Posts by slapin

No Growth Allowed

December 12th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 22 comments

On April 29, 1986, a catastrophic fire erupted in the main downtown Los Angeles Public Library. By the time the fire was under control, tens of  thousand of books had been destroyed, including irreplaceable historical documents. Many firefighters were injured fighting the blaze, and it remains the worst library fire in United States history.

Last week, in December 2019, I saw a video of a respected community leader pontificating foolishly and revealing that he had no idea of the seriousness of the question he was asked.  Watching  the clip made me feel embarrassed for him and for the community he represents (of which I am a member) .

What does a giant library fire have  in common with a dignified leader slipping on a verbal banana peel? 

When the Los Angeles library burned in April 1986, my husband and I had five children under the age of five. The 29th of the month fell out during Passover when family and communal demands rocket sky-high. In addition to leading our flourishing Jewish congregation near the Los Angeles beachfront, my husband was running a business. We were busy.

Along with everything going on in our own lives, the frenzied 24-hour news cycle was not yet in existence. Since we did not watch television in our home, we would not have seen the library fire on the news.  Internet news sites were not to come into existence for nearly another decade, so while personal computers were around, they were not delivering a constant stream of information. Surely, we must have heard about the fire via radio or newspaper? Surely it had to have been a topic of conversation after synagogue services? Neither my husband nor I have any recollection of this inferno.

A well-known saying claims that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is certainly true, not only in conveying ideas but also in influencing how memorable those ideas are. This is true whether what is caught visually is profoundly true or misleading, representative of a greater reality or an inconsequential outlier. Video is pictures on steroids.

The ease with  which every step and word today is caught on video magnifies the impact enormously. There is not a one of us who has not said foolish, hurtful or false words. Sometimes we realize our mistakes ourselves, sometimes others point them out to us. We have an opportunity to grow from our blunders and, if we are fortunate, we can undo some of the damage we may have wrought.

Yet, today, our missteps remain frozen in time. If reporters and activists bent on malice and  mischief  comb through old yearbooks looking to destroy political opponents, what hope do those growing up today have? Anyone and everyone around them can capture their lives on ubiquitous cell phones. Privacy is increasingly non-existent both as a concept and as an actuality.

Perhaps the day after the community leader’s ill-conceived remarks, his wife, colleagues or even some of his students offered differing views to him. Maybe he will take steps to be more careful in the future or even to apologize and speak publicly on the same topic in a more thoughtful way.  In the “olden days” we would have called that maturation, repentance and moving forward. Yet, because of the existing video clip that was distributed around the world almost instantaneously, words at an event that I did not attend will most likely stay in my memory in a way that a raging blaze did not.  The damage from a misspoken or mistaken word—even an uncharacteristically malicious one— can set aflame far more than stacks of book in a treasured building.

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My Children, My Brothers?

December 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

The Torah stresses respect from children for parents, so a verse in Genesis should raise eyebrows. Let’s take a look at Jacob’s relationship with his sons after they have left Haran and are on their way back to the Land of  Israel. (Genesis 32) Rachel and Leah’s father Laban pursued Jacob and eventually Jacob and Laban made a non-aggression pact over a mound of stones.  Verse 46 says, “And Jacob said to his brothers, ‘Gather stones,’ and they gathered stones and made a mound.” 

Jacob spoke to his brothers?  What brothers did he have there?  Rashi, a key transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, tells us, “heim banav,”these were his sons who were his brothers in arm, and partners joining with him at times of trouble and hostility.

Isn’t that interesting?  Is this similar to modern touchy-feely philosophy of being your children’s best friend? Not at all. Jacob’s children, at times, became his partners, like brothers, to join with him and come to his aid, not to reduce him to come to their level. 

I like this verse because so often parents feel unsure about asking their children to contribute and help out at home.  They wonder when it’s okay and how much is okay.  While it is possible to have unhealthy dynamics when a parent relies on a child’s help too heavily or uses a child as a crutch, this verse is a good reminder to us that it is important for our children to be partners with us.  Helping out at home, not only gives a child important opportunities to build life skills and confidence, but it also makes them feel important and valuable because they have contributions to make to their family.

I recently went with my mother and one of my children to watch a documentary about adolescence, technology, and mental health.  They reported a study where researchers put mothers and their children alone in a room and gave each child a puzzle to solve that was meant to be too hard for him or her. The researchers were inducing failure in the child while the mother watched.  The mothers were told not to interfere or help their child with the puzzle, but inevitably, the mothers stepped in and helped their kids with the challenge. 

