When “Normal” Parenting Doesn’t Cut It

If we always go with what’s normal, chances are that when our children grow up, they may do even less than we did. But if we make a point to allow an “abnormal” situation—we have the children share rooms to make space for guests—these doses of abnormal commitment to Hashem will help educate our children to overcome tough times ahead of them.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

For seven days Moshe Rabbeinu assembled the entire Mishkan, performed all the avodah, and then dismantled it. The week was intended as a chinuch, an initiation period for Aharon and his sons.

On all seven days, Moshe first set up the structure, then brought in the vessels, and only then began the service. But on the eighth day we find something strange. Moshe began the construction, then brought in one holy vessel, performed its service, brought in the next one, performed its service, and so on and so forth, until all the vessels were inside–and only then did he complete the structure of the chatzer!

It’s actually forbidden to perform any services in the Mishkan without the chatzer walls.

When Moshe dedicated the Mishkan, he was inaugurating the entire concept of “dirah b’tachtonim”–making Hashem an abode in the physical world. As such, his dedication needed to include situations when the Mikdash would not be complete. For example, according to the Rambam, “We may offer all the sacrifices [on the Temple site], even though the Temple itself is not built…. and not surrounded by a divider.”

The eighth day of the dedication represented the future eras when the Beis Hamikdash would not be in in perfect condition. By performing the holy duties out of order, Moshe demonstrated that Hashem’s presence will not be limited to times and places of spiritual excellence. It will be able to take place even if major parts of the structure are missing.

By dedicating the Mishkan in this abnormal way, Moshe was also guiding us in how to be mechanech our own miniature Mishkans: our children.

Part of living a good and fulfilling Torah-true life is having order and consistency. Like the service in the Mishkan, our service of Hashem has protocols. Each day has its mitzvos, each yom tov has its season, and our homes, shuls, and schools are permanent strongholds for Yiddishkeit. These aspects of our lives are meant to be orderly, consistent, and predictable.

But what about the times when the world around us is unpredictable? What happens when we’re challenged by unusually forceful winds? What about when our children leave the safe walls of home or yeshivah? How do we maintain our Yiddishe structure then?

This is what Moshe was showing us. To stay strong through troubled times we must infuse ourselves and our children with a level of commitment that goes beyond protocol; a commitment to Yidishkeit that comes from the level above nature–from the eighth day, not the normal seven.

On a practical level, suppose my family and I are not the type to open our home to guests on a regular basis. Our Mishkan is usually calm and normal, every child has their bed and their space, and we host guests only when it’s convenient, only when it makes sense. If we always go with what’s normal, chances are that when our children grow up, they may do even less than we did. But if we make a point to allow an “abnormal” situation—we have the children share rooms or sleep on the floor in our bedroom to make space for guests—these doses of abnormal commitment to Hashem will help be mechanech our children to overcome the tough times ahead of them.

On a subtler level, chinuch must include doses of information that transcend a child’s logic.  

The melamed of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s young daughters held that children shouldn’t be told stories of tzaddikim, wonders and miracles. Children need only to hear sound, logical information; miracle stories will overwhelm their young minds. When this melamed’s approach was discovered, he was promptly dismissed.

When we educate ourselves and our children to perform mitzvos with extra and unusual fervor, even to the point of acting illogical at times, we will be able to, in the words of the Rambam, “Offer all the sacrifices even though the Temple itself is not built.” Meaning, we can sacrifice the desires of our animal souls even when we’re not sheltered by our homes, schools, and shuls.

Similarly, sacrifices of the most holy order can be eaten… even though it [the Temple] is in ruin and not surrounded by a divider” – i.e., we can thrive on G-dliness, be inspired and motivated by it, even though we are in a spiritually desolate world.

May all our efforts to educate ourselves, our families, and the world around us lead us to the third and eternal Beis Hamikdash and the coming of Moshiach now![1]

[1] Likutei Sichos Vol. 31, p 218

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