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Oct092016

REJOICE, YOU, YOUR SON, AND YOUR DAUGHTER...

Sukkos is a time for rejoicing, and as such presents an opportunity to appreciate just how important a role happiness plays in the proper education of our children. How do we raise happy children

A few years ago, there was a Lubavitcher family living in the Chabad community in Buenos Aires. The father had been born and raised in a Chassidishe home and his home was conducted in the same way. However, his oldest son dropped religious observance and left home.

This shook up the family. When his parents realized he was sticking to his decision, they decided to move on and prayed that none of his siblings would follow him. Sad to say, their second son also went off the derech, as did several of his brothers. The parents were in despair.

After about half the family had abandoned their parents’ way of life, the father asked the rav of the community, Rabbi Y. Y. Feigelstock, “Where did I go wrong? I am a role model of a Chassid …”

The rabbi, who knew the father well, had the answer. The man was particular about mitzva observance, but he did things in a bitter and sad way. He kept Shabbos and kept Chassidishe customs, but it was all done in a tense atmosphere. His children, who saw how their father suffered by being observant, sought a different path in life, a path that would make them happy.

“My advice to you,” said R’ Feigelstock, “is to start doing mitzvos joyously.”

The Chassid took this to heart and slowly began a major transformation in his life. Within a few months you could already see the change. The house became a happy house and mitzvos were done not only because we are obligated to, but in a pleasant atmosphere. Like many stories, this one has a happy ending. Those children who went off the derech began returning when they sensed the change, each at his own pace.

STORING UP SIMCHA FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR

The verse says about Sukkos, “And you shall rejoice on your holiday, you and your son and your daughter and servant and maid, and the Levi and convert and orphan and widow who are within your gates … and be exceedingly joyous.”

Simcha is emphasized on Sukkos more than any holiday of the year. It starts as soon as Sukkos begins, “the time of our rejoicing,” and continues with the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva until the conclusion of the holiday, on Simchas Torah. As Chassidim, we know that the simcha we generate on this holiday accompanies us the entire year.

As parents, we have the halachic obligation to make sure not only that we are happy, but also that our families are happy. At such a time it behooves us to probe more deeply into how vital simcha is to the chinuch of our children in the ways of Torah and mitzvos. How do we determine what true joy is and how do we acquire such simcha?

It turns out that simcha, more than any other factor, is a guarantee that we will be successful in raising an upright, blessed generation. As with other components of chinuch, it depends on us parents. We can do mitzvos and be particular about every hiddur, but if the simcha is missing, why should our children want to adopt this way of life?

There is a Chassidic saying that when the evil inclination succeeds in getting a person to sin, its main goal is not the sin itself, but the sadness which follows in its wake. For when a person is sad, his defenses are weak and he is easy prey for the evil inclination.

Simcha is energizing. Simcha gives a person the motivation to deal with life’s challenges, including chinuch challenges. If we want to raise good children who have the resilience to ward off the enticements of life, we need to instill them with the attribute of true joy.

ACHIEVING SIMCHA

The big question is, how do we do it? The best way is not through talking and stories, but through being a role model. When parents are happy, their children absorb that trait from them. When a teacher enters the classroom with a smile and he is happy, he is much more successful coping with the classroom.

Chassidus has an abundance of practical ideas on how to achieve simcha, but a role model is the first and most important stage. So how can parents achieve happiness?

The answer is through hisbonenus (meditation, contemplation)! One of the principles of Chabad Chassidus is that emotional stability is developed through internal thoughtfulness and mindfulness.

We need to think about Hashem standing and looking after us with hashgacha pratis at every moment and teach children that whatever happens, good and bad, is in Hashem’s hands. The world is constantly brought into being by Hashem. When a person internalizes this, he becomes happy.

Another way to achieve simcha is to teach ourselves and our children that through fulfilling mitzvos we become close to Hashem. The word mitzva is from the root that means connection. When a child knows that with every mitzva he becomes connected to the King Himself, he becomes happier. We don’t do mitzvos simply as a mindless response to the fact that we were commanded or because we will be rewarded, but because right now, we are connecting to Hashem.

