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
The people complained against Moses saying what shall we drink?
…the Children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron…
The people argued with Moses…give us water
They gathered against Aaron…make us a god..we don’t know where Moses is
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.