Here’s the fascinating piece.  When the mothers stepped in to help, their own stress levels (heart rate, cortisol level, etc.)  went down, but their children’s stress levels went up!  By taking away their children’s opportunity to work through a difficult challenge on their own and stepping in to take control of the situation, the mothers felt better but their kids felt worse. 

Our children need to have opportunities to tackle big jobs, they need a chance to be our “brothers” and partners, helping us with cooking, yard maintenance, cleaning, and many other areas where we can allow them the opportunity to stretch, grow, and be in partnership with us. Rather than focusing on how we can help them, let us allow them to help us and stretch and grow in the process.

Gifts Galore

December 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

A lot of presents will be given over the next month, many of them to children. While some of the presents will come from aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends, parents will also spend a great deal of time and money choosing just the right items for their children. After all that work, they might expect to sit back and relax.

Not so quickly. Shopping for and distributing presents and watching your children receive gifts from others brings with it a number of parenting opportunities. Preparing in advance will make the entire episode not only more positive but also more pleasant. Let’s divide them into before, during and after.

Before: Discussing in advance how to react to a disappointing or duplicate gift, practicing saying thank you out loud and with a smile (and maybe a hug), and making clear house rules such as, “No using a present until the thank-you card is written” is so much better than waiting until those discussions are needed.  Here’s where role-playing really shines. Have fun with little ones (and not so little ones) by pretending to give gifts that are not on the “most desired” list. You play Aunt Matilda giving Ashley math flash cards and when Ashley actually gets a box of handkerchiefs (do they still make handkerchiefs?), hopefully she will muster a big smile.

During: One of the frustrating things about holidays is that the reality often doesn’t match the anticipation. Some kids (and adults) have a really hard time when schedules, menus and sleep are off kilter, as they often are during special occasions. Preparing easy-to-access healthy snacks, monitoring sugar consumption, and scheduling in quiet time can make all the difference.

After: Even in our virtual world, physical thank-you notes matter. Learning to express  detailed gratitude in writing is one of those old-fashioned lessons that will yield unexpected benefits down the road. Of course, role modeling this idea is more valuable than lecturing about it.   

I’m sure you have many more practical life lessons for this time of year. I’d love to hear them.

Deadly Doctors and Murderous Aunts

December 4th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

One time, two of our young daughters went to some friends’ home for a sleepover. For some inexplicable reason, these girls’ usually responsible parents decided that watching the 1944 black and white movie, Arsenic and Old Lace, was a suitable evening activity. Twenty years later, that supposed comedy, with its murderous elderly aunts, still gives our girls nightmares.

Laughter often springs from a contrast between reality and what we are seeing. Surely, Arsenic and Old Lace could only be seen as a comedy by viewers who did not actually suspect that their sweet, unassuming aunts had scores of bodies hidden in their basements. As young girls, our daughters apparently were not completely clear that the movie didn’t depict reality.

Motivated by a misplaced sense of compassion (not to mention insanity) the two sweet, loving aunts in the movie murder lonely old men who are visiting them. Seeing the film as humorous, even if it is dark humor, presupposes an understanding of the sanctity of life. That is one of the values that Americans used to share and increasingly don’t. 

Without that, Arsenic and Old Lace is no longer a comedy but a nightmare.

With little fanfare, a number of ‘medical aid in dying’ laws have recently gone into effect or will shortly do so in the United States. These allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. The laws contain numerous clauses designed to ensure that patients are thoughtful, competent to make such decisions and not being influenced to do so by others. Reality suggests that meticulously crafted laws are no match for human ingenuity, mendacity, carelessness and evil.

Europe is ahead of the United States (though ahead seems the wrong word to use) when it comes to physician assisted suicide and voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary euthanasia. I doubt that the relatives of those murdered, or who, as the official report euphemistically labels it, died by “a disregard for human life” at Gosport War Memorial hospital in the United Kingdom, would find Arsenic and Old Lace funny. The individual stories of the over 450 hospital patients who were given deliberately dangerous drug doses  between 1988 and 2000 leading to their deaths, certainly isn’t even  slightly funny. Rather, they are tragic. 

Official government reports of this National Health Service monstrosity use terms like, “unsafe care” and “professional misconduct.” That is using language to mask truth. It is not neglect or even misconduct to deliberately inject a patient with a dosage of medicine meant to kill him. It is murder.

