Posts tagged " growth "

A Finished Product?

December 1st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 3 comments

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

Names in the Bible are not just names, When the twins, Yaakov and Eisav (Jacob and Esau) are born, their names don’t only reflect their physical traits but spiritual ones as well.  Eisav’s name is from the word “asui”, meaning, made or finished. Yaakov was named from the word “eikev,” meaning heel. Yes, Eisav’s name reflected his mature physical features and Yaakov was born grasping Eisav’s heel, but that is not the complete story.

Eisav’s philosophy in life was one of “asui”, “I’m finished, I’m done growing. Whatever I am today is what I will always be.”  Not surprisingly, since he was not future-oriented, he didn’t value his first-born status and was ready to sell it.

Yaakov, however, always saw himself at the heel of life, at the bottom of a growth trajectory, which, throughout his life, he strived to climb day in and day out.  Yaakov knows that even if today he has nothing, that does not reflect tomorrow.

An Eisav worldview is one of complacency and accepting today’s experience as tomorrow’s reality.  No hope of change, no struggle to change.  Yaakov, on the other hand, sees today as only a tiny start, a small step on the ladder of life.  He is always struggling, always growing, always changing.  You’ll recall, that in chapter 32 Yaakov received another name after he struggled and prevailed in the fight with an angel.  The angel gave him the name “Yisrael – because you struggled against angel and people, and you prevailed.”  Wouldn’t we expect his name to reflect the words “you prevailed”!  After all, that’s what was so noticeable about this encounter.  Instead, the name “Yisrael” comes from the word, “sarisa”you struggled, you wrestled.  Yaakov isn’t about the final success, he’s about the struggle to get there.  Yaakov is all about the process, growth, change, never about the final product.

The Yaakov attitude is at the heart of a believing person’s life.  We don’t believe that we are locked into today’s reality or must accept today’s limited position as a given.  We are forward-thinking, always seeing hope, and working towards a beautiful future.  This quality becomes incredibly obvious and incredibly important when raising children.  We have to remember that a stage is just a stage. Our children are works in progress who are constantly growing and changing.  Today’s limits, today’s struggles, are just part of the process of maturation.  Feeling stuck has no place in our families.

When we’re in the middle of a challenging phase it’s easy to forget that this is temporary, but the message from Yaakov is to see ourselves always at the heel, always climbing higher and higher.  We, and our children, keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep striving, we keep building, and one day at a time we grow.

Our job is to share this mindset with our children.  Our kids pick up on the labels and limitations, and they sometimes believe they are defined by them.  “I’m not good at learning,” “I’m irresponsible,” “I’m disruptive,” and more.  We want to be the voice that reminds our children that today’s struggles lead to tomorrow’s victories.  None of us are limited to today’s reality. There is no magic moment when we pass or fail life, rather until the day we die we are in the process, winning some, losing some, but always changing, always growing.

We can all use this reminder that life isn’t static.  However rough today was, tomorrow can be better.  Both names, Yaakov and Yisrael, remind us to embrace growth, focus on the process of development, and never succumb to the static fatalism of Eisav.  This is a message for all of us, mothers who sometimes feel stuck in a difficult stage of parenting or life, and for us to share with our children who need to be reminded that today’s mistakes are the stepping stones to tomorrow’s growth.


Children Raising Mothers

May 20th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

While discussing the role of the Levites, Numbers 3:4 mentions Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu who had previously died.  The verse says:

“Nadav and Avihu died before God when they offered an alien fire before God in the Wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children…”

This verse makes it seem as if they died for two reasons; first, for bringing a sacrifice they shouldn’t have and second because they didn’t have children. What is that about? 

The Chassam Sofer, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, explains why their not having children contributed to their deaths.  Having and raising children is the ultimate path to self-development.  I have a friend who has a blog about her homeschooling family.  Her motto is “Homeschooling builds character….In the mother.”  She is so right, but it isn’t just homeschooling, it’s parenting.  Raising children forces us, their parents, to stretch and grow way beyond any measure we did before having children.  You thought you had cultivated the character trait of patience when you were in high school?  Wait until you’ve been kvetched (whined, complained) to all day long and then you get woken up right after you’ve fallen asleep.  That’s when you begin to learn about patience! 



Choosing Childlessness

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am 32 and married 3 years ago. My husband and I do not like children and thus we choose to be childless. Is that okay?

Jia Mun

Dear Jia Mun,

We aren’t sure what ‘okay’ means and we know almost nothing about you and your husband. From the fact that you wrote asking us, we assume that you aren’t completely confident with your decision. Perhaps we can suggest some avenues to explore.

We come from a Biblical perspective that says that God’s preferred architecture of life is for people to marry and raise families.  Getting married and becoming a parent are ideally both steps that discourage self-absorption and teach us the great human thrill of bringing good to others. God wants us to connect to others and countless modern studies show that being connected to family and friends is not only a formula for happiness but also one for health.  Like so many other improvement projects, connection works best from the inside out. In other words, the most effective way to set about developing a love for humanity is to start off exercising our love on our own children.  After that, upon the children of our loved ones and then moving on outward from there.

You say that you and your husband don’t like children. We confess to feeling a bit perplexed.  What exactly do you mean by that?  We do understand that having a child makes a massive difference in one’s life and we understand that this can be terrifying.  But for you both not to like children sounds a little hard to understand.



Bzzz. Moo. A Recipe for Growth

January 3rd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

A friend of mine recently celebrated the long-awaited arrival of his first child and almost overnight he became a different man.  He drove his car a bit more cautiously.  His facial expression looked a little more mature.  His approach to work seemed more focused.  While lovingly cradling his infant, he said to me, “Rabbi, I can’t believe what I created!”

I pretended not to hear him and cupping a hand about my ear, I asked, “What was that I heard?”  He repeated what he had just told me. “No, no,” I said.  “I heard you all right but I had to listen a bit more carefully to hear your son.”

“My son?” he asked, looking baffled.  “Yes, your son just said exactly the same thing.  He moved a tiny finger to point at you and he murmured, ‘Rabbi, I can’t believe what I created.’ “

I continued, “Yes, I think it true that more than a man creates a child, it is the child who creates a father.”

There are many life transforming experiences. Many have the potential to transform us into our higher selves while, of course, there are those experiences which will transform us into lesser beings.  Then there are experiences, like watching cat videos on the Internet, which do nothing at all.


Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Support the work of AAJC by making a donation.


Follow AAJC on its Facebook Page!