Posts in Your Mother’s Guidance

Happy Anniversary!

January 13th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A year ago, our daughter Rebecca began a What’s App group to share her thoughts on Torah and Parenting. Over the year, I have shared many of her teachings with Practical Parenting readers after editing them to make them available to those without a strong Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom background. I hope you enjoy her reflections on this anniversary.

Before I started this group I was feeling stuck.  I love teaching Torah, and I love teaching parenting, but I was so busy in the throes of parenting, working, and running a home, that I didn’t have time to teach any classes.  When I thought about waiting until all my kids were out of the house to begin teaching again, I was disheartened.  Frankly, I didn’t want to wait another 15 years to do something that is so important to me, and I also thought that at the pace the world is changing, in 15 years my perspectives on parenting may well be out of date and irrelevant. So I felt stuck.

Ironically, I felt barred from teaching Torah and parenting because I was taking my parenting so seriously that it filled up my days and I knew I didn’t have time to give to others or teach Torah to others.  I didn’t like feeling stuck.

That is when I realized that I can do what’s important to me – I can teach Torah and parenting, if I do it in bite sized chunks of a few minutes at a time only on the days that my life allowed me. This group was born.  Honestly, I didn’t know if anyone would join, and mostly I didn’t even care – I was doing this because this is what I wanted to do with my life!  On January 1, 2019, I shared the link with my sisters and a few friends—I really didn’t think most people would be interested.  But I was wrong.  In addition to being blessed by doing what I truly love, there is now a group of well over 200 women learning together about Torah and parenting.

I’ve been blessed with reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.  I’ve been inspired and blessed by friends who don’t have children, who listen and comment. I’m greatly inspired by grandmothers who have such vast experience in their own parenting lives who listen and graciously reach out to me.   I’ve been incredibly blessed by friends of my mother who listen and tell me I occasionally remind them of my mother and grandmother teaching Torah.  I’ve been blessed by each one of you who reach out to let me know that something I’ve said has touched you or resonated with your life.

I think there are things we all feel stuck about.  Goals that we once had, or may still have that we give up on, because life is too full and busy, to live our secondary dreams as well as our primary dreams of our homes and families.  And I’m sharing my story to encourage you not to give up, but to think of ways to reframe your goals in ways you can incorporate into your life as it is today.  I can’t possibly commit to teaching a regular class now, but on the days I have time, I can prepare a short Torah thought and it’s more than enough for me right now!  Maybe you also have a dream, a goal that you thought was out of reach.  Maybe, today is the day to brainstorm what is really important to you and whether you can change the scope or size of your dream to fit your world today.

Last January 1st,  I suggested we take time to brainstorm and take notes about our children’s development, physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially.  Today, I’m suggesting that we take the time to do that for ourselves.  If there is any way you can squeeze half an hour out of the day today, let’s use it to really think deeply about these questions.  What do I value most of all?  What arouses my passion?  What brings me joy?  What small step can I take today to bring me more in alignment with my deepest values? 

From Hair to There

December 25th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

Genesis 37:2 introduces us to Joseph at 17 years old, described in Hebrew as a “na’ar,” a lad.  The transmitter of Biblical wisdom known as Rashi quotes an earlier source on the words, “and he was a lad,” and tells us that he acted like an adolescent fixing his hair and eyes to look attractive.  Doesn’t this sound out of place? The righteous Joseph was a typical teenager?  Does that sound right to us? Is that the message of the word “na’ar”?

Rav Shimon Schwab helps us understand the meaning of “na’ar” by looking at Genesis 34:19 where Shechem, the son of Chamor, is also described as a “na’ar.”  Rav Schwab notes that in that context, na’ar can’t mean young and adolescent, because Shechem was described as the “prince of the land,” certainly not a boy.  The word na’ar is teaching us here that Shechem acted impetuously and impatiently, like a young lad who jumps into action without thinking carefully.

This is the explanation of Joseph too being a na’ar – no he wasn’t acting like a teenager, he was jumping the gun, showing impatience.  How? Joseph knew that his dreams weren’t only dreams, but were prophetic visions. He was destined to be a king.  Jewish transmission teaches that a king must spend time grooming himself, to the point of cutting his hair daily, so he looks the part.  Joseph’s mistake here was youthful impatience.  Instead of waiting patiently for the day in the future when he would be crowned king, he started preparing prematurely.  The self-grooming Rashi describes is what he would, indeed, one day need to do when king, but it wasn’t right to impatiently begin preparing until the time was  right.  Being a “na’ar” is equated with a level of impatience.

