Weekly Letter: How Do We Raise Our Children?

Our parsha teaches about the children of Yitzchak and Rivkah – brothers raised in the same home yet taking different paths in life. How do we raise our children? In answer to this question – the Rebbe gives clear guidelines for raising Jewish children. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit, from the section on Family.

By the Grace of G-d
24th of Adar , 5734
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mr.
Cleveland, Ohio

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter and will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart’s desires for good.

With regard to the problem of how to deal with your oldest daughter, this like other shaalot, should be discussed with a competent and experienced Rav to whom you could give all the necessary details and who could then advise you. Furthermore, a Rav is bound to confidence, and therefore you could discuss the situation with him quite frankly.

As for asking for some guidance, I must be quite candid with you even though this may be somewhat painful, but I have no choice in the matter, for it is my duty to mention it, even though briefly:

Bringing up children requires of Jewish parents several basic principles. Firstly, the parent must always try to provide a shining example to their children of the kind of conduct that they would like to see in them. Moreover, children usually think that insofar as they are concerned, it would be quite sufficient for them to have standards which are only half as good as those of their parents. Consequently, parents must take this into account and see to it that their own standards are at least twice as high as the minimum they expect of their children.

A further point and this too is essential, is that it is necessary also to take into account the strong pressures and influences to which children are constantly exposed in school and in the neighborhood where they live and are raised. And where such influences are negative, the child must be provided with an ample dose of immunization to be able to resist those influences.

A third point and this is also essential, is this: Jews have always been a minority among the nations and are of course a minority in the United States. Regardless of the democratic principles which are professed in this country, with emphasis on conventional values, it is natural for a minority to develop an inferiority complex in relation to the majority. Therefore, it is necessary to implant in the Jewish child from earliest youth a feeling of pride in the heritage and tradition of his parents and ancestors and a strong feeling of Jewish identity. Thus, instead of hiding his or her Jewishness they will be able to be proud of it without any inhibitions, despite any derision by non-Jewish neighbors or any prejudiced individuals. This calls for, above else, instilling into the child the right sense of true Jewish values, with priority of the spiritual over the material, as well as of inner peace and harmony over materialistic considerations of career, which predominate in the non-Jewish environment.

Needless to say, all the above is written not merely for the purpose of pointing out what the past should have been. We have a clear directive in the Torah that a Jew should never despair and there are ways of rectifying the past, to some extent at least. Thus, in the light of all that has been said above, it is clear that the parents must at least henceforth conduct their lives in accordance with the points mentioned above, by strengthening their own commitment and adherence to the Torah way of life, in the daily life in every respect and detail. For Judaism is not a way of life that is limited to three days in the year, or one day in a week or on special occasions, but it is a daily experience.

Much more could have been said on such an important matter but I trust the above will suffice to realize the importance of ordering the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos in the fullest measure. Finally, since a Jewish family is like one unit and one body, where a benefit to one part of it is a benefit to the whole, the strengthening of the daily conduct, permeated with yirat Shomayim, on the part of the parents, is bound to reflect favorably on the children, either consciously or unconsciously or both.

May G-d grant that you have good news to report in all above.

With blessing,

For the Lubavitcher Rebbe

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