Tag Archives: Parenting

Keep Your Kids Safe: Ask Women for Help, Not Men

At the risk of making global, alarmist statements, I believe that there is a simple measure parents can take to ratchet up the safety of their children: turn to women for help with children, not men.

The reason is simple: 95% of pedophiles are men. The odds of finding a woman with that personality disorder are simply far slimmer.

A story that broke today in several media organs is the sentencing and incarceration of Adam Croote, someone who was a registered sex offender in upstate New York and was previously the poster child for missing children. To view the details of the story, click here. In any case, the family who hired him knew he was a sex offender, and out of the goodness of their hearts, gave this man all sorts of odd jobs to help him out. Tragically, their daughter was choked and raped by Croote while he babysat her. The oversight of these parents is obvious. Thankfully the daughter is alive, but she will require a tremendous amount of help in order to live a normal life. And thankfully, Croote, whose own life story is horrendous, is behind bars.

Very few people would be willing to take such a risk as to hire a registered sex offender to babysit their children. I hope that nobody will ever make a decision like that again. But, when it comes to making a decision as to who should watch your children, you don’t need to know if a potential babysitter is on the offenders’ registry. Go with the stats. 95% of pedophiles are male.

And teach your children accordingly. Need help crossing the street? Ask a mommy.

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Chanukah: Restoring Our Temple, Returning to One

CandlesRebbe Nachman, as recorded in Likutei Eitzos, Chanukah, makes a somewhat enigmatic statement: the selach na (“please forgive”s) that we utter on Yom Kippur enable us to partake of the holiness of Chanukah.

What is the connection?

In Likutei Moharan Tinyana 7:11, the Rebbe relates to the interaction between G-d and Moshe Rabbenu during the aftermath of the sin of the spies.  Moshe Rabbenu says to G-d, “please forgive this people for their sin in Your great kindness”.   In this case, Moshe Rabbenu was not only relating to the sin of speaking lashon hora about Eretz Yisrael, thereby causing an epidemic of bad faith amongst the Children of Israel; instead, he took the long view, and considered the sin in terms of its ultimate consequence: the future destruction of the Holy Temple.  The gemara (Taanis 29) states, “Hashem, may He be blessed, said to them, ‘you cried a crying for no reason.  I will establish a crying for all generations’.”  As we know, the lamenting over the idea of entering Eretz Yisrael occurred on Tisha b’Av, as did the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash.

Sin destroyed the Holy Temple.  The absence of the Temple is problematic in and of itself, because it was the primary mechanism in the expiation of sin for the Jewish people, both collectively and individually.  The verse (Yeshaya 1) states, “righteousness dwells in it”, and Rashi explains this to mean that this was possible because the morning tamid-offering cleared all of the sins from the previous night, while the afternoon tamid-offering cleared all of the sins from that day.  As long as the Beis HaMikdash was extant, it was possible for the Jewish people to be clean of sin.  Rebbe Nachman emphasizes here that this is all-important, because the Jewish people, due to their delicateness and high level of spirituality, cannot really bear the weight of sin, even for one day.  Without the Beis HaMikdash, there is no way to relieve ourselves of that crushing burden–and Moshe Rabbenu knew this.  Therefore, he said:

סְלַח-נָא, לַעֲו‍ֹן הָעָם הַזֶּה–כְּגֹדֶל חַסְדֶּךָ; וְכַאֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה, מִמִּצְרַיִם וְעַד-הֵנָּה

Now, if you look at part of this phrase, namely:

הַזֶּה–כְּגֹדֶל חַסְדֶּךָ; וְכַאֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתָה

You will notice that the roshei teivos (first letters), when arranged properly, spell out the word חנוכה, “Chanukah”.  Moshe Rabbenu asked specifically that the forgiveness of the Jewish people should involve an antidote to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash–a chanukas habayis (re-dedication of the house).  When the Maccabi’im entered the Beis HaMikdash and purified the altar, as we commemorate on Chanukah, this was an example of Moshe Rabbenu’s request for restoration made manifest for the benefit of the Jewish people.

The main aspect of the holiness of Chanukah that we aim for is the very purpose of that Holy Temple: to know that Hashem Hu HaElokim, that the L-rd is G-d–specifically, that His attributes of kindness and judgement, which appear as separate, contradictory forces in the world, are aspects of His Oneness. We end Yom Kippur with this statement, this idea. And we re-invoke it on Chanukah. This knowledge can enable us to purify ourselves from sin.

In addition, as we gaze at the menorah’s warm radiance, and the candles burn on into the night, let us tap into that desire that lies deep within us, to carry this knowledge of holiness and purity forth to our children, for all generations.

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Who’s The MVP at Your Shabbos Table?

