Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Tammuz 5766 - July 12, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Good Intentions
by R. Chadshai

At every opportunity, Mr. Cohen points out one of his sons and informs the listener, "This is the sort of boy everybody prays for. He is exactly as we want him." Sometimes he brings home some little gift for this boy and as he hands it over in front of the other children, he says "This is for my little talmid chochom. See," he says, turning to the watching children, "anybody who learns diligently, like Yitzchok does, might also get a present."

He fails to see the tinge of envy in one child's face, and none of the others show even a spark of enthusiasm at his promise of a reward at some later date. He meant well, but will never achieve his aim by singling out one particular child.


Dovid had always been a difficult baby. Now at six, he is an aggressive child, who uses his hands (and feet) constantly. His siblings, both older and younger, get a taste of his temper almost daily. One afternoon, when his little sister was crying uncontrollably because Dovid had hit her brutally, his mother decided to give him a taste of his own medicine; she gave him the spanking of his life, ending with, "Now you know what it feels like when someone hits you really hard."

She was sure that now the little boy would be more careful before attacking other children. Unfortunately, that very day, Dovid gouged two deep scratches down his little sister's face, without any provocation on her part, to show his resentment at the spanking he had received. Mother meant well, but smacking is entirely the wrong way to cure an aggressive child.


She had reached the ripe old age of 21 and had still not found her basherte. Her parents were not unduly worried about their gifted daughter, who was still very happy working in full-time employment. Unfortunately, her married classmates were filled with good intentions. As each one in turn got married, and Dina went to wish them Mazel Tov with all her heart, her friends gave her sound advice. "You know, a really good boy nowadays demands a fortune; your parents will never manage that," or "You should not be so choosy; there is no such thing as a perfect boy. Besides which, who says you are so perfect?" Inevitably, Dina began to feel guilty and unhappy. Are these really friends, and not just interfering busybodies? They mean well!


Anyone who needed a favor in the community approached Shoshanna. She seemed to be superhuman; where there was chessed to be done, Shoshana was there. In fact, the local women (and their husbands) quipped that the two words fitted together like 'knife and fork' or 'bread and butter;' Shoshana and chessed. Whether it was to help when a mother was sick, or had had a new baby, or any other lame duck, Shoshana was always there, fresh and full of energy.

She was convinced that this personal example of giving up her privacy, spare time and the running of her home, would communicate itself to her own children and that they would certainly follow in her footsteps. But on the contrary, they each felt that 'charity begins at home,' and that they would have preferred well-cooked meals and a clean house, which is what they planned to do in their own homes.


A mother of seven children, the oldest of whom is ten, can be forgiven for being tired and exhausted. However, she should not use her fatigue to gain sympathy from the children; nor should she tell them that they just have to help her else she will be ill. A girl of six announced at home that when she grew up, she did not want any children. The mother was shocked into saying , "G-d forbid! How can you talk like that? What makes you say such a thing?" The child answered innocently, "Because it is too hard to be a Mommy."

The mother was taken aback by the child's reaction. She had thought that if the children saw how difficult it was for her and how she was up half the night with the baby, and yet was still functioning, they would appreciate her more.

When Yaakov Ovinu gave Yosef his special shirt, he hoped it would arouse the brothers to special efforts in learning, and he also wanted to reward Yosef for his excellence. As we see, the gift had disastrous effects.

When adults chat, they are often not aware that the children are listening. And even when they listen, children do not always understand what they themselves are staying. For example, a neighbor might comment on a woman's charming little two-year-old. The mother might reply, "He is so naughty; I can't cope with him any more."

The neighbor comments on her new three-piece suite, and this lady will say she wishes she had the old one back, as it was much sturdier. Someone compliments her on a new housecoat and she declares that it was a cast-off from her sister-in- law. Perhaps she does not want her neighbor to envy her, or maybe she is afraid of an ayin hora, and therefore belittles all her pieces of good fortune. Whatever the reason, children take things at face value and learn that it is de rigueur to complain.

Sometimes a parent will use ill health as a veiled threat, in order to make the child work harder. For example, "You had better not show this report card to your grandfather; he has a weak heart, and who knows what might happen?" Or "You are making me ill with your behavior." Remarks like this can have truly disastrous results.

There is a saying, "The way to Gehinnom is paved with good intentions." Small children, and even older ones, mean well and are frequently disappointed when things go wrong. They have not enough experience to know where their good intentions will lead them, like the three-year-old who gagged his baby brother with a nappy, to stop him crying, because his mother seemed slow in coming. Fortunately, the baby survived.

We as adults do have enough experience, and although the above examples are extreme, they happen. Therefore we have to be doubly careful, even if we mean very well indeed.


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