1.  At the end of Yaakov's life [Parsha Vayechi]], the Torah uses a textual device to teach a very profound lesson. Normally between any two significant Torah passages, there is a designated blank space to mark the end of one passage and the beginning of another, signifying a break by which to absorb the previous passage's lesson. This device is absent upon Yaakov's demise. Our Sages teach us that this is to signify that just as the textual spaces framing Yaakov's passing are closed up, so were the eyes and hearts of his descendants in Egypt after he passed away. His passing marks the end of the Patriarchal and Matriarchal Era. They, the paradigm parents, die, and the ability of their children to survive and thrive in a hostile environment is greatly diminished. Why is this so? What does a parent, even after becoming inactive, contribute to their children's well-being and power of survival? What is it that any parents essentially transmit to their children that's so irreplaceable and vital?



2.  Yaakov's life was full of challenges in general, and specifically with regard to his offspring. First of all, he was swindled by his father-in-law, and given the bride that he didn't ask for [Leah], forcing him to labor for another 7 years for Rachel. Yaakov lost his beloved wife, Rachel, in the childbirth of his youngest son Binyamin. Also in our Parsha [Vayishlach], he was tested by the episode of Shechem. His only daughter Dina, out of curiosity, ventured out alone one day, only to be raped by a man named Shechem, who as a consequence, was slaughtered along with his people by two of Dina’s very zealous older brothers. Yaakov's favorite son, Yosef, was sold by his jealous brothers as a slave and taken down to Egypt. The brothers reported to their father Yaakov, that Yosef was savagely torn to pieces by a wild animal. Finally Yaakov was forced to bring his entire family down to Egypt for a long and bitter exile. It was no wonder that upon being asked by Pharaoh of his age, Yaakov replied that the years of his life were 'few and bad'. But despite all of this 'Tzar Gidul Banim' [the hardships involved in child-raising], that Yaakov and his wives went through, we are taught that the quality of their parenting is considered to be on the highest, near-perfect level. This family went on to become the Holy nation of Israel [Yaakov's other name]. What was Yaakov's and the Torah's secret recipe of successful parenting even amidst the toughest of circumstances?  Certainly with the incredibly difficult challenges that we face nowadays with regard to family life in general and child-raising specifically, we could all do with some good solid authoritative guidance.  The topic at hand, as is true of almost all of the other Parshas and topics of the 'Book of Bereishit', features the Patriarchs and Matriarchs serving as a guiding light in a reality of extremely difficult life-challenges. This is one reason why the 'Book of Bereishit' is referred to as the 'Sefer Hayashar' - The Book of Straightness-- where the Patriarchs guide us in the straight and correct way of dealing with the most difficult challenges.


                      THE PARENTING PRINCIPLE    

3.  In order to understand the power of parenting used by Yaakov and all other parents whose parental influence serve as a constant guiding light, enabling their children to survive and thrive in even the most difficult of situations, even though the parents may not be physically present, we need to go back to the roots. 

The Hebrew word for parents is 'Horim', which stems form the root, 'Hor-e', which means teaching. The type of teaching that the word Hor-e signifies [as opposed to the word lameid], is not a simple type of teaching, but rather a type of life-guidance. It's the same root-form as the word 'Mor-e' [[a person's teacher] and 'Torah'---both terms pointing to a meaningful, profound and all-encompassing type of guidance. What distinguishes parental life guidance from Torah-guidance or Mor-e guidance?


The Kabbalah teaches us that the parents level of purity of thought and intention that they have at the time of conception, will be permanently transmitted to the child, so too regarding many other aspects of the child's personality. In addition to this, a child receives a sort of metaphysical garb [called a 'Levush'] in the birth canal at birth. This garb serves the children during their entire lives, to properly receive Divine spiritual sustenance and to be  guided by the parents influence in all that they encounter in life. Also according to Chassidic sources, the parents have the ability to greatly influence the children’s wellbeing with their thought-process alone. All that we have just mentioned are esoteric influences. We haven't even mentioned the parents direct education, guidance and influence that they have on their children through personal example, unconditional deeply caring love as well as ceaseless prayer on their behalf. A father and a mother in their pure ideal state, have only one thing in mind, and that is the well-being of their children.

