assured that, one way or another, your child is absorbing an approach to life.
GOOD HABITS, BAD HABITS
This week's parsha points out that a child is not punished for the crimes of a parent (Deut. 24:16) nor a parent for a child. But the Torah also tells us (Deut. 5:9): Children will suffer the consequences for crimes they commit, even if they have inherited such delinquencies from their parents.
Will your child inherit your bad traits? Do you want to inflict your child with all the pain that you have suffered? Will he not most certainly inherit these flaws from you ... if there is no instruction to the contrary?
It is true your child will probably inherit your good side, too. But does that mean you should not try to make things better for him?
At the very least, we should worry over the dangers of him acquiring our traits of selfishness, anger, pride and frustration. A child will see and imitate these traits, just as a child will often imitate a parent's drinking habit.
The image of a pregnant women smoking is one for which we all have disdain. But what about a pregnant woman being unkind? None of us seem too concerned! Yet, what terrible harm is awaiting that unborn child!
LEAVING THE RIGHT NEST-EGG
How noble it is to leave one's heirs a nest-egg in case of hard financial times. But are we giving our children a similar repository of wisdom to know how to deal with the hard times of life?
Does your child's school curriculum have a course on building relationships, a class on personal crisis management, or a seminar on developing a system of personal values?
Are we living such wonderfully happy lives, care- and problem-free, that our only concern is that our children's teeth are straight and the right college diploma hangs on the wall?
Shouldn't we be equally concerned that our children may lack the fortitude and wisdom to deal with the kind of personal problems we have faced?
When all is said and done, your children may be well-equipped to buy you a tombstone. But will they know what to write on it?
When we look back in our final days, will we say with confidence that we made the right choice for each of our children's inheritances?
Aren't we just wishing upon a fallen star that against great odds our children will figure all this out by themselves?
BRAINSTORMING QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Question 1: Would you be surprised if your children turned out to be less moral than you? Why? Is this acceptable to you?
Question 2: What steps have you taken to ensure that your child will be wealthier than you? What about more kind, generous, caring and compassionate?
Question 3: If you could send your child to a school that taught wisdom for living alongside science and geography, what three classes would be the most important for your child to take? Why haven't you sought out such a school?