We all recognize impatience and impulsivity as a youthful trait.  From the very first car ride when your preschooler asks,  “Are we there yet?” to a teen desperate to drive before getting his license, that is the way youth are!  I’d like to suggest that being an adult, specifically a parent, requires a person to put aside this youthful attitude and cultivate its exact opposite, patience and perseverance.

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe wrote a masterpiece on education, called (in translation) Planting and Building.  Rav Wolbe tells us that there are two parts to child raising and the first relates to planting—plants grow in a natural organic way, on their own time-table.  You can’t force the plant to grow more quickly by tugging at the stems or leaves.  You can’t even force them to grow more by drowning them in extra water or giving them trellises and extra support. They will grow at their pace.  As we’ve talked about before, raising children is a long-term project; impatience really can’t play a role. 

We, mothers, are the ones who can put aside the youthful impatience we once had, and develop long-term patience as we help our children grow and develop at their own pace and in their own time.  We all know this is easier said than done, especially when our children’s timetables may seem to be too slow in one area or another, but this principle is very real and profound. The perspective of  patience, perseverance, and long-term thinking are gifts that mature parents give to their immature children.

My Children, My Brothers?

December 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 6 comments

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 31) 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.

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.

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. 

Job Description: Willing to Be Unpopular

November 18th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 3 comments

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

Today, I’d like to take a look at the first unpopular stand a Jewish mother took. In Genesis 21, Sarah tells Abraham to banish Yishmael and Hagar from their home.  We tend to think of this as a straightforward decision but the verse tells us that Abraham was deeply pained by Sarah’s stand.  “And the matter was very bad in the eyes of Abraham…” (Gen. 21:11). He didn’t want to send his son Yishmael away.  God stepped in and told Abraham that Sarah was right, but initially at least, Sarah’s decision was made despite the fact that it would cause pain and be uncomfortable.  We aren’t told what young Isaac’s reaction was to losing his older half-brother, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that he may also have been disappointed and not enthusiastically happy the day Yishmael left!

Clearly though, Sarah was right.  Banishing Hagar and Yishmael was necessary for Isaac’s growth and destiny.  The lesson I’d like to look at today is simply that sometimes our job as mothers is to make unpopular decisions.  I just read a fascinating book by Dr. Leonard Sax called The Collapse of Parenting.  [Editor’s note: Yes, this is the same book that I previously recommended. Rebecca and I often share books and appreciate hearing each other’s input.] Over the last three decades as a family physician he witnessed the change in parents’ self-perceived job description.  Parents used to see their role as training children to participate in and contribute to their culture and society.  Now parents’ often stated goal is to make their children happy.  This is a disturbing trend and I think it would be short-sighted to claim that this is only true in the general society, and not in Bible-centric homes.   I think this shift is a reality today that we need to face.

Our job really isn’t to make our children happy.  On the contrary, we need to know and accept that part and parcel of our job is making decisions that make our children unhappy.  Sometimes, we see with our greater life experience and insight that something a child greatly desires is not best or that something painful is beneficial.  Good parents do this all the time from enforcing bedtimes to limiting desserts, playtime, or technology.

What I’d like to point out today is that the benefits to our children when we say no and enforce limits is even greater than they may appear at first.  In addition to the obvious value of getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy food, or whatever the other immediate benefit may be, is the emotional health that only comes from children coming to accept a parent’s decision that goes against their desires.  Developmental psychologists understand the process of children being disappointed and coming to accept situations where they don’t get what they want as necessary and integral for emotional growth and development.  A child who doesn’t experience sadness or doesn’t run up against a wall of parental futility can’t emotionally mature into a healthy adult.

For today, perhaps the lesson we can think about is a message from Sarah first difficult decision.  Sometimes mothers are unpopular.  If we are clear on our goals and values as parents we will know when and how to enforce limits, knowing that parenting is not a popularity contest, and that our children’s maturity and health depend on our ability to say no.

From Abram’s Warriors to Our Children

November 10th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 3 comments

Your Mother’s Guidance by Rebecca Masinter

One of the best-known transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom, Rashi, gives us a definition of parenting in his remarks on Genesis 14:14.   His words are foundational to our understanding of our role as parents. Abram goes out to rescue his nephew, Lot, who has been taken captive and he takes with him, chanichav, his trainees, or the ones he had been mechanech, educating, in his home.  Rashi helps us out and defines the root of the word chinuch used to describe these people in words that I am roughly translating as, “This word chinuch is a term of the initiation or beginning of a person or tool’s usage in the manner he will continue in for the future, and this is the meaning of King Solomon’s statement, ‘Train a child…’ (Proverbs 22:6).” The Hebrew word in Proverbs, translated as the verb ‘train’ is the same as the noun for those men Abram took with him to war.

