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Vayeishev: Training for the Future

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

“None of the household staff was inside.” (Bereishis 39:11)

Rashi: “But there appeared to him the likeness of his father’s face.”

The disciple must be prepared so that he will be capable of spiritual independence all his life … capable of withstanding all the influences that lie in wait for him, that they not take him by surprise in the future; rather he must learn from his youth to understand them and to recognize them well. (Avnei Chinuch — Tests of the Future, Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch)

 

The little nestling will one day fly on its own into the endless skies. And we sit and worry. Will he succeed on his long and difficult journey? Will he know how to navigate his way in the vast heavens?

But we can’t reach out and draw him once again to the nest. He will spread his wings and fly, leaving us behind.

Right now, the little nestling is still here with us. Now, when his soul is like paper on which nothing has yet been written, is the time to engrave the aspirations and goals, the how and why. Perhaps then, when he’ll be far from us, on his adult path, he will find that etching of his soul on which we transcribed our lessons in his tender years. It will be a map for him, showing the way — a compass for his future life.

 

This is also Shlomo HaMelech’s meaning in the verse: “Train a youth according to his way …” taking into consideration all the influences that lie waiting to ambush him in the future, on his life’s path, to preempt them while there’s yet time.

 

It’s easy to close one’s eyes and say: My son won’t encounter evil. Easy to imagine clear sailing, a totally pure yeshivah, excellent friends, and a neighborhood with no breaches in its walls. But we have to know that sometimes he will encounter the opposite …

And then??

 

Why did that man’s son turn into a frivolous pleasure-seeker as soon as he left his father’s home and went out into the big world? His parents guarded him scrupulously against a life of delights. He knew only a life of strict conscientiousness in Torah and mitzvos. So from where did such a sudden inner turnabout come?

 

From where?

In the dark night, fireworks appear. If we didn’t give him an inner glow, he’ll gravitate to them, like a moth to a light. In a vacuum, birds of prey also sing. If we haven’t embedded within him a joyous inner song, he’s liable to join them.

The streets present endless temptations, emotional and physical. And this is the atmosphere that he will encounter in his adulthood. Have we remembered today to give an answer to tomorrow’s challenge?

In child raising, there’s no substitute for boundaries and careful supervision. But if we don’t give him light, don’t incline him toward song, then all our supervision won’t help him forgo those temptations on the day he lifts his wings. Bringing joy into the home, transforming the ethical life into a physical delight — that’s the best antidote.

Go with your children on excursions; teach them how to enjoy themselves in a proper framework of simchah. Sing songs around the Shabbos table — bring out sweets to honor it.

Play together, make a surprise party. Let your children have enjoyable experiences within the family. See to it that their childhood memories will be full of happiness and joy.

Then, when they reach the age where the street will try to present them with temptations, they’ll reject it contemptuously, because true contentment was never lacking from their hearts.

 

Indeed, that youth has the most upright of parents, but in their shortsightedness, they forgot that their son won’t stay in their home forever. And they didn’t know enough to train him to meet life in the big world.…

The child must be raised in such a way that this big world won’t be an entirely new thing to him, that he not feel, when he enters it, new temptations that he is not trained to withstand.

We can’t suffice with only giving our child education for his future livelihood; we must also give him education for his future in the world. There are parents that have forgotten the wisdom of such an education contained in our verse: to train the youth according to his future path.

 

Don’t let the house have an atmosphere of everything being forbidden. We’re permitted to be cheerful, to rejoice, and to feel pleasure. It’s obligatory for us to transmit this to our children. Only thus, will their wings spread. Then, when the day comes and they leave the nest, we’ll wave to them happily, because we’ll know and trust the path that they’ll travel.

The path of happiness.

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