 A Patriarch's or Matriarch's every activity is for the good of their future nation; their progeny, as a result,  will be cosmically guided and protected in  every step that they take in life.

 Our 'FATHER-IN-HEAVEN' [who is also portrayed as 'IMA' or 'Mother' in certain Providential situations according to the Kabbalah], is Someone that we, His children can always turn to for help and guidance in any and every situation that they find themselves in. 

So we see that a parent, even more so than a teacher, is the most intimate, caring, loving source of guidance that their children will ever receive. Any lack in this all-encompassing flow of passionate guidance will be a source of pain and sorrow for both parent and child throughout their lifetimes and beyond.



4.  The practical strategies that I offer this week, are based on general Torah-based wisdom and my own experience. In a very generic way, we can attribute the parental strategies of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs to that of the Torah's general approach. Nevertheless, it would be a very worthwhile research project to isolate the specific approaches that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs took...Perhaps sometime in the future....


A. CONCEPTION OR SPIRITUAL GENETIC ENGINEERING---------Keep in mind that you have incredibly powerful spiritual potency at the time of conception. Spend the day beforehand thinking Holy and positive thoughts. Be sure to communicate your love and affection to your spouse. Fortify yourselves with a strong trust in Hashem that the soul you are potentially conceiving, will be just the right one at the right time with all of the right circumstances for you and for the child  [think positive and it'll be positive!]....




1. Develop an constant inner awareness and consciousness of your children being 'center stage' in all that you do - if you're shopping, consider what they may need... if you're involved in learning, learn it in a way that you can teach it to them....


2. Develop a deep, unconditional love and care for them. Usually Hashem gives this as a natural gift to parents, but it never hurts to add a little bit extra. Consider each of your children to be worth more than billions of dollars, and for that matter, more than life itself. Look for ways to increase this love daily and as often as possible, convey your love to them both directly and indirectly - by your very actions, motivations and choices that you make in life. Remember that perhaps the most powerful way of educating our children is through our own example....  


3. At any rate, there will be times when you will be not so fired up to be a first-rate parent. You will need to give YOURSELF AND YOUR NEEDS more attention. This is natural. The children will understand and normally they'll give you all the space that you need. In fact, this itself is part of the parental guidance process. Just remember not to cross over the red line between doing for yourself what is needed, as opposed to abusing them to get what you need for yourself, in any way whatsoever. The price that you and they will pay for abuse will be much too high, as we see far too often with too many people in our wounded generation.....



Every child is a unique personality, soul and world. Therefore what works for their peers and siblings, doesn't necessarily work for them. Our Sages teach, 'Educate the youth according to their own unique path, and when they become old they won't veer from it' [ie... from this personalized education approach]. Alternatively, there are commentaries who explain these words of the Sages to mean that you should personalize your child's education BECAUSE they will never change their essential nature even into old age. I would suggest that you look deeply into yourself, and identify that particular child inside of yourself [i.e. the Joseph inside of me... etc..]. In this way, you can get to know that child and their needs very thoroughly. Think of which directions, plans, strategies and tools work best to bring out the best in them... and it goes without saying, PRAY A LOT...



Ultimately we as parents are given the Holy task of being trainers. We train our children to succeed in life when we will no longer be there to hold their hands. This includes training them to become successful adults, spouses and parents of their own children. Perhaps one of the most important lessons in this regard, is to teach them to be able to anticipate future consequences of their actions. Here again, our Sages provide wise council. They say, 'Who is the wise person, one who anticipates the future [literally the 'birth-product' of their actions].' Of course, the more that this future anticipation is coupled with a consciousness of blissful surrender to all that Hashem sends their way, the better off that they'll be in all ways....


*****As both a parent and a student of Torah and of life, I don't pretend to have even begun what needs to be covered in order to become an enlightened parent. I leave that for the many authors of books on the subject. However I do feel it to be vitally important to explore this topic in the context of our weekly Parsha essay, as it is one of the major life-lessons that the Torah conveys to us through the spectrum of the lives of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

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