Moishy's troubles began six years ago when he was thirteen
and a half. He wasn't doing well in yeshiva and was
threatened with expulsion. He was a young, sad boy who had
no cheishek to learn and derived no joy from it.
However, he was a gutte neshomo. He wanted to remain
in yeshiva in order not to distress his parents and be
forced to roam the streets.
From then, up until a year ago, he went through a number of
educational frameworks. Although he always started out on
the right foot, this was inevitably followed by decline, and
then at the end of each zman, total failure. This
brought the heads of the yeshivos in which he studied either
to propose other places of learning, or to let him to remain
Throughout that entire period Moishy tried and tried, but
nonetheless, he derived little enjoyment from his learning.
He found it hard to get up in the morning. He was hurt when
anyone made any sort of remark to him about his behavior. He
was filled to the brim with pain and frustration. On the one
hand, he was miserable in the framework in which he found
himself. On the other hand, he wanted to remain there.
Five years passed. A kid with sad eyes who can't find
himself, but nonetheless didn't go down the drain.
This past year, however, he has no problems. Perhaps it is
due to the framework in which he is currently studying, or
perhaps he has matured and learned how to overcome his
weaknesses. One can say with certainty today that he will
remain in that framework until his wedding and will grow in
learning. Within a year or two, be'ezras Hashem,
he'll marry and build a fine Jewish home. We can safely
predict this. For we are acquainted with his wonderful
nefesh, his ability to put himself aside, to
persevere for years on a path very difficult for him and to
do it only because he knows that it is the only viable
alternative for boys. He knew that only by remaining on the
path can he acclimate to his social milieu, marry a fine
girl, feel the purpose of life and bring nachas to
himself and his parents.
This story should be told to whoever feels signs of
weakening or, cholilo, has already despaired.
Moishy clutched the Tree of Life and refused to loosen his
grasp, even though others had long ago given up on him: some
with the first jolt, others with the third. The ability to
hold on and not to slacken or loosen one's grasp makes all
How do we explain this? Why does one hold on while others
It is completely dependent upon the education one receives
from childhood until adolescence, as well one's character
(this time we will use the term "character" and not
Withdrawal from the framework is a form of running away from
confrontation, from difficulties and from adversity.
Withdrawal usually occurs in moments of weakness and crisis
and out of temporary pressure. Married people also have
moments of pressure and crises, moments in which they wish
to retreat, to leave everything, to rest, to flee. . . but
they don't. How can this be explained?
There are many reasons, the most important being that a
sense of responsibility is ingrained in each and every one
of us: concern for one's family, one's children and their
future keeps us in line during such moments of weakness.
Although the nefesh wants respite, childhood training
to be a responsible person draws out one's reserves of
Some falter, nonetheless; get up and leave. If one is
fortunate, his spouse assumes the burden. If not, the house
falls apart and collapses, and the larger the household, the
louder the noise made by the crash.
The strength to withstand difficulties, to persist and not
falter is instilled in a person during his childhood by
means of the personal example of his parents and the
chinuch they give him.
In the past, people were stronger. They coped with unusual
difficulties and were able to overcome them. That was
because they had received a Spartan chinuch and were
disciplined. Parents had total control over their children
and made demands slightly exceeding their children's
capabilities. By having to cope with adversity, such
children developed the ability to grapple with difficulties
and -- you'll be surprised to hear -- loved their parents
all the more. They emerged mentally healthy, and above all,
happy. My father she'yichyeh would say that he
trained his children to be porters. "Life is a burden, and
one who learns how to carry, learns how to live," he
An erroneous outlook, prevalent over recent years, urging
parents to refrain from making demands of their children in
order not to burden them is what has made today's children
incapable of contending with adversity. A weak nefeshnachas, self-
esteem and spiritual and personal progress. Immediate
gratification and comforts generally cause children to make
additional endless demands and give rise to immature
behavior stemming from the fact that the child has no other
aspirations apart from the candy which he wants at precisely
that moment. He has learned that he need not bother to make
any effort in order to get what he wants.
He has also learned that the worse his behavior, the more he
will receive from his parents who want to quiet him. He
isn't "bad." He simply has learned to be that way.
In general, after he disappoints his parents, despite (and
actually because of) all they have given him without any
limit, the trampling stage ensues. His parents, who have
despaired of the positive approach, begin to discharge all
of the bitterness accumulated within them over the years
because of him, which has constituted a difficult and
painful load. That is how we end up with children who have
no backbone and no sense of responsibility, yet no lack of
Of course, not all cases fit this mold. Sometimes
outstanding parents who have invested all of their energy in
their children suffer from children who have disappointed
them. Sometimes such children were influenced by a bad
friend or have undergone a bad experience no one knows about
and whose consequences they bear alone. (This topic should
be addressed in a separate article.)
The best combination is that of encouraging the child,
showering him with warmth, attention, and encouragement
while, nonetheless, making demands of him (which somewhat
exceed his abilities) and setting limits which must be
Parental authority must also be exerted: parents must not
sanction chutzpa nor undermining of authority in any
way whatsoever. They must fashion a clear hierarchy, and not
foster equality between parents and children. They should be
sensitive of their children's honor at all cost and not
humiliate them. They should display concern for their
children's distress and not ignore it, and surely not
ridicule those areas in which the child seeks to stand out.
They should constantly indoctrinate their children with the
eternal values of Torah, yiras Shomayim and derech
eretz, stressing this in a calculated manner at times
and sometimes incidentally, so that the child will clearly
know and sense what his parents expect of him and how he can
bring them nachas.
It is important to stress: Just like one can't drive a car
without cooling the motor with water, one can't insist
sternly that a child do what is demanded of him without
showering him with encouragement and warmth. When the motor
lacks water, it simply burns out. The soul is consumed.
When a child who has been raised according to such an
approach reaches a crossroads in life, he will at least
clearly know where he is headed. Even if circumstances
threaten to boot him from his framework, and even if he has
moments of weakness, thoughts of dropping out will never
occur to him, because the bonds linking him to his parents
are still strong.
When Yaakov blessed Yissochor, he said: "Yissochor chamor
gorem." Why was Yissochor, the talmid chochom who
studied day and night, compared to a burden-bearing
HaRav Shmuel Sompolinski once told me: "`Avdo behefkera
nicho ley,'" means that only one who is on the level of
a slave enjoys hefker, while a free person does not
enjoy hefker because he needs to be in a framework.
Yissochor, who was wiser than his brothers, searched for
true repose, and he saw that `repose is good and that the
land is pleasant' and discovered that this is achieved only
by, `and he bent his shoulder to suffer.'"
Twenty years after my father told me this, I have finally
begun to understand what he who raised us to be "porters"