Ten Ways to Inspire Our Children

By Rabbi Shaya Cohen

I. Make sure that all Torah learning is exciting, stimulating, and interactive.

II. Make sure that they realize that t’filah is to inspire in us a greater appreciation of Hashem, develop a closer relationship with Him, and trust Him, and through that process be able to receive the benefits we want from Hashem.

III. Alert them to the ongoing, endless incidents of hashgachah pratis throughout our history and continuing throughout our own lives.

IV. Encourage them to discover Hashem’s hashgachah pratis — individual and intimate involvement in their own lives.

V. Make sure that they are aware that Hashem’s purpose in creating the world was to bestow chesed on His creations in both this world and the next.

VI. Be sure they understand that the purpose of mitzvah performance and Torah study is only to refine one’s character.

VII. Let them know, through teaching and personal example, that each mitzvah provides a benefit to the one who observes it specifically and generally, fostering happiness, closeness to Hashem, and eternal reward.

VIII. Learn with them parts of Shir HaShirim with Rashi to help them to realize how much Hashem loves us, despite our shortcomings, and how much we love Him, despite the difficulties He sometimes makes us endure.

IX. Let them know that the more they refine their midos, the more like Hashem they are, and the closer and more fulfilling their relationship is with Him — in this world and beyond.

X. Make sure that real simchah and a sense of privilege to have Torah permeate your home, your life, and your observance of all mitzvos.

Rabbi Shaya Cohen is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Zichron Aryeh and Kollel Ner Yehoshua for over twenty years. Before that, he founded Valley Torah High School in Los Angeles and served as its dean for a decade. Rabbi Cohen founded Priority-1 in 1987 to help at-risk teenagers and their parents and families. Its workshops and events have taught thousands of parents and educators to inspire children to a lifelong love of Torah and Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Cohen can be reached at 516-295-5700, and Priority-1 resources are available online at www.priority-1.org

4 comments on “Ten Ways to Inspire Our Children

  1. Another way to think about this issue is that while we perform mitzvot because God commanded us to, that doesn’t mean that we think the mitzvot have no value other than pure obedience. So for example, the Rambam states that the reason for the mitzvot in general is to teach us proper behaviors and proper ideas, but he certainly doesn’t mean that we can substitute our “wisdom” for God’s and decide not to do them. R’ Yehuda HaLevi is at the opposite end of the spectrum as far as giving concrete reasons for mitzvot (he prefers not to), but he also believes the mitzvot have meaning beyond just obedience.

    When the original poster wrote “only,” I thought he was exaggerating to make a point, perhaps with the idea that the statements are directed at children.

  2. Mark, that makes sense. But I still find the use of the word “only” problematic. It seems to exclude the possibility that there could be a purpose that G-d hasn’t yet revealed to us. And taken out of context, item “VI” could lead to someone justifying a “character-building” experience that conflicts with the mitzvos.

  3. David_L, that’s a good point, but the Vilna Gaon and others have defined our purpose on earth as refining our character through Torah and mitzvos.

    A way to reconcile this is to realize that when we do a commandment because G-d told us to do, we are addressing the major character flaw of arrogance and self-centeredness, by transforming ourselves to have a G-d centered worldview.

  4. “VI. Be sure they understand that the purpose of mitzvah performance and Torah study is only to refine one’s character.”

    That sounds like the Reform viewpoint. Aren’t we supposed to observe the mitzvos because G-d told us to do so?

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