15 Adar B 5779 / Friday, March 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: Tzav
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Deep-Freezing the Past    

Deep-Freezing the Past

Cohen has no idea why his son is suddenly listening to acid rock, gazing at girls, drinking beer and doing all the things that he used to do in his pre-BT life…


Mr. Cohen had been living a very secular life for 20 or 30 years; he worked on Wall Street; he went to Mets games; he played electric guitar with a rock band, and he avidly waited for the next Batman movie to come out.


Then one day, he discovers G-d, and he gives it all up and becomes religious. He doesn't do any of those things he used to love. He stops going to clubs and discos; he turns his back on fancy vacations in five-star resorts; he throws away all his Grateful Dead albums; he pushes them all away.


They’re part of his past, his personality, experience and memory, but he doesn't want anything to do with those things anymore, so he shoves them into the deep-freeze...


Fast-forward 15 years, and the now very religious Mr. Cohen has moved to Israel and lives in a very religious, very holy, hermetically-sealed neighborhood. He has no idea how or why, but all of a sudden his teenage son is developing an interest in non-Jewish music and girls and starting to do things that really scare Mr. Cohen. He starts to panic because his son reminds him of himself at that age.


What's the natural reaction? Most of us rebuke our kids in an hour-long sermon. We tell our children that whatever it is they are dabbling in is terrible for them. And the more we do that, the more the children want nothing to do with us. They find reasons to stay out late at night and get up early and leave the house, so they won't have to listen to our sermons. And who can blame them? Who wants to spend precious minutes or hours hearing their horrible future if they keep doing whatever they're doing?


The problem for Mr. Cohen, and for us, is that we project our past onto our children, but their lives are not exactly parallel to ours. What look like danger signs to you and me, based on our experience, might not be danger signs for our children. For example, we know that when we listened to non-Jewish music as college students, it was mixed up with a whole bunch of other anti-Torah activities and behaviors that went along with it.


We therefore panic and start to think that our kids will start doing the same sort of horrible, destructive, evil things--but that's not necessarily the case! We take a breath and realize that as sincere returnees, we've raised our kids in a much more religious environment than we were raised in, and a lot more holiness has gone into them than we think.


That doesn't mean our kids have carte blanche to do whatever they feel like doing, while we turn a blind eye and hope for the best. Sometimes we need to take notice and intervene, but that's not always the case. Our children are going on their own paths, on the way that G-d is leading them, and they might have to experience some spiritual downs before they can reach the spiritual highs we so desperately want for them.


It can even be small downs; your child may ask you to please buy that cute kitten or little puppy. You grew up with a dog, and you know how amazing it can be to have a non-judgmental, furry friend to talk to, play with and cuddle, especially after a bad day. But now? Now you're religious! You don't want to put yourself at risk from all the spiritual contaminations associated with animals. You don’t so much as want to touch a cat or dog, much less own one. But that's the best thing for you. And strangely, what's best for you is not always what's best for your children, especially if you felt the same desires when you were their age.


Let’s be honest with ourselves: we had pets growing up, and we loved having pets, and that's part of us, and that's now gone into our children, and we can't stop it. And on a deeper level, why should we want to stop it and make everything “perfect”? All these imperfections, all these mistakes, are learning experiences, parts of life and parts of G-d's will.


If we parents handle it the right way, with a lot of Heavenly help our children won't want the pet anymore. But if we don't- - they'll work in a zoo, just to oppose us!



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We invite you to visit Dr. Zev Ballen's popular daily web journal Spiritual Coaching.

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