Be Sure to Respect Your Child’s Parent – Yourself!

In V’al Cheit, we confess to “disrespect for parents and teachers.” A friend suggested that we’re confessing the sin of not recognizing and respecting our own role as parents or teachers.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

When the Frierdiker Rebbe became bar mitzvah, his father, the Rebbe Rashab, took him to the holy resting place of his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, and his father, the Rebbe Maharash. There, he blessed his son, borrowing the same words Yaakov Avinu used to bless his son, Yosef: “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the young men, and may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers.”

The bar mitzvah boy asked his father, “Yaakov was humble; why did he begin with himself and not his father and grandfather?”

“We must begin with what is closest,” the Rebbe Rashab explained.[1]

Apparently, although the Rebbe Rashab was invoking the merits of his father and grandfather, he was first mentioning his own merits.

* * *

In general, the greater a person is, the more difficult it is for us to relate to them. Reb Abba Pliskin was a mashpia in Crown Heights in the 5720s (1960s). The Rebbe once told him that the bachurim seemed to be lacking lachluchiyus, a fresh vibrancy in their service of Hashem. “The way to invigorate them is by telling them stories of chassidim,” the Rebbe advised. “When they only hear stories of tzaddikim and rebbeim it’s easy to write them off as unachievable and irrelevant. Stories of chassidim, however, are relatable to all.”[2]

As parents, we may not always consider ourselves good enough role models or teachers for our children. However, we need to remember that every good virtue of ours grows in our children’s eyes because of our closeness. The good practices they see from others can remain distant and irrelevant, but what we do resonates, because we’re familiar and relatable. They can see themselves in us.

Similarly, it can be very challenging when a close relative is not a good example for our children to learn from. But we should feel empowered knowing that since we’re the closest to them, our good example is what’s most influential.

On Yom Kippur, we read in the V’al Cheit, “For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.” My friend, Reb Shlomo Wolwovsky, suggested that it isn’t only the confession of a child or a student, it’s the confession of parents and teachers in how they relate to themselves. We are confessing the sin of not properly recognizing and respecting our own role as parents or teachers.

May we merit to recognize and assume responsibility for our role. And may our names and the names of our fathers and rebbeim bring blessing upon us and our children, and may we merit to see true Yiddishe, chassidishe nachas from our families.

[1] Sefer HaSichos 5687 (1927), pp. 171-172.  My appreciation to Avremkeh Kozliner for sharing this story with me.

[2] Heichal Menachem p. 221.

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