Changing Our Attitude - Parshat Yitro
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Change in Attitude
Written By: Rav Dan Tiomkin
Translated By: Kol Haneshamot
לרפואת שלמה - יהושוע אריה לייב בן משא
- "ה' אחד ושמו אחד"
God is one and his name is one. However, he may reveal himself in different forms and sometimes they may appear contradictory. At the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem revealed himself as 'an old man full of mercy', while at the splitting of the Red Sea, he revealed himself as a man of war (Rashi, Chapter 20, Verse 2). According to Kabbalah, the various forms of Hashem in this world is clarified as follows: on the one hand, there are many laws and stringencies - and then his hair color is 'black as a raven', so to speak, and on the other hand there is kindness and mercy - and then his hair is “white as snow.”
We can now learn how to deal with adolescents with the following visual representation. It is natural that when children reach adolescence, it coincides with the age with which white hair becomes present in their parents... and it's not a coincidence. These sweet kids, especially the challenging ones, are the ones who bring forth those new white hairs in their parents, and the white hairs provide a hint to us about the change in attitude that is required of us. It is a time for minimizing rules and boundaries and using kindness and mercy instead. This is a different form of how we reveal ourselves, which is a pre-condition for the transmission of the Torah to our adolescents: like an old man full of mercy.
Changing ones attitude is not an easy thing, and yet, especially in our challenging generation it requires us to diversify our toolbox. We need to change the tools of law, discipline and authority, to the tools of kindness and mercy. As concluded by the late Mashgiach Rabbi Shlomo Wolba, ZT”L (Avnei Shlomo p. 59) who wrote: Today we need to educate by "Makal Noam", a stick of joy, and not by "Makal Hovalim", a captains stick! There is a change in the air of rebellion; it can be understood in this sense: Once, when a child, or even an adult, was beaten, he cried and surrendered. Today when you hit, even the little one, he hits back!
It is not easy to implement this change of attitude. Even Rabbi Wolba himself, as his son told me, applied this rule even in challenging situations, and he said that without this change of attitude, he has no doubt that Rav Wolba’s results in education would be quite different. Many parents say, how much they love their child, and that everything they do in life is just to have him or her do well and succeed. However, when actually sitting with the adolescent to talk, it turns out that the child misinterprets the parents concern for the childs “Olam Habah”, (next world), and only sees the parents resentment for his/her behavior in this world ... and here is where the parents internal work is required, not an easy task at all, but worthwhile.
Keep in mind that parents are not the problem, in most cases. But they can be the solution. Because the adolescent feels trapped, they enter a loop of despair, and no prisoner of despair can let themselves out of jail. Rabbi Shach, ZT”L, (as quoted in the book 'Luli Toratecha', p. 65, written by his grandson, Rabbi Bergman), states: 'In this generation parents have only one role: To shower love on their children. Act at home with an endless sea of love! Be empathetic and understanding. Assist them with all their needs! Prepare food for them properly. The house must radiate warmth, for if not so, they will otherwise look for it elsewhere.’
Whoever succeeds in changing perception and attitude, and turns his relationship with adolescents from an attitude of rules and boundaries - to the attitude of mercy and kindness, can succeed in building bridges with their child whereupon knowledge and experience can pass over and create a real and personal connection with Hashem. May it be his will that we succeed!