Hillel QA


I am wondering how to help my child appreciate the value of investing personal energy and time in achieving results. My child always seems to want me to do all the work. Signed, Hard Work Pays Off

Dear Hard Work Pays Off:

It is a great start that you recognize the value of personal investment. Allowing a child to deal with a challenge and not to automatically resolve it for him or her is often a big challenge for a parent. We don’t like to see our children in pain. But the value of helping a child contend independently pays dividends.

If we look at the lives of Yaakov and Yoseph in the book of Bereishit, we see so many examples of their fighting through their personal challenges. Each one of them could have used his life situations to say “I did my best and it’s not my fault I didn’t fulfill my potential – the odds are stacked against me.”

Both Yoseph and Yaakov could have legitimately excused themselves from playing the role of patriarch and vizier. Both could have earned a pass from acting as Jewish leaders to be emulated in the future. “You want me to succeed in this place?” would be a fair excuse. In the land of Egypt a Jew is surely exempt! Yoseph could use his plight at the hands of his brothers who hated him. They led him to become a slave and ultimately be jailed. It is easier to just go with the flow. Yet Yoseph makes the best of his situation and grows to be the viceroy of the land. He does this while being a proud “Ivri” – a Hebrew. His children are educated in his way as well. He does not allow his surroundings to define him.

Yaakov could have surely come before G-D after 147 years and said. “What could I do? I had a brother that wanted to kill me. I lived in the home of a liar and cheat, my uncle Lavan. I was in a deep depression over the loss of my son for 22 years. You want me to act as a patriarch?” When describing Yaakov’s age at his passing it singles out the number seven from the rest of the numbers. The Torah says he was “seven years and one hundred and forty years.” The number seven signifies that when he is about to pass away he has completely refined his seven human character traits. Mankind shares these traits with G-d. Yaakov successfully met his life challenges and continued to act and refine himself as the patriarch of a nation. He learned how to use his situations to his benefit.

When discussing with your child a challenge, help him or her contend with it. Use the opportunity to support your child as he or she contends with the challenge. If he or she complains, “it’s not fair,” or, “you do it for me,” assess the situation. If it is a challenge that your child is not ready for, help him and bring him along with you so he sees you role model solving the issue. If it is something he should do, and is age appropriate, such as a tough homework or research assignment, be empathetic and help him see how to overcome the hurdles, but make your child take the steps him or herself. After the assignment is done, (never preach mid crisis) then use examples of people who became great as a result of their work. Use Yaacov and Yoseph as examples.

When your child finishes a particular project, have him or her describe what went easy and what was difficult. Have your child try to identify what he gained from the experience. Have your child describe how the project may have turned out had he used an excuse or taken an easy way out.

This is also why a child should always be given chores and participate in the running of the home. It gives him or her the ability to appreciate the value of hard work.

Nothing tastes sweeter than success. The Talmud states that “Adom rotzeh bkav shelo mtishah kabin shel chavero” a person desires his single measure more than nine measures given to him by someone else. By pointing out what your child has already accomplished you will help him or her envision what they can accomplish in the future.

To continue the dialogue and share other ideas on this topic, emaileducationqandq@hillelhebrew.org. We want to hear your thoughts.

This article was compiled by

Rabbi Y. Boruch Sufrin and Rabbi Eli Broner

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy Administration