Get a Whiff of Winning

I really hope that my children think of their childhood with the same sweet nostalgia that I do.  Whenever the Lapin family embarked upon a trip, it was usually with at least fifteen suitcases, all of which needed to be loaded into our van.  Though I could have done it myself quite quickly, we patiently waited while our young son laboriously loaded every piece of luggage, many of which were larger than he was.

My wife always shared the preparations for the Sabbath with our daughters, assigning some children to set the table while others cleaned the house until it shone. Planning menus and cooking were group efforts. Especially when the kids were very young, she could have prepared the house and meals for our family and our guests far more quickly herself.   

By contrast, researchers recognize that generally, American children ignore or resist appeals to help. According to a UCLA study a few years back, compared to other countries and cultures, and even more importantly, compared to how we Americans used to raise children, parents today are focused on what they can do for their children and don’t think about what their children can do for them. 

Were my wife and I taking unseemly advantage of free labor or doing our children a favor? Let’s look at a precedent.

From the moment they left Egypt the Israelites grumbled about almost everything. 

…Why did you bring us out of Egypt
(Exodus 14:11-12)

The people complained against Moses saying what shall we drink?
(Exodus 15:24)

…the Children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron…
(Exodus 16:2)

The people argued with Moses…give us water
(Exodus 17:2)

They gathered against Aaron…make us a god..we don’t know where Moses is
(Exodus 32:1)

Eventually God told every person to bring of his possessions and get to work building the Tabernacle.  This construction project and the service therein occupied the Israelites for many years and the complaining just about ceased.

After nightfall on Saturdays my family gathers for Havdalah. With this service we bid Shabbat farewell for another week and prepare ourselves for six days of productive endeavor.  During the brief ceremony, we celebrate our sense of smell enjoying the fragrance of some spices, often cloves and cinnamon. 

When a festival terminates, we also conduct a Havdalah ceremony but without any blessing on smelling the spices.  Why the difference?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that, amazingly, in our world, the actions of humans leave a longer-lasting impression than God’s actions.  For instance, Mt. Sinai (where God acted) is largely unknown, whereas Mt. Moriah, Jerusalem, where Abraham, Isaac, David, and Solomon acted is still visited by pilgrims after 3,000 years. Ancient Jewish wisdom further explains that smell is the sense that most strongly links to our memories.  I am sure you have sometimes gotten a whiff of a smell that immediately transported you to images of your childhood.

Sabbath was scheduled every seven days by God, but we Jews were commanded to calculate the dates of the festivals by ourselves. Linking the Sabbath to a smell prolongs the sensation of that day.  Since festivals have a human component, no fragrances are necessary for them to cling to us even after they are over.

We are more lastingly impacted by the things we do for God like building a Tabernacle than by the many things He does for us.  The children of Israel appreciated God more, not less, by giving of themselves for His structure. Likewise, our children are more lastingly impacted when they participate in family life, rather than just being recipients of parents’ beneficence.

We can use this information to change important things in our own lives. We can wait for God or other people to do things to move our lives forward while we sit complaining. Or we can get moving. 

17 thoughts on “Get a Whiff of Winning”

  1. Dear Rabbi,
    Like Lenore, I too was an only child. Needless to say I had many privileges. I also had lots of chores as my parents both worked full time jobs. i.e. Dry dishes, mow the lawn, ( we had a really neat mower, you did’nt need gas or electric all you had to do was push it), as a teen I also had to have the beds made before mom got home. Oh and I almost forgot, I also had to clean up the dogs mess in the yard. Some I did willingly. Some not so willingly. But it taught me that there is no free ride. I remember leaving the house one evening when my dad asked me where are you going? – no where- what are doing? – nothing – who are going be with? nobody. Well since you have no where to go and nothing to do and no one to do it with. He then found about a half dozen things for me to help him with.
    As to pleasant memories. My grandmother’s vegtabie soup and my mother’s sour beef and dumplings are two of a host really fond memories.
    As for work. While I am not a real great fan of hard labor. You taught me via AJW that there in no word in the bible for retirement. Since God gave a small talent. I still keep my arthritic hand in doing paintings and graphic design. Some I sell and some I donate to various charity auctions. But until God renders my hands completely useless and as long as people still like my work I intend to keep at it.
    Thanks again for your encouraging messages.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Keep on going, Brian,
      the world is full of God’s many children some of whom need exactly what you alone can provide.

  2. You are so right, Rabbi. Nothing demonstrates human potential and bonding like work. My children fondly remember that weekend day back in 1993 when we all resolved to work together to clean out and organize the garage. Each person was given a not only a role, but a series of specific assigned tasks. The result is that we came to work together toward a common goal both worthy and achievable, and we worked simultaneously as a family and as a team like a well-oiled machine. All my kids fondly look back on a rare bit of family togetherness. Sadly, togetherness soon dissipates as they mature and leave the nest. But they learned the value, the fulfillment and the dignity of work from such enterprises. What we achieved together was indeed like a whiff of cinnamon at the end.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear James,
      Yes, indeed, as you say work brings meaning to life and unity to its participants. Ancient Jewish wisdom corrects the common mistranslation of Genesis 2:15 suggesting that the human being was placed in the garden to work and protect the garden! No, he was placed in the garden to work on and protect his living soul referred to in verse 7. Our gardens are whatever places we are capable of working in and thereby helping our souls. In a wonderful series of children’s books by Arthur Ransome, an extraordinary woman is described like this: “She’s got a rum job, but she knows how to do it, and to have a job and know how to do it is one of the best things in this life. And if only she stops hankering after Cambridge…”
      Missee Lee (Chapter 26), 1941 Arthur Ransome

      1. How I love that kindly correction of Genesis 2:15 and I thank you for it once again! I shall have to look up Sir Arthur!