This as well as other stories from Europe that suggest similar problems, contradict  the progressive narrative. They receive little play in the United States. Universal healthcare is promoted as leading to better health care, not administrative overreach leading to horrific deaths. Advocates depict physician assisted suicide only as a compassionate and caring act, not one easily subject to diabolical abuse.

In the real world, people get very ill and too frequently suffer months and years of physical and mental torment before dying. Those who love them suffer in agony with them. The lure of ‘medical aid in dying’ and euthanasia is a siren song whose appeal is incredibly tempting for good and caring people. Yet, as the Gosport tragedy reveals, interfering in life and death is one of those areas where we humans desperately need a Higher Power to separate Good from Evil.

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Thou Shall Prosper

When is the time to stop grieving?

December 3rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

My church has been under grief for over a year, due to a lady in the church losing her baby girl just before she was born.The woman had to give birth to the baby even though the baby was going to be dead on arrival due to a blood clot that stopped the baby’s heart. 

Last night I attended a women’s meeting where the women of the church old and young got up and declared that grief is always a part of us, there is no expiration date, and we just need to grieve forever, allowing grief to be apart of us.And saying things like no one knows anything about grief unless they have experienced the same thing themselves.Talking about the physical debilitation it can do to your body and so on. 

Then after all this they had the woman who lost her baby get up and answer questions about her grief talking about it for 30 minutes or more. She proceeded to make angry remarks about people whose babies had been healed and how praying and putting your grief down to live a victorious life was all more harmful than good, because a life of faith is a hard life with no advantages except for the afterlife.

Needless to say I don’t feel like this is biblical at all.Yes, we have time to grieve,but it shouldn’t be for ever and one eventually needs to pick up the pieces and move on.

Please help! Thanks ever so much for your time.

Gina

Dear Gina,

As a student of our teachings, you  have most likely heard us often explain  that, as important as our emotions are, we must be in control of them rather than allowing  them to control us. You have successfully worked on yourself to “think Biblically”  and what you have learned is guiding you. We want  to validate that your instincts in this case are entirely correct.

As you say, ‘it shouldn’t be forever’ because if it is, added to other deaths in the church community, all of them also observed forever, eventually the church becomes overwhelmed by an incessant tsunami of grief in the midst of which no celebration of anything is ever possible.

The Bible does impose a time limit on (public) grief “and when the days of his grief were over” (Genesis 50:4) and “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.” (Deuteronomy 34:8)  Privately, one observes an annual commemoration on the anniversary of death however, imposing one’s grief upon the entire community forever is wrong.

We do want to   warn you  that we don’t think that there is anything that you can say or do that will change the minds of the women in your church. They seem to be following today’s general culture that elevates feelings above all else.

Ancient Jewish wisdom has a great deal to say about grieving. This should come as no surprise. Life and death, and joy and sadness are huge parts of our lives. Ignoring death is unhealthy but so is letting those difficult periods overwhelm us.

The grief of this woman in your church seems to have turned into a bitterness against church teachings and God.  She needs wise and warm counseling from a faith leader. People who mean well sometimes say unhelpful things to those who are suffering. Among these are statements like, “If you truly had faith, nothing bad would happen,” or “You must be very special for God to choose you for such an affliction.” People are uncomfortable around grief and while trying to help, can cause a great deal of pain.

Unfortunately, by attempting to validate this woman’s pain (a good thing) it seems that, as a group, the women in your church are losing all perspective (a bad thing). As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a proper time—and time limit—for all things. “A time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”.

In Genesis 23:2 it says that Abraham cried after the death of his wife, the matriarch Sara. Not visible in translation is that, for all time in a proper Torah scroll, one of the letters in the word meaning ‘to cry for her’ is written small. This leads us to the ancient Jewish wisdom teaching that Abraham diminished his grief. While personally devastated at the loss of his loving partner, he recognized that his mission in life demanded both a proper mourning and then a return to active and joyful life. Learning to do so doesn’t mean forgetting or turning your back on your loss. If does mean that stopping to actively grieve is as important as actively grieving. Life has changed and we can never go back to what it was before this death, but our own life, filled with meaning and happiness, does need to go on.

