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Question

Dear Rebbetzin Sara,

In my home, I do my utmost to educate and emphasize the importance of keeping traditional values as well as the knowledge of Torah. Although I am not strictly observant, I am a person that is engaged in learning and have become more observant over the past year. However, I do find that it is extremely challenging, to impart these values I hold so sacred, particularly with my teenagers. I feel it will be my failure as a parent should my child choose to reject these values. I am also afraid that if I put too much emphasis on religion it may affect our relationship. What is the Torah approach to raising spiritual children in our society?

Answer

 

Dear Anonymous,

It sounds to me like you feel very passionate and driven in improving your own personal growth which is an essential component of fostering a spiritual environment for your children. When parents are comfortable in their level of observance they are not always able to model growth, excitement or personal transformation in spirituality. Even in very observant homes children may find their relationship to Judaism stifling if they haven’t been exposed to seeing their parent’s growth and integration of Judaism in a passionate way.

Regarding your fear of failing as a parent it is important to distinguish what is in your control and what is not. Although it is your responsibility to create a positive environment for growth and Torah values, the choices your child makes does not necessarily reflect your success or failure but rather their free will. We see how even Rebecca and Isaac raised two diametrically opposite children, Esau and Jacob.

You say that you are concerned that your relationship with your child is being impacted negatively if you place too much emphasis on religion. My question to you is how are your values and traditions being imparted? I would like to share what Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi says on the topic of raising children today. The Rabbanit shares how parenting in our generation is very different on both an emotional and social level. The previous generation had an attitude of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” This attitude was arguably appropriate in generations in which societal expectations and boundaries were clear. However, in our generation (which forms part of the final generations before Messiah,) many boundaries have been shattered- for better and for worse. Thus, a different and possibly more sensitive approach is required.

In most modern families both parents are hardworking and compelled to divide their attention and time between work-life, daily pressures, other distractions and their kids. Children today are exposed to even higher levels of peer-pressure which is exacerbated by pop culture, social media and technology. The consequence of all the external ‘noise’ and pressures is that both children and parents struggle to find quality and quantity time but the need and deep longing for it still remains.

In truth, the emphasis on Jewish values and spirituality are not supposed to create a wedge between you and your children but rather act as bridge into his/her inner world and strengths. Torah is timeless and relevant to all ages. When a parent engages in Torah learning and discussion with their children they can gain access into their child’s deepest insights, thoughts and perspectives. “Torah is like a tree of life to those who grasp it” (Proverbs 3:17-18). When explored in an engaging, passionate and sensitive manner Torah can be a medium through which families are able to connect through common goals, customs and a deeper reality.

To conclude our generations’ task, is to be builders of our kids. Metaphysically we are the spiritual builders of the final temple, but we are also the ‘builders’ of our childrens’ spiritual and emotional foundations. Although our children enjoy a world of convenience, technology and freedom, the longing for emotional connection and validation is stronger than ever. When Yiddishkeit is implemented in a way that children feel it is relatable, positive and connecting then the parent/child relationship may be strengthened and deepened and there is more chance that the values that you hold dear will also be imparted. I-pads and I-phones may mask a child that seems content to be immersed in his/her "virtual reality" but there is no better connection than human connection.

Wishing you success in raising your children in the pathway of truth, joy and great accomplishments both spiritually and physically.

Shabbat Shalom,
Sara

Mon, June 25 2018 12 Tammuz 5778