And there we have it—the idea that what we’re doing as parents is not scrambling day to day as we try to cope and get through one more bedtime or one more carpool. We are training and equipping our children for their life journey, for the path that is uniquely theirs and that they will continue on their whole lives long.  We see this idea in the verse that Rashi quotes from, “Train or educate a child according to his way.”  This in itself is a meaningful line and is quoted extensively in parenting classes, but it isn’t the entire verse.  The verse ends, “…even when he becomes old he won’t sway from it.”

Have you ever wondered why King Solomon uses the term, “even when he becomes old…”?  Why didn’t he say, even when he grows up or becomes an adult he won’t depart from it?  I think that this insight is at the root of all parenting.  King Solomon knows that chinuch isn’t about what the child will be like when he is 18 or 30, chinuch is about raising a child so that straight through to the end of his life, when he is an old man, he is still on the path his parents started him on.  Chinuch isn’t short sighted; quite the opposite.

The message is that that our task as parents is to begin with the end in mind.  Chinuch involves thinking about what our child’s unique path is that is truly inherent to him and that will carry him through his whole life, and what we need to do to develop, facilitate, and enhance that journey.

Those of you who have been with me on Your Mother’s Guidance for a while know that I really don’t like to share specific parenting how-tos.  I like to share concepts and ideas we can each think about and implement in our own ways for our own families.  The reason gets to this core definition of chinuch.  No two children will have the same life journey.  No two families are even remotely similar, and no one other than the two parents God has entrusted with the responsibility for those children can possibly know what is the right chinuch for that child. 

Mrs. Bruria Schwab once shared with me a lesson from her father who told her that chinuch is compared to a boat.  A boat travels on the ocean on its own path and no other boat can exactly follow the same path.  You can see where a boat is going and try to follow in the same direction, but you will be hit by different currents, winds, and tides, and even if you end up in the same place, you will not have gotten there exactly the same way. 

Parenting is envisioning the end goal for each child. Where can this child be as an old man or woman? What does he need to help him get there?  No two people will be the same.  This truly is the beautiful and crucial job of mothers. 

Find a few minutes to get out of the daily scramble every now and then and tap into the long term picture.  It may be that we will still do many of the same things we do now, but our motives and emotions will be completely different when we’re doing them as parents who are initiating our children onto the path of life that they will continue living long into the future.

One More Time

September 23rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

Deuteronomy 26:1 begins, “And it will be when you come to the land…” It continues with the laws of first fruits and other commandments that we are only obligated to do in the land of Israel which the Jewish nation was about to enter.  In truth, most of Deuteronomy is filled with commandments the Jewish people can fulfill fully only in the land of Israel.  Many of them we have actually already learned about earlier, but Moses reviews them here  in his final speech to the nation before they enter the land.  Nachmanides, a key transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, tells us that even the commandments that seem new to us here in Deuteronomy were actually taught earlier in the 40 years in the desert.  They just weren’t recorded in the Torah until this point when Moses reviewed them.

Here is a great parenting tip, straight from Moses!  When something out of the ordinary is going to happen, we should tell our children in advance and in detail what will happen and how they should behave. Then, immediately before the event, we should review again what to do. That’s how Moses did it! 

[Rebecca now gives an example that is relevant for Jewish parents as many mothers bring their young children to synagogue to hear the shofar  (ram’s horn) on the New Year (Rosh HaShanah) holy days. This includes children who may not be accustomed to being in synagogue as they usually go to children’s groups or stay home until they are older and able to behave properly.)  For example, now is a good time to talk to our little children about Rosh Hashanah and the shofar, and how we’re going to go together to hear the shofar, and this is what they need to know.  Synagogue is a place where we behave respectfully and quietly. We will walk, not run in the halls, and we’ll walk quietly to and from our seats, and we don’t talk, especially not when we’re there for Shofar blowing.  (I’m not suggesting this is what you have to say, just sharing what may come up when I do this.)  This conversation can happen now, and repeatedly over the next week as needed.