  3. As an only child, all I learned to do at home was to wash dishes. A friend’s mother taught me to make a bed. I learned to do things from books. When I married I wanted so much to hire lady I knew who cleaned houses, but was to ashamed I did not already know.
    My husband grew up on farm and can do anything from flying fighters to building our own house.
    Our 7 kids can do lots of things and what they don’t know they are confident they can find out and do it.
    They have all thanked us for what we taught them. All great adults.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Lenore-
      The lot of the only child is never enviable. But you married a great man and marriage is a team so between you both, seems you did a wonderful job on your delightful family.
      You’re blessed.

  4. When Eve was being tempted in Gan Eden, she did not use the sense of smell. If that is correct, what is the ancient jewish wisdom behind that? Thank you Rabbi.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re right, Lisa,
      Of all our senses, the one most tied to memories of long ago is smell. This is why marketers so often us smell when they wish to evoke special memories. For instance, I am instantly transported to childhood games on our family’s front lawn by the smell of newly mown grass. The sight of grass doesn’t do it. Looking at poplar trees similar to those bordering our lawn back in Johannesburg doesn’t do it. But the smell of that lawn brings a lump to my throat so evocative are the memories conjured up. Well, back to Garden of Eden. Newly created Eve had no memories yet to speak of, so smell was not a powerful motivator. But all else mentioned in Genesis 3:6 moved her to her fateful action.

  5. This T.T. brought to mind my shortcomings and my blessings. My dad died when I was only fourteen, but was ill for a couple of years prior and spent much of this time in the hospital. He was absent during a crucial period of a young lads life and I did not have an example of raising teenagers (that may have been a blessing, he may have been too easy on his only son). But, he taught me almost everything I needed to know before then. Primarily, taking care of my family and those that need help,especially anyone unable to defend themselves. In winter I would shovel driveways and in summer mow lawns for a little spending money. My dad encouraged this but told me I was not allowed to charge Mrs. Griep, a widower that lived a few doors down. I still needed to take care of her property for free. If I went to the corner store, I had to buy my mom her favorite chocolate before I could buy what I wanted (now my wife benefits and my children emulate this). I have instilled these values in my four children without even thinking about it.
    My downfall was the patience part of doing everyday, ordinary activities. I am a perfectionist in too many inconsequential areas. Like, packing the van. I was the expert. Cooking and meal prep is also mine. Entertaining, mine as well, only I can do it correctly.
    Two of the boys still live at home and often their poor excuse for not doing something like mowing or snowblowing is that they don’t do it right and don’t want to hear me yell. It hurts me that it’s true, even my beautiful bride has said this to me.
    I had to wipe my eyes as I wrote this, in remembering my dad and then again as I saw in my own words what a monster I can be. On a lighter note, my only daughter doesn’t care, she will do it anyway just because she is like me.
    You never know where your encouragement will come from, but, I almost always get some from you and Mrs. Lapin. Thanks for all you guys do.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Louis
      One is, of course, never too old to grow and improve and change. Sometimes one can be so overwhelmed by regrets that one is paralyzed into immobility. That is a shame. We all have regrets. And indeed, we all should have regrets–nobody ever became all they could be; nobody ever lived without making any mistakes, yes we have regrets. But we can still change today and improve tomorrow. Enjoy your family and emphasize all the time how proud you are of your children, especially the boys. More than girls, boys need to know their father is proud of them. And of course, it mustn’t be an act. You really should be proud of them.

  6. This one had me giggling as I pictured Ari about my grandsons age carrying the luggage. I am reading this one to my daughter and daughter in law to encourage them to get those little ones helping. They are started on a good course already. We are working on a plan to celebrate Sukkot in South Florida…..😁

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Susan, we have the most beautiful pictures of five year-old Ari lugging suitcases as big as he and also maintaining a list of all the luggage. With his six sisters we traveled as a family with about twenty suitcases! We also have pics of him fulfilling his responsibility at the gas station when he had to reach upwards to get the gas nozzle into the fuel tank filler. We just heard that you’ll be with Rachelle and Zev. Maybe this should incentivize us to see if we’ll also be able to come down. Probably not but you’ll love it.

  7. I’m really touched, inspired and encouraged by your messages. I recently got to know of you when I went on YouTube searching how control my finances and also making money.

    I have listened to most of your messages and now reading this thoughts tool brings joy and sense of encouragement and strength to move on in life.

    I live in the UK. Thanks for being a blessing into my life and lots of millions out there.

    God bless you and your family.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Wishing you success, Thabo,
      I have taught in the UK and hope to be back there next year. You might want to connect with the British financial education company that brought me to teach in the UK–Genistar is the name. I met many of their people from many backgrounds who are taking charge of their financial destiny and was impressed. Let me know if you have any trouble connecting and I’ll link you up. Also visit my website for more information. I appreciate you writing and am happy you found me.

      PS: More Genistar info:

  8. I love your idea of closing the Shabbat with the whiffing of a pleasant aroma. Wonderful.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Bonita–
      It really does start off our work week in a wonderful way. Ancient Jewish wisdom has never let me down yet!
      We appreciate you reading our work and writing to let us know how you react. It encourages us greatly.

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