We have written in a number of places about the Torah’s directives for dealing with the loss of a close relative, starting with seven intense days of mourning surrounded by friends and family and then an easing back into full life. A death in utero or delivering a stillborn baby follows a different path. In some ways that can be more difficult. There has been a trauma, but the mourning is private and less regimented. What we can learn, is that making this into a public, unending mourning is not helpful. Rather than supporting this poor mother’s healing, her grief (and anger) is becoming institutionalized. This is not good for her and it certainly isn’t good for the church family.

Perhaps what these church ladies need is for a pastor or church leader to offer a special class on how God calls upon us not to follow our hearts and emotions.  He would draw a distinction between secular culture in which talking about feelings has been elevated into a form of secular devotion and religious culture in which we learn to control our feelings and not be controlled by them. “Remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes,” (Numbers 15:39)

We hope that you can share your reservations with others especially those in leadership, Gina, but you will need to do so in a firm but sensitive way. This is no easy task.

Everything in its time and place,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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The Lads Grew: a Problem in the Making

December 2nd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Let’s look at a parenting lesson from Yitzchak (Isaac) and Rivka (Rebecca) through the eyes of Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch, a leading transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom in the 1800s.  Genesis 25:27  tells us, “And the lads grew up and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, and Jacob was a single-minded man, living in tents.”   Rav Hirsch points out a critical parenting mistake Yitzchak and Rivkah made that we can and should learn from.

Rav Hirsch focuses on the words, “Va’yigdilu hanearim”, the lads grew up—noting that they grew together and undifferentiated.  In fact we see that it was only after they grew that their differences were noticed, that Esau was a man of the field and Jacob a man of tents.  What about when they were little?  No differences—they were raised together.  Rav Hirsch points out that the basic tenet of education is Proverbs 22:6, that each child should be educated according to his inner tendencies and individuality.  Esau and Jacob didn’t belong in the same school and shouldn’t have had the same routines, schedules, or activities.  Rav Hirsch says that if only Yitzchak and Rivka had studied Esau’s nature and tried to develop his strength and skills in a way fitting for him, he would have become a a mighty man before  God, not a mighty hunter. 

This is a fundamental lesson that I believe we all know, and it is still a worthy message to remind ourselves of and take to our hearts.  It isn’t enough to think about our family as a whole, and define what are our values, what are our routines, but also to think through each child individually.  What are this child’s strengths?  Natural inclinations?  Personality?  Temperament?  What education does this child need?  What schedule? What waking time, what bedtime? What extracurricular activities? What chores and contributions should he make?  What unique support does he need from us?

We allI know that it is challenging to tailor a unique approach to each child.  It requires time and energy to think deeply and then research options, let alone put them into practice.  I also know that it can be difficult within the framework of traditional schools to work with a school to make changes for an  individual child in the school day.  It isn’t easy, but it is a most basic principle of instructing children. It’s our job to understand each child as a unique individual and work to tailor his or her upbringing appropriately.

One final note: I have found that when parents make decisions based on what is best for each individual child, their other children respect the differences and don’t complain, “It’s not fair.” I think it’s valuable for our children to know that we don’t all need the same things and we don’t all get the same things, as long as they also know that we are committed to each and every one of them to give them what they uniquely need for their individual growth and development.

A Tale of Two Bettys

November 29th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

Some people impact the world by appearing on a public stage; others impact the world through the quiet example of how they live. This week, I along with hundreds of others, bade farewell to a diminutive giant of a woman whose everyday behavior inspired  those privileged to know her to become  better versions of themselves.

Betty Cahn and her husband, Joe grew up knowing that they were Jewish but, especially for Joe as a fifth generation Reform Jew, largely ignorant of the full scope of what that meant. After Mr. Cahn’s service as an officer in the US Navy during World War II, he and his wife followed a trajectory similar to that of thousands of their peers, including raising their two children. However, at a time when most of their contemporaries began looking forward to retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Cahn were introduced to Torah Judaism. Invited by a friend to a class given by my father-in-law, they attended and loved it. “Coincidentally”, at the same time their grown son developed a newfound interest in his faith. Within a short time, Mr. and Mrs. Cahn stopped by the synagogue on the beach in Venice, California, that my husband founded together with Michael Medved. The Cahns added  my husband’s weekly Bible class to their schedule and Mrs. Cahn joined my class for women as well. Within a short time, they were not only our students but our neighbors as they embraced Sabbath observance, keeping kosher and many other features of an authentic Jewish lifestyle.

