How do we begin to lay the groundwork in raising our children?
The first step in any relationship is knowledge of the other person. The more we know a person, the deeper our relationship with him or her will be. This is how love develops and deepens. To realistically reach this level of excitement in Ahavat Hashem, we need to work on the building blocks of this relationship.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (a”h), writes that the most important part of chinuch is to teach emunah. He advises parents to consistently tell their children that everything they have is from Hashem, and that we are only the emissaries. When a child realizes that everything he possesses is from Hashem, he will develop a natural love for Him and for his parents for being the messengers. The child will also feel an emotional connection and he will want to thank Hashem, feeling that He is the source of all blessing. A child who grows up in this environment develops the feeling that Hashem is as real and present as the sun that rises every morning. We need to live the emunah we possess.
There was a woman who was driving in the Beverly Center, a shopping mall in Los Angeles and she was looking for parking. After she circled around quite a number of times, she found a parking spot right in front of the mall. She immediately exclaimed, “Wow, I’m so lucky!”
Her three year old daughter piped up from the back of the car and said, “Mommy, you have to say, ‘Thank you Hashem.’” If this little girl is introduced to Hashem as the source of all the good, the less emotional resistance she will have toward Him when she grows up.
The natural outgrowth of love is joy. Rav Feinstein was once asked why so many Jews who were moser nefesh to keep Shabat did not merit descendants who observed the Shabat. He explained that these parents constantly expressed the difficulty of being a Jew. If we aim to inspire a love of Hashem so that our children remain loyal to Torah, we need to breathe genuine simchah into our Judaism.
Our children live in a generation of immediate gratification where with the touch of a finger they can access endless hours of entertainment. It is not surprising that they are easily bored by a long davening that does not provide them with a feeling of gratification! We adults also grow disinterested in aspects of our Judaism. When the parents grow complacent in their observance – then their relationship with Hashem becomes stale and joy is harder to access. To raise committed Jews, both in practice and emotional commitment, a parent has to work on his own spiritual development.
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