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by Judith Webber
Parenting has always been an important part of Jewish life. The Jewish religion has always put a special emphasis on the education of children. However, its methodology and concepts have never been needed with such urgency as they are today.
We have seen an extreme change in the status of the family in society today as compared with fifty years ago. With the breakup of the family as a fortress of security, and its consequential abandonment of the traditional close ties, children have become the victims of new concepts in child raising.
The Jewish family has always been a tight unit fostering responsibility and respect for others based on the close family model. Through out the ages, in the many lands of exile, the family unit - sometimes separated - has been a source of security on which new generations have built their lives. In the Jewish community, the extended family, the aunts, uncles and cousins have been a foundation of strength in which a child could find security and aid in times of distress; and guidance to cope with life's inevitable challenges. Life has never been easy for the Jew in the disapora, but in adapting to life's dirty deal, the person develops a positive personality.
Schooling was an important part of a child's education - but certainly not the only venue for learning. Today, with the importance of technology, an over emphasis has been placed on technical achievement. Scholastic and monetary success has become the criterion for measuring the person. Little if any emphasis has been placed upon character and its inherent attributes.
As an inevitable outcome to technical excellence, we have witnessed a degeneration the quality of character development. Stability and reliability, a staple in a healthy personality, have been compromised for momentary and monitary gains. Jewish families are not the fortresses of strength for the child, nor the institution for acquiring personal skills to deal with the world as they once were.
The problem is compounded due to the lacking on the part of today's parents who are devoid of those attributes and values that are necessary for instilling proper Jewish parenting skills by exemplar behaviour. Besides the obvious need for compassion and ability to give and share, the lesser-understood characteristics of respect, honesty, hard work, bearing, endurance and dedication are less commonly found in our modern world. Whereas proper characteristics of parenting can be studied and understood by a diligent student, the recognition and understanding of these concepts does not guarantee it's assimilation into the personality.
To raise children who are both honest, enduring, compassionate, and giving; and not just intelligent and technically competent, is very difficult for those unfortunate parents who grew up in an environment of parental stress and disharmony. If the parent himself did not absorb those essential parenting ingredients due to family strife, how can he be expected to give a better framework for his own children?
Yet the answer is simple and difficult at the same time. Proper parenting can be achieved by both steadfast continuance of honest living, emphasis on hard work, and perhaps more than all, acceptance of what is. By realization that the world is truly only a manifestation of G-d's will, not only in an intellectual sense, but also in everyday living, - meaning seeing G-d's hand in the world events, be they large or small, - we can insert a large dose of inner strength into our own personal life.
A parent's hard work coupled with a faith that the outcome of his/her daily efforts is really in G-d hand is the missing key. It is not enough to intellectually realize or accept G-d's will over ours; what is required is seeing G-d in all of what we do, in a reflective and meditative form. This means sharing our fortunes, together with the misfortunes, in respect to G-d's manifest dominion of our life, coupled with our inablilty to understand His wisdom. In sharing our daily occurances together with our children, we will instill in their being a regard for the divine plan and acceptance of what can not be accomplished.
The realization that we are not totally in charge of our situation, G-d is; yet we are not exempt from exerting our best effort to succeed, will generate those skills necessary to raise children who are rich in those characters that make a successful person at the same time as creating those very special children.
from the April 2001 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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