Our synagogue at that time was composed largely of singles and young couples. To an outside observer the Cahns would have seemed an anomaly, decades older than almost everyone else. That observer would have missed Mr. and Mrs. Cahn’s youthful quest for knowledge, their excitement as they embraced each new day and their gracious personalities that quickly made them popular guests and hosts for Sabbath meals. To the great benefit of the young marrieds in our community, including my husband and me, they set an example of a couple who, after decades of marriage, were passionately in love with each other, with life and with their religious faith.

Mrs. Cahn (only in the past few years did I begin to call her Betty) was one of the most upbeat, optimistic and grateful women I have ever met. Whether she was facing a medical crisis or a family disappointment, she always chose to focus on what she had rather than on what she didn’t. Forming a special relationship with our daughter Rena from the time Rena was seven, I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who could have been a better role model for a young girl.

Mrs. Cahn had a cousin, also named Betty. This Betty was in many ways her polar opposite, achieving fame through being discontented and writing a book about it, The Feminine Mystique. Cousin Betty Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women, setting in motion a movement that in many ways has upended and uprooted lives as dramatically as Mr. and Mrs. Cahn uprooted their own, but in a diametrically different direction. In later years, Ms. Friedan herself bemoaned some of the extremes that her  movement birthed.  While gentle would be one of the first adjectives used to describe Betty Cahn, abrasive was often used for the other Betty.

Betty Cahn’s name did not feature in  newspapers and her face did not appear  in magazines as did her cousin’s. Yet both women left a legacy. As she advanced into her tenth decade her vision and hearing diminished, but her smile and warmth did not. When she died this past week, her son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren lost an important person in their lives. Yet, many others also shed tears and escorted her to her final resting place in Jerusalem, next to her beloved Joe. Her zest for life, appreciation of her husband and marriage, and her delight at the gift granted her of the Torah and a relationship with her Creator, set up ripples that continue to expand through the lives of those of us who were privileged to call her our friend.

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Girls in the Locker Room Meet Boys in the Boat

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Those of us blessed to be born during safe times in prosperous places  grew up with certain illusions. Among them was the confidence that we could plan reliably for our futures. Military veterans, refugees from war-torn countries, and those who have survived a critical medical situation know otherwise. While we can and must make our best personal efforts for a successful life, outside forces  will sometimes derail  us. At that point, we have no choice but to react.

That reality struck me forcefully when I read Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat. The young men featured overcame adversity, persevering until they excelled at the sport of rowing. This they did, winning a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Yet, the book doesn’t end there. Along with other men of their generation, their educational and individual aspirations soon took second place to the task of defeating Adolf Hitler, not in a series of games but in the arena of war. As such, this inspiring and uplifting book ends with the recognition that some of these young men ended up having their futures tragically cut short while those who survived the tumultuous years of World War II had to adjust and realign their plans.

Some threats such as approaching war are readily recognizable. Others—sometimes subtle warning signs of what is to come—are far easier to ignore or miss altogether. Threats are often camouflaged  and human nature makes us expect danger to look similar to how it looked in the past.

For this reason, I am writing to address parents who may not recognize potential perils facing their children. I am going to use one example to make my point, but I strongly urge each mother and father to take time on a regular basis to  ask themselves if anything  similar might be endangering their children. When our children’s physical and emotional health is at stake, waiting for others to sound the alarm and provide guidance isn’t enough. When we are surrounded by Neville Chamberlains, calling us warmongers and telling us that we are exaggerating the dark clouds on the horizon, each of us truly has to decide that the groupthink is correct or we must be willing to serve as our family’s own Winston Churchill—unpopular, derided and scorned until later years prove us right.

The issue that provoked these strong words is the decision of the school district in Palatine, Illinois to allow male and female students to access locker rooms based on “how they feel”. The ACLU helped a ‘transgender student’ bring this suit to the school board and, if you read or listen to many news reports, only the most backward bigots oppose letting children “be who they are”. Conservative news sites at least showed the other side. They featured a girl on the swim team, changing clothes multiple times a day, who is uncomfortable doing so next to a biological male. Yet, even as she squirms with embarrassment, she tries to sound loving and warm towards her fellow student. I assume that is because she has been trained through the years to distrust her own feelings in favor of minority ‘cultural darlings’. For her to be in public school at this point means that her parents, too, have made peace with a step-by-step normalization of views that were universally considered radically extreme only a short while ago. Each of us has to decide which straw will be the one that is too much for us to bear.

