By Goldie Markel
The saying goes: “There’s the OU, the OK and the “Oh everybody.”
Oftentimes we have a tendency to look to others, automatically assume that what they’re doing is right and noble, and follow suit ourselves. How often have we said to ourselves that if everybody is doing a specific thing, it must be the correct thing to do?
A story is told of a young man who was on his path to more observant Judaism. The young man spent many Shabbos experiences at a certain rabbi’s home, and observed the rabbi’s every action. It was from there that he learned how to conduct himself in many of the intricacies of Jewish practice.
He married, built his own home, and soon began hosting Shabbos guests himself. At one of these meals, a guest noticed an unusual custom that his host had during Kiddush. Right before he would begin the bracha, the host would take a napkin and wipe the rim of the Kiddush cup.
Having never seen this before, the guest inquired as to where he had learned this peculiar custom. The host replied simply, “I don’t have a specific explanation for this. I merely observed my rabbi doing such, and therefore do the same.” Later, when the rabbi was asked about this practice, he chuckled and said, “There’s actually no specific custom at all! It just so happens that after filling up the Kiddush cup the wine usually spills over the edges, and so I like to wipe off the rim with a napkin before I begin the bracha.”
Imitating the people around us is an inevitability. For those of us who are in positions of influence, we have an even stronger responsibility to make sure that the things that people observe us doing are enviable and worth following. More specifically, as parents, our children naturally have a deep respect and admiration for us and follow our every move. We have the honor of showing them the proper path to pursue.
Everything a parent does—down to the smallest detail—is noticed and copied, replicated and implemented, into the lives of our children. This is turn, has a ripple effect on generations to come.
While this idea holds true with every child, regardless of their age, it is especially important in regard to our younger children. The innocent, delicate and impressionable minds of our precious children are easily molded by whatever they see or hear.
An allegory is given with the seed of a fruit. Before a seed is planted, it must be carefully protected from any type of scratch or bruise. Every small blemish on the seed will result in a major defect in the future tree that it produces. Consequently, the more intact the seed is, the healthier and stronger the tree will be.
The same is true with our children. The protection and proper education that a child receives when he or she is very young has a deep and lasting effect on the way that he or she develops as an adult.
Our children spend countless hours around us and in our care. Every action that we do invariably shapes their lives and destinies.
While this is a daunting task, we must remember that although parents are two of the partners in the creation of a child, there is a third and very important partner—G-d Himself. We trust that while we plant and sew our precious seeds, ultimately it is up to G-d to bring the rain. Though our work is tremendous, it is up to G-d to grant us the success in raising our children.
So when we wake up in the morning, aware of this great task that we hold—the cultivation of the future of world Jewry—we must not only be weighed down by the weight and responsibility of our mission, rather we must be invigorated with the knowledge of the tremendous impact that we can have on the world—all through being a living example!