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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2008 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5769

Of Children and Immortality

By Rabbi Francis Nataf


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Re-thinking the goals of child raising

An individual is not as self-contained as one might otherwise think


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | More than one reader has wondered about some of the Torah's minor characters. One such character is Abraham's father, Terach.

The Torah tells us very little about Terach, except for his genealogy and the lone fact that he left his home with the goal of moving to Israel (Canaan) but ultimately settled in a different location along the way. This obtuse information has puzzled many commentators, who point out the seeming unimportance of this detail.

The rabbis do not have much to say about Terach wanting to go Israel, but they did notice another interesting fact implied by the Biblical text, something that on the surface seems contrary to our basic tradition about Terach: When G-d speaks to Abraham (Genesis 15:15), He tells him that when he dies, he will come to his fathers in peace, a statement interpreted to mean that Terach, too, has a place in the World to Come. Given that tradition sees Terach in a basically negative light, there is a disagreement among commentators why he should have received the gift of immortality. Some say that Terach must have repented while others tell us that it is the merit of Abraham that allowed him to get such a favorable judgment.

Those who take the latter position base their answer on the Talmud's assertion that although a father's merit does not influence G-d's judgment of a son, a son's merit influences His judgment of a father (Sandhedrin 104a). This itself is worthy of analysis: Why should it be that a son can share his merit with his father but a father may not do so with his son?

Upon further reflection, however, we can understand that a son reflects upon his father in a way that a father does not reflect on his son. We know that we are greatly influenced by our parents, usually more so than by anyone else. In contrast, a child's behavior rarely has a major impact on the already formed character of his parents. As such, if a person is righteous, it is likely that his parents played an important role in this, even if it is not always easily seen. This, since a child not only picks up on the manifest actions of his parents but also absorbs their latent traits and beliefs as well.

Even as Abraham made an important break from his family and culture, he did not emerge from a vacuum. It is likely that Terach's aborted move to Israel is indicative of that which the Torah wants us to know about him and his impact on his son, Abraham. In this regard we need to ask why Terach would have chosen to go so for away. Indeed, it would have made more sense to move closer to home, as he eventually did. And even if he wanted to get farther away from the land of his past, there were many other lands that he could have chosen. His choice to go to Israel could hardly have been coincidental, especially since the Torah tells us about Terach's move right before G-d commands Abraham to go to the exact place his father had originally intended to reach. Indeed, in other contexts, the Midrash and later commentators suggest that many people were aware that Israel was a land ideally suited to morality and spirituality, even before G-d promised it to Abraham. According to this tradition, the famous commentator Rabbi Ovadiya Seforno's suggestion that Terach sought to live in Israel to better himself appears to be an eminently reasonable explanation for Terach's actions.

If we are correct in our understanding of Terach's decision to move to Israel, we must also try to understand why he aborted his mission halfway. In this regard, it is important to remember the difficulty of Abraham's task of challenging a paganism that was as universal as it was base; taking on the entire world is certainly not for the fainthearted. Thus, Abraham is chosen based on the unique strength of his convictions and character.

As in all societies, it is likely that he was not the only one who disagreed with the beliefs and practices of his time. Rather, the greatness of Abraham lay in the fact that he was willing to take a public stand and thereby invite the ridicule and scorn of an entire world culture. Even if Terach may have had an interest in morality and spirituality, he does not appear to have the greatness of his son, Abraham. Consequently, Terach's apparently good intentions to go to Israel would likely have been easily stunted. In a culture where people almost never moved from one country to another altogether, one can only imagine his being frequently questioned about his journey to Israel while on the road. One wonders how Terach responded to such questions. It certainly would have required great tenacity to continue such a socially uncomfortable journey, a journey that would have taken several weeks.

Like too many of us, Terach might be considered a latently righteous man. This, of course, is usually of no avail; we are generally judged according to our actions and not our intentions. There is one area, however, where our intentions are critically important, and that is in the raising of our children. This is because a child mimics everything he sees the parents doing or even thinking, often to the parent's complete surprise. It is often amusing to note how a child will walk or gesture like one of their parents. Less amusing is when we see our own children picking up bad habits that we never realized we even had. By the same token, even if we don't act upon them, our children know very well what our values are, and in the safe cocoon of the family the child is often able to better internalize his parents' values than even his parents themselves.

WHEN HYPOCRISY ISN'T
There is a well-known danger in the parental attitude of "Do as I say, not as I do." And there are different ways that such an attitude manifests itself. If it is simple hypocrisy, it will almost certainly backfire. However, such a position can also be presented as instructing one's children in what the parent sincerely believes to be right, hoping their children will have more strength in its actual fulfillment. A child who hears about or even senses a sincere but unfulfilled parental desire to devote more time to Torah study, will understand that Torah study is a desirable thing -- even as he will not completely grasp what is holding his parent back. This very lack of understanding, however, will often propel the child to take the fulfillment of his parents' stated desires as a personal challenge. Thus, it should not be a surprise to see a child who is much bolder than his parents in the pursuit of the values that he learned even subliminally from them.

Such a scenario would provide an paradigmatic explanation as to why Terach received a share in the World to Come. If Abraham, had the strength to face the world in the pursuit of Godliness, it is more than likely that Terach had a part in this. As such, Abraham's actual merit is a reflection of Terach's own latent merit. So too, the sincere and true desire of an individual to do good is not worthless, even if it never leads to his own action. The caveat is that such a desire is ultimately worthless if it does not lead to action by someone. So the Talmud informs us that we are judged according to the actions that we bring to the world, even if they are not our own.

What is perhaps most interesting about the Talmud's doctrine that the behavior of a child can revise the Divine evaluation of a person, is that it puts the concept of the individual in a completely different light. It would appear that an individual is not as self-contained as one might otherwise think. In raising another human being (and parents are not the only ones who raise children), one creates an extension of oneself, of one's values and of one's belief. The next time we look at our children we need to remember that. For those done with child raising this realization will hopefully be a source of comfort. For those currently involved in it, it should serve as a challenge. For those not yet involved in it, it should serve as an incentive.

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Rabbi Francis Nataf is Educational Director of the Jerusalem-based David Cardozo Academy. Comment by clicking here.


© 2008, Rabbi Francis Nataf