From Abram’s Warriors to Our Children

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.

3 thoughts on “From Abram’s Warriors to Our Children”

  1. Hi Susan,
    I just love reading your and RDL’s posts. As a homeschool mom, I read your posts sporadically as time allows. I wish I had read this when I began homeschooling my son 6 years ago in 4th grade. It seems it took me a few years to really figure out best how to reach and teach him. Some days, I was more preoccupied with completing our courses than making sure he really understood what I was actually teaching him. To be fair, maybe it took some time for me to adjust to teaching besides parenting. I find my son loses interest quicker than my daughter, so I have learned to not be-labor “minute” points with him. He is a wonderfully, good-hearted young man, and I try to focus more on the young man he is becoming. It’s counter intuitive, but I can’t help but think at times that most of the things our children learn in school have nothing to do with real life. For example, unless one is going to be a builder or engineer, I’m not convinced that geometry has any practical value for “most” students; same with calculus and foreign language. One could argue that it’s nice to know or challenges one to think on a higher level however I bet if I gave a group of working adults a pre-calculus exam, most would fail it despite thriving in the “real” world. I can’t help but think it would be better to start kids as apprentices in some chosen field by 16 and let them mature in that field. George Washington was a surveyor by 16 and many young men and women were learning their trade by that age. When I see on TV that kids at elite colleges don’t know basic questions like, “Whose the Vice President?” or “What country did America seek it’s independence from on July 4th?”, I can’t help but think, give it up for God’s sakes! We educate our kids longer today than ever in American history and yet most, I believe, are dumb as sticks. I know that sounds harsh , but I’ll stand by it. I have really been trying to instill lessons in my son that are not found in books. Things like honesty, hard work, pride in one’s work, taking notice of the socialist and communist trends happening in our society and staying away from them, marry one day and having a family to comfort you throughout life which only gets harder with “how the world really works” as one grows older, etc. It’s odd that kids go through 12 years of English and then are required to take it again in college. Why? If they didn’t learn it in the first 12 years, again, give it up already! Sadly, perhaps only in my mind, the cost/benefit factor (sorry, I was an accounting major) of attending college is largely gone. Many classes are to provide professors with continual employment rather than actually teaching our children a quality education. Indoctrination is rampant and purposefully pulling our children away from the values that made our country great. Most of the millionaires I know (and I know a few) were not good in school and did not go to college. They all worked hard, didn’t complain, saved furiously, invested wisely, and used common sense. Anyway, I suppose I fell off course, but I enjoyed your post and will continue to try and educate my son in a way that works best for him personally.

  2. Wow. I truly appreciate this concept! So many books focus on specific do’s and don’ts, the idea that each child is to be treated with individuality is refreshing and true. What a great reminder that we need to lift our heads up out of the scramble of daily life to focus in on the big picture.

    1. Blu, isn’t it the easiest thing in the world to get caught up doing day-by-day things that have to be done and miss the point of the whole thing?

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