THE FOUR MINIM AMONG OUR CHILDREN

One of the main mitzvos of Sukkos is taking the four species. The Midrash explains that these minim teach us about four categories of Jews. What unites them? The simcha of the holiday. Perhaps we can extrapolate from the Midrash a lesson about four kinds of children who can move forward on the right path through simcha.

A person’s shlichus in life is comprised of two basic challenges: learning and doing, Torah and mitzvos. The Torah is the means through which we acquire knowledge about what life is about. Mitzvos are the means given to us by which we construct a better, more holy world. This is represented by the four minim:

Esrog – It has a taste and a fragrance. It represents the all-around child who learns and does mitzvos. A parent barely has to do anything with a child like this. He does what he is told, gets good marks, is complimented wherever he goes, and behaves properly.

Lulav – It has a taste and no fragrance. This is the child who gets good marks and learns well and acquires knowledge but is secluded; he doesn’t take part in the world of action and is not sociable. He has a friend or two and prefers being on his own.

Hadas – It has a fragrance but no taste. This is the active child whose good deeds take up all his time and energy. He does not shine in learning, but he excels in helping at home and in the classroom, he takes the initiative, and you cannot help but notice his presence.

Arava – Unlike the previous three, it is hard to find any good qualities. There is neither taste nor fragrance. It represents the frustrated child who neither learns nor does anything. He may have potential but he doesn’t use it.

On Sukkos, concludes the Midrash, we bind the four species together, each of which is part of G-d’s community. These four kinds of children are in our classrooms and even within our families, immediate or extended. We learn about the four kinds on this holiday whose motto is simcha for it is only with simcha that we can unite them all. Simcha, by its nature, breaks through boundaries, skips over differences, and creates connections even in places where it seems hard to make connections.

TEN PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR RAISING HAPPY CHILDREN

1-In most instances, when we see a sad child, the reason is the parents or the home situation. To tell a child, “be happy,” or “put on a smile,” is not what will make him truly happy. Before educating our children, we need to educate ourselves.

2-Simcha is not frivolity or going with the flow. As parents, we need to explain to our children what real simcha is and where it comes from. Simcha is not ignoring life’s challenges.

3-A person is born happy. In Koheles it says, “And G-d made man straight and they sought many calculations.” The ones who ruin simcha are ourselves, with the thoughts that we think. We need to instill large doses of emuna in our children that everything is in the hands of Hashem. A child who grows up in a home where they don’t only say they believe but act that way in every detail of life, even when life is not so rosy, is a child who will be happy and content.

4-The real source of simcha is the meditation on the meaning of our lives in this world. When we think that through doing mitzvos we are connecting with the One who commanded the mitzva, this gives us great joy and satisfaction.

5-Another component is kabbalas ol. Kabbalas ol is when a person does not do mitzvos based on his personal understanding and pleasure but only because Hashem said so. Real simcha is possible when a Jew serves Hashem with kabbalas ol. It is through this that he feels the infinite bond with G-d which makes his joy infinite too.

6-Sometimes, meditation alone does not help. In Sichos and Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe speaks about the need for a person to throw himself into a joyous state and in the end, he will be happy. In a letter, the Tzemach Tzedek writes to a Chassid who complained that it is hard for him to be happy, that he should think-speak-act happily, even if he doesn’t feel it, and ultimately he will be happy.

7-Let us teach a child to recognize his strengths, talents, and abilities. Don’t exaggerate about non-existent talents. Focus on the strengths and have the child express himself through them. Broaden his horizons in those areas where he is successful. True success leads to simcha.

8-Teach children to forgive and model that teaching yourself. Teach a child to rise above his ego. When a child is in touch with himself in a healthy way he will forgive, but if a child grows up spoiled and self-centered, this leads to anger and sadness.

9-Teach your child to give, to care about others. This leads to simcha. When a child brings joy to another person, he himself becomes happier. In general, it is worthwhile to teach a child to look at the good that lies hidden in other people and situations. This will help him successfully handle difficulties.

10-A child is born seeing the world in a positive light. When do the problems begin? When he has to deal with situations that are not handled well by us. If he feels that we don’t understand him, that we don’t listen to him, and that we don’t help him with his problems, he will become frustrated and sad. It is important to be alert and identify difficulties and not be afraid to deal with them and fix them.

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