But then, right before we walk into synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, you can be sure, I, and many other mothers, will say, “Do you remember what we do and don’t do in synagogue on Rosh Hashana?  Can you remember to walk, not run, and be totally quiet once we’re inside?”  Effective mothers do this all the time before trips to the grocery store, museums, airplane travel, before guests come over and on and on.  We all do it, but now you know where it originated! The commandments concerning the land of Israel were taught over a period of 40 years, but now right before entering the land, we get a review, just like we give our kids!  That’s parenting the Biblical way!

But Everyone Else Does

September 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

When school starts, fads tend to pick up.  Remember fidget spinners?  Deuteronomy 17:14 gives mothers a perspective on trends and fads that we may find helpful.  It says, “When you come to the land that Hashem, your God, is giving you, and you inhabit it and settle in it, and you will say, ‘I will place upon myself a king like all the nations around me…’” 

Sure enough, this is what happened.  When the prophet Samuel was nearing the end of his life, the Jewish people came to him and said,  “Make for us a king to judge us like all the other nations.”  (1Samuel 8:5) Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that the concept to appoint a king is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. (Deut. 17:15)  We were supposed to have a king once we were settled in Israel. 

But, the line, “just like all the nations that surround us,” was not part of the original idea. That is included in Deuteronomy as a prophecy, describing what will happen—and it was not a good thing.  We were supposed to ask for a king because it was the right thing for us, but not because  any other nations had monarchies.  Right request, wrong reason.

I don’t know if you have kids at all similar to mine, but pretty much as soon as I give something or permission to do something to one of them, someone else is bound to come to me and say, “Since you said so and so can do this, can I also do it?”  Probably, just as you do, I respond, “What your sibling does has no bearing on what you do.  Ask me again for what you want, but this time don’t tell me what someone else has, just focus on yourself.” 

This is the message we can learn from the way the Jewish people ended up asking for a king.  Monarchy may be the right choice, but not for the wrong reasons.  We were supposed to ask for a king because we were commanded to do so, not because the neighboring countries did.

This is an important message for us to give to our children. Life is not fair, and we are not given equivalent gifts in this world.  Our children will be in situations their whole lives long where they see other people having things and doing things which they won’t be able to, or shouldn’t, have or do.  If we can help them learn from a young age that we should each focus on what is right for us, regardless of what anyone else has or does, we are giving them a valuable tool for life.  Yes, everyone else in your class may have a fidget spinner, but even if you should have one, the fact that others have it is not the reason for you to get one.

Holiness with a Side of Cheerios?

September 3rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

Leviticus 19 opens with the words: “And God spoke to Moses saying.  Speak to the entire assembly of the children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, HaShem, your God, am holy.’”

Let’s not get into what exactly we are supposed to do to be holy.  Today, I’d like to contemplate that this commandment was given with all of us standing together; men, women, children.  Often, when we think of holy people, we imagine someone living alone on a mountaintop with hours to meditate and learn and grow.  Or maybe we’re  more realistic, but we still think of a holy person as a person who has hours of solitude to learn and pray while sitting in his or her quiet book-lined study.

The Alshich, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, writes that the Torah is not asking us to isolate or live alone and separate from each other so we can work on being holy and fully self-developed people. Rather, he says, that we specifically should  be amongst other human beings, in the assembly or congregation as the verses above teach.  In order to achieve holiness we have to be with each other.

I find this very relevant in my life as a mother.  Firstly, it is tempting to look back and perhaps think how much more holy I was before I had children.  I prayed much more, I never lost my patience, I learned Torah more, I was more active in charity organizations… But that is incorrect.  Becoming holy happens amongst other people and I am much more deeply entrenched with other people surrounded by my husband and children than I was alone. 

God wants me to be holy as I live closely together with my family. 

And yes, that means that I won’t have as much time to devote to prayer, to learning, to charity organizations.  And yes, it even means I won’t have as much time to devote to my personal growth and development, but that’s the point.  Holiness doesn’t really come from isolation.  Holiness is something I can develop and attain as I work on myself amongst my family and amongst the other people in my life.  Developing good character traits is much easier before you live with others!  But true good character traits come when we live with others and still work on becoming better, more sensitive, caring, and giving people.

By being mothers, having little time for ourselves, we may incorrectly think we’re not attaining holiness.  In reality, the opposite is true.  By working on self-development even as we’re distracted and tired, by giving, by stretching ourselves to greater heights of patience, self-control, and love, we’re attaining holiness the way we’re meant to, not in isolation but among the entire assembly of men, women and children.

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