I don’t know this individual child or her family and wouldn’t presume to tell them what to do. But, if you are reading this and have not already recognized the unhealthy and insidious nature of society targeting your children, I am speaking to you.  Pulling your child out of school, either to a carefully vetted and chosen private school or to homeschool, may very well not accord with your child’s wishes. It means leaving friends and either being unable to participate in team sports or having to exert tremendous effort to do so. It may mean seriously considering a closer, or a new, attachment to your religion. Private school means added expense and homeschooling usually entails one parent needing to seriously curtail his, or more likely her, earning power. It very well might mean completely changing the trajectory of your family’s life, deviating from the future you so carefully planned.

There is no draft and no rampaging army forcing us to react at this point. Many parents are concerned about the direction society is taking and for this reason are paying attention to politics. That is important, but will not protect our children today. If you read about the increasing mental health issues presenting in our teens and college students, look carefully at what is being promoted in government schools and on college campuses, and contemplate what a different world we are living in, you may well decide that you are in a battle right now and doing nothing is a form of surrender. The stakes for your child and family are high.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Recently, I found myself with two children who, one right after the other, made identical comments that were not appropriate for that time.  You may or may not be surprised to hear that I responded very differently to each child even though the issue was identical.  Why would I do that?  Well, the same reason you do it!  As any mother or teacher knows, the point of responding is not to get anything off my chest or to play my scripted role and simply say lines that are pre-determined as the response for this particular action.  No.  My response isn’t for my own sake, but for the sake of my child. Therefore, my reaction had to be different to each child because each child is different. Each one needed something different from me in that moment. 

We have a reminder of this principle in chapter 20 of Numbers.  Here, we have the very enigmatic story of God commanding Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water for the nation. Instead Moses struck the rock, leading to the decree that Moses wouldn’t lead the nation into Israel.  There are so many questions and so many lessons we can learn from this story, but I would like to share just one angle with you today.

Forty years before this point the nation also needed water (Exodus 17), and believe it or not, God commanded Moses to hit the rock to make water flow.  Why was hitting the right response at that time, but 40 years later hitting was inappropriate and talking should have occurred?  What’s the difference? 

The audience is different!  40 years earlier, the children of Israel had just left slavery.  They were just beginning to come together as a spiritual nation and they still, so to speak, spoke the harsh physical language of slavery. Hitting and physical force seemed a natural and appropriate step for people who had just come out of 210 years of physical slavery.  But now, 40 years later, it is a new generation which needs water. This generation has had 40 years of Moses’ leadership and Torah learning, and they are about to enter Israel, a land sensitive to subtle spiritual behaviors.  This generation didn’t need to learn about physical force, they needed to learn how to use subtle and spiritual powers like speech to influence nature. 

This explains why God tells Moses, “Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel”.  The nation needed a different style of leadership at this point in time than the one they needed 40 years earlier.  The desired result was identical—water from a rock, but the response was different because the nation was different and needed to learn something different.

I believe this serves as a powerful reminder to us parents to modulate our responses to each child individually.  One size does not fit all; rather it’s different strokes for different folks!  It’s empowering for our children to know that we speak to each of them individually and treat them individually because they are individuals. We honor and respect their individuality by acknowledging who they are apart from their siblings and trying to give each one what they need from us one by one.   We can ask ourselves before we speak, “What tone of voice, what words, what response does my child need from me right now?” and try to act accordingly. 

A Child’s Guide to Impeachment

November 20th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

While I do try to keep up on politics, I have not followed any of the House impeachment hearings. Obviously, I haven’t written about them either.  At home I have a shelf of classic children’s stories that explains my nonchalance.

The Little Engine That Could tells the story of a train loaded with fruits and vegetables, toys and books that cannot make it up a steep mountain incline. Forced to stop, it pleads with other locomotives passing by for help so that the children on the other side of the mountain will have what they need. Along comes an arrogant train, a down-in-the-mouth train and others who refuse the small train’s supplications. Finally, a small engine comes along and is moved by the plight of the toy clowns and stuffed dolls. Repeating the mantra, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” the engine’s dedication and devotion to the task at hand allow it, despite its small stature, to pull the  train over the mountain.

As praiseworthy as the train might be, and as much as I may have read the story countless  times in the hopes of teaching the importance of persistence to my children, people can be dedicated and devoted to wrong causes as well. Since election night 2016, many Democrats have remained single-minded in their resolution to get rid of  President Trump by means other than electoral. The facts, the truth, precedents  and reality have little to do with their constant impeachment mantra, “We think we can, we think we can, we think we can.”

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