Very few of us envision ourselves as elderly parents of adult children, let alone gathering them close to our bedside in order to bless them. We are so very involved with the here and now, with our busy, day-to-day lives! Our children are a part and parcel of our waking moments and sleeping moments, our hopes and fears, our dreams for them and our life’s expectations. And so too, it was, during the years in our forefather Yaakov Avinu lived.
Yaakov Avinu led a long life, riddled with trials and tribulations, yet was also blessed with many successes— including prosperity and many strong, spirited and spiritual children. In his last hours of life in the physical world, however, he did not sit back on his laurels, but showered his children with hope and encouragement. He gave them advice and direction, and forged the blueprint of the Jewish Nation in the form of the 12 tribes.
Timing is of the essence. We may have many important things to say to our children, but they may not always be ready to listen. Yaakov carefully spoke to his adult children without anger, without resentment and without added guilt trips. Because of this, he was able to show them where they had erred in life, what woes their actions had caused in the long run, and what corrections were necessary. He did not criticize them as human beings, or as children, but rather criticized their anger, their impulsive behavior and their destructive actions.
The children whose actions Yaakov praised, whose pleasantness and positive way of life enlightened all of those around them, received blessings that were in congruence with their attitude. Yaakov blessed them that they would experience less opposition from others, that more opportunities would open up for them, and that others would be motivated to come to their aid when needed. These blessings became the natural outcome of good actions in the world—pleasantness begets pleasantness, a smile begets a smile, “one good turn deserves another”.
When guiding our children, “the ways of the Torah are the ways of pleasantness” (Mishlei). When angry, frustrated, guilt-ridden, and impulsive, a parents’ facial expressions make his own words becomes daggers, G-d forbid, and remain permanently etched for the child, in his mind, as the image of his parent. When a parent expresses disappointment, high expectations or criticism at the wrong time for the child, instead of the parents’ words becoming a catalyst for change, the child (young or adult) becomes resentful and his heart can become, woe to us, hardened.
THIS WEEK: Let’s look for positive ways to encourage our children to do the right thing. By choosing a good, calm moment to explain a rule, and by smiling and guiding our children softly away from negative behaviors, we can enlighten them to lead the path in life called “pleasantness”.