The Head of a Family Tree
(This week's parsha is based on an idea by Rabbi Moshe Chaifetz, as explained in "Growth Through Torah" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.)
"A fool and a wise man were walking together through a cemetery when they came upon a rather large tombstone. The stone told of the deceased's long line of great and distinguished ancestors. The fool said how he too wished he had come from such a lineage. The wise man however, desired for such a lineage to come from him."
When our children will reflect back upon their parent's lives, what will they see?
Will they look to our lives for inspiration for solving their problems? Will we be for them a lasting influence, or rather just a quaint memory?
It would be nice to think that we could be sources of wisdom for our children - that they will bring to us the problems they face, that they will seek out our wise counsel; that in a crisis they will think back and ask, "How did Mom and Dad deal with that"?
On the other hand, what a depressing thought if our children would think of us as irrelevant.
Children do not go to their parents for advice when the parents aren't perceived as really happy. If life is always "getting to you" then your kids are not going to ask you how to manage life. In fact, they will probably give you the advice instead!
This week's parsha begins with a command from God to Moshe to count the Jewish people. Moshe was also told to enlist the help of the heads of each tribe, "And with you (Moshe) shall be one man from each tribe, each man should be the head of his family." (Numbers 1:4). Explains Rabbi Moshe Chaifetz, 'the head of one's family is someone who is the beginning of a new lineage. The 'head' is the start of a new line. In other words, someone the children will be proud of.
Instead of worrying what everyone else is saying about you, worry that your children will have something good to say about you, to everyone else.
The Torah tells us that Abraham would actually seek out guests, strangers, and offer them a meal. This was not the norm then and it's certainly not the norm now. He was remembered for that. It affected his children and grandchildren. Even today, the Jewish people are known for their kindness to strangers. You don't start a lineage by conforming.
We live in a very materialistic society. Many choose to spend their time acquiring objects rather than acquiring their children's admiration. We tend to worry more over bills than morals. We tend to get upset with others quicker than we apologize.
Do we want to make these the values of our children? How we approach almost every aspect of life is going to be how our children will too.
When someone spills red wine on your favorite sofa, getting extremely upset may help you vent your anger, but it also shows your child what you think is really important in life. The sofa may be cleaned and the spot removed, but the spot in your child's personality does not come out so easily.
We are willing to put in the effort to make our children richer and more comfortable than ourselves. How much more meaningful would it be to make them happier or even kinder than ourselves.
We are already going to spend a major amount of effort, time and even money on our children, why not spend a little more effort and transform them into our legacy. Be kinder than everyone else.... Be more forgiving than everyone else.... Be more giving and willing to help than everyone else.... Be more patient than everyone else....
Your own kind and generous actions are examples of giving to others which are more likely to create an exceptional child than any amount of schooling - no matter how high the tuition. Dollar for dollar, the things you give to others and the degree to which you run to help people will influence and sensitize your children to the value of life more than any after school activity.
With the high price of education and the small price of patience, charity, and kindness, shouldn't we be more involved with the bargains?
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BRAINSTORMING QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Question 1: What do you want your children to remember about you?
Question 2: Ask your children who their heroes are. Are they the kind of role models you would choose for them?
Question 3: When things go wrong do you panic, or do you realize that there is more to life than a dent in the car? Are guests more important than the color coordination of the carpet and drapes?
Question 4: If you could write your own tombstone, what five praises or achievements would you like engraved on it?