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Reflective Parenting: Build First; Then Mold
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
This article orignally appeared in Hamodia

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The juxtaposition of two conversations this past Sunday – several hours before the deadline for the submission of these lines – caused me to scrap my original column and replace it with this one.

The first was from a coworker of mine asking me to write an essay begging people to be gentle when correcting young men who make errors when “laining” (reading) the Torah or when making a bracha upon receiving an aliyah. It seems that my friend had a profoundly unsettling experience in shul the day before where that was clearly not the case. (The most elegant solution to this sticky situation I have ever observed was the practice in a few shuls I visited over the years where one individual was appointed by the Rav to stand near the Torah – and he was the only one in the entire kehila who [softly] voiced corrections.)

A few minutes after the initial conversation, I was approached by a friend of mine who works with kids at risk in his Chassidic community. He shared with me an interesting conversation he recently had with the Belzer Rebbi shlit’a which he thought my readers would appreciate. It seems that one of the young men he was working with was bitterly complaining to him that his father was very critical of his deeds to the point where their relationship was severely strained. When my friend raised this issue with the boy’s father, the father informed him that he did so in order that his son learn humility and not become haughty.

My chaver decided to seek the guidance of the Belzer Rebbi shlit’a, who is well known for his keen chinuch insight, in resolving this conflict. The Rebbe immediately responded by saying that tikkun hammidos (improving quality traits, such as humility) ought to be pursued only once sipuk hanefesh (the self-confidence that comes from spiritual achievement) is attained.

What the Rebbe shlit’a was expressing is a concept we would all do well adhering to – with our own children as well as with our talmidim and those we come across in our public squares.

Build first; then mold.

© 2010 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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