Wednesday, Aug 4, 2021

Reaching Arba Bonim

Did you ever sit at a school siyum or play, watching the children singing their hearts out while your little one was just standing there with his eyes down and mouth closed?

Did you ever sit with your child and try to help her study for an exam but no matter how many times you attempted to explain, she just could not get what you so easily understood at her age?

Have you ever received a phone call about something your child did that you simply cannot believe? You feel badly and don’t know what to say.

Even those raising a gifted child must grapple with issues that others don’t begin to think about. A mother called to tell me that her 12 year old daughter is testing as brilliant but has no friends and no interest in her classes. She is getting lost in the system.

This is the world of parenting arba bonim. We often have dreams of our sons and daughters and the great life they will lead, but reality does not always match the vision. Difficulties that never entered a parent’s mind can become daily challenges. How can we best try to reach all our children? Can the haggadah empower parents as we climb the tenuous mountain of chinuch habonim?

Seder night becomes an opportunity for us to engage our children. We are not asked to only speak to the best, the star, the one whom we think will sit and pay attention to our words. The mitzvah of haggadah is not limited to the child who is the boki, who asks the sharpest questions and seeks out our guidance. The essence of Maggid is to include all our children. All children, without exception are expected to become a part of this great night. We must seek out a connection with each child. We must awaken within our children a curiosity. We must stir the embers of their hearts. If a child is closed, if he does not even know how to ask a question, “At pesach lo,” you must open the dialogue for him. Do not allow this child to sit the night out. Draw him in. Figure out the best way to create a bond. We are asked to think deeply about each child’s personality. Can it be that he has been afraid to ask? Now you make the first move and help him overcome his silence. Even the rosha is not ignored. We hope that he is hearing our words. We daven that some drops of holiness will impact his heart like drops of water on a stone. While opening a dialogue with our other sons, we try to affect this child as well.

Still, a parent can remain with incredible pain. To have a child who cannot ask? To deal with a child who has no interest? After sleepless nights and hearts full of worry, what is there to say? What can the haggadah tell us so that we feel chizuk to go on?

Before speaking about the four sons, we say, “Boruch hamokom boruch hu. Boruch shenosan Torah leamo Yisroel. Boruch Hu.”

“Boruch” is mentioned four times, once for each type of son. We must approach this night with the understanding that every single child is “boruch.” Every child, no matter what they’ve done, tonight we look at each one and we say, “You, my son, are a blessing. You, my daughter, are a brochah from Hakodosh Boruch Hu.” There is within every one of us a divine spark. Perhaps throughout the year we’ve been disengaged. Words were said. We’ve been stressed. We forgot how to see that light that lies within each child. We wonder how we can possibly go on. All types of thoughts enter a parent’s mind.

Pesach night is the time for us to thank Hashem for all our children. The news that they would bear children when they entered the land of Eretz Yisroel became a source of strength to those who left Mitzrayim. Every child is our hope for the future of our nation. We look at each son and daughter and see in them the promise that Hashem made to our Avos. This is the story of Am Yisroel. We must contemplate that the Torah speaks first about the wicked son. Maybe he is a rosha, but he is still a son. Not one child is excluded tonight. Each neshomah is given to us for safekeeping. We do our best and try to discover the pintele Yid that lies within the soul. On Pesach night, as we relive our past, we find koach for the present and daven for the future. As the hour of the seder turns late, we realize that we have created a new link back to Har Sinai. The next dor has been given the legacy of our Avos and Imohos, for it is only when we know where we’ve come from that we can figure out where we are going. The Maharal explains that the purpose of seder night is to implant within our hearts basic emunah and convey it to our children. This is our time to impart the understanding that Hashem created the world, sustains it, watches over it every single moment, and gave us the Torah so that we can remain His holy nation. This knowledge can implant seeds that will nourish our children’s bitochon as they grow.

Is there a key to bonding with our children on the seder night?

We are told to get rid of all chometz. We must search for it in every nook and cranny. As we inspect the dark corners of our homes, we must also examine out hearts for chometz. Even the deepest crevices may contain chometz, which is compared to ga’avah. One who is arrogant cannot teach. A child knows when a parent is reaching out to him from love or from worrying about what others will say. Discipline from the heart is not the same as a parent who yells or is intolerant. Believing in your child’s potential, taking time to hear his words, and not knocking him through sarcasm or cutting remarks speaks to a child. Providing presence and time are the greatest gifts of love. Surely, setting an example of what we expect from our children creates a timeless image for a child to hold dear.

When I was a child, my Zeidah would cry tears each time he saw me. As I grew, I understood my Zeidah’s tears. I was given the name of Zeidah’s mother, who had perished in the flames of the Holocaust. And while Zeidah was filled with great joy knowing that there was once again life after death, there was also the knowledge of the awful devastation that had ravaged Klal Yisroel. My siblings and I all knew in our hearts that we had a mission. We were born to bring chiyus so that those who were taken away could once again live. The love that we felt was absolute. There was never anger, harshness or long silences, just love. Each child was a blessing. There was no doubt. Each child needed to hear about “Mitzrayim” and the love that Hakodosh Boruch Hu had for us in the neis of “yetzias Mitzrayim” as the new dor was given life. Every child’s name was testimony to Hashem’s great promise and hope for the future.

Keneged arba bonim dibrah Torah.

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