It is customary to sing Shalom Aleichem on Friday nights when the head of household returns from shul. The song is intended to honor the angels that have accompanied a person from the synagogue to his or her home, to a vision of the Shabbos home: a table beautifully set with the family’s finest dishes and cutlery, two fresh loaves of challah resting beneath their cloth, the glitter of silver Shabbos candles and kiddush cups, people in their Shabbos clothing. Remember that these angels take their leave of the person after the stanza tzeischem l’shalom. According to tradition, for a walk back from shul and a brief stay, these angels whom we cannot see or hear deserve to be honored with the fanfare of song.

Many Jewish homes are open to guests for the meals on Shabbos evening and the following day. Kiruv professionals and regular families alike have integrated the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim (welcoming guests) and the concept of kiruv rechokim (outreach) into their homes. The children of these families have a shining example of hospitality and outer-directedness right in front of their eyes; both of these can be choice educational tools.

The question is: do we honor our children as much as we do angels? Are we as excited about their presence at our Shabbos tables as we are about people who are not members of our immediate family, nor our extended family—sometimes not even people we’ve met before? I have heard personal accounts from many people whose parents’ Shabbos tables were both a source of inspiration for countless people who went on to become shomer Shabbos, and a source of feelings of alienation and betrayal for the children who were given, at best, second-class status at the table. These people came to associate Shabbos with emotional pain.

Our children need our love and attention. If that is true during the week, it is especially true on Shabbos or Yom Tov. When you have a guest, or more than one, where do you seat them? Do you ask your children to move down a few seats to make room for the guests? Do you demand that the guests be served or acknowledged in conversation first?

Consider this: parents have specially designated places at the table; this fact derives from the mitzvah of kibbud av v’em, honoring one’s parents. A child is not allowed, without permission, to sit in his or her parents’ seats. While children cannot lay claim to their seats from the standpoint of Jewish law, they certainly do come to treasure their places next to Mommy and Daddy, or at certain places around the Shabbos table. What are we communicating to them when we ask them to move over for someone else?

Some kids fall asleep between the gefilte fish and the soup. Others seem to be full of energy and will want to entertain the visitors until they leave. Still others will want to have your attention and sing with you. Whatever your kids’ style, it pays to adjust to it. Talk to them, ask them about their week; teach them about Shabbos. Don’t worry that your guests will feel neglected. If they are true friends or family, they will be glad to see that you are raising healthy, happy children.  If the guests are of the “kiruv” variety, you will be giving them the ultimate Jewish educational experience by showing them the importance of children in a Jewish home. Consider your children your most valued “guests”; like the angels who have accompanied you home, they are the angels who greet you there.

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Getting To Choice

A lot of parents become frustrated when they see that their children are less than enthusiastic about Judaism–far less than the parents. This is particularly disconcerting for parents who are ba’alei teshuvah, who sacrificed so much in order to build a Torah life that, hopefully, has never lost its luster. Ba’alei teshuvah are generally maverick in nature, people who are willing and able to make deliberate decisions about what is meaningful to them, which aspects of their native cultures and mentalities to retain and which to jettison in the name of Judaism. That has entailed, for many people, changing their diet, dress, outlook on life, interpersonal connections, geographic location, choice of profession, education, and so much more. How is a BT to deal with an FFB child who takes it all for granted, eats kosher his or her whole life, keeps Shabbos, goes to the Jewish school his or her parents didn’t get to, and still emerges with a “been there, done that” attitude, so disparate from his or her “holy roller” parents’?

I think that it is important to keep in mind that the connection to Hashem and Torah that ba’alei teshuvah have is as intense, enriching, and joyful as it is because they chose it.

I have a friend who hated school as a child. He told me that, even at the young age of five, he was bored in kindergarten, so he just walked back home. Fortunately for him and his parents, he lived in a safe, upscale suburb of Detroit. When he recounted this to me, he was engaged in serious learning in a kollel in Jerusalem. He went on to say that, even though he never developed into the type of person who fit neatly into an educational framework, and even though he found it difficult at times to keep up with the demands of Torah learning now, he was able to remind himself that, unlike his days as an elementary school student who attends school involuntarily, he was choosing the learning now.

Herein lies an important key to being a Jewish parent, whether you are BT or FFB. In order for a person to invest him or herself in a spiritual life, he or she must choose it for themselves. Mesorah is a critical component in Jewish life to be sure, but so is making Yiddishkeit one’s own. Our job as parents may be to stop worrying about whether or not our kids will do what we do and start providing them with the incentives and tools to choose it for themselves. Let’s stop worrying about “at risk” and “off the derech” and start making Yiddishkeit an incredible option that is too good to refuse.

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