Rabbi Shaya Cohen Inspires Parents and Teachers to Work Together to Motivate Our Children’s Spiritual Growth
The Los Angeles branch of Torah Umesorah hosted an inspiring and informative evening to unite parents and teachers on the subject of Resonance: The Power of Mechanchim and Parents Marching in Tandem. Mothers, fathers, and teachers filled the Bais Yaakov L.A. auditorium to learn about the impact of relationships on spiritual growth.
The guest speaker, Rabbi Shaya Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Zichron Aryeh, is a former resident of Los Angeles who played a key role in building up the Valley Village Jewish community. “When I came here in 1975, no one could have imagined what we have here today,” said Rabbi Cohen. “The status of the frum community is truly amazing.”
Yet, success comes with its own dangers. “We don’t see the areas where we have fallen short because of the success we are experiencing,” continued Rabbi Cohen, explaining that in his line of work he encounters too many boys and girls, and now also adults, who are drifting away from Yiddishkeit.
Rabbi Cohen spoke about the importance of building a relationship with Hashem—for our children, and (even more so) for ourselves, their role models. “For the sake of all our children we have to strengthen ourselves,” he said, emphasizing excitement, inspiration, and passion in our relationship with Hashem as crucial for the future of the next generations.
Another important factor is “resonance”—parents and teachers must work together. “There are so many nuances, variations, and contradictions between parents and schools that weaken commitment,” said Rabbi Cohen. “If we are all in step together, we can change the world.”
Citing Rashi, Rabbi Cohen defined chinuch as “beginning of entry into a way of life that we are destined to remain with.” He emphasized that it’s a “long term game.” Our children will have to continue their personal and spiritual growth on their own. All we can do is give them the inspiration and tools to start off on this journey of growth.
“Extremely important, and sadly missing today, is a passionate, active relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu,” said Rabbi Cohen.
How do we help our children build this relationship? In order to love somebody, we have to get to know them, appreciate their qualities, and interact with them. We know Hashem through His middos and actions. From the earliest age, we must nurture our children with stories of hashgacha pratis, pointing out Hashem’s involvement in their lives. Going further, we must teach them that the whole purpose of creation is chessed and that Hashem’s main mode of interacting with us is rachamim.
If children are exposed to these ideas before they are faced with the challenges and disappointments of life, then when they get older, they will able to see the good even in hardships. But it’s not enough to just preach these ideas. We ourselves must internalize such a relationship with Hashem, to the extent that it becomes contagious.
Another factor is tefillah. “Without a relationship, tefillah is meaningless. With a relationship, it can forge a deeper relationship,” said Rabbi Cohen. Another ingredient is bitachon, which we can model for our children when things don’t go the way we want.
The second part of the evening was devoted to the relationships between parents and children and teachers and students. The deeper the relationship the more influence the adults have on their children’s spirituality. “Feeling good about myself is the essence of human happiness,” said Rabbi Cohen. “If we can make our children and students feel good about themselves, we can catapult them into a life of continued growth.”
The ingredients necessary for these relationships are respect for the children—their time and space—and a positive view of the children. We must learn to have realistic expectations, limit our criticism, and discover the greatness inside them. It is also important to teach them that Hashem gave us Torah and mitzvos for our own benefit, and to take the time to acknowledge and answer their questions. Another important ingredient is patience. With it, we can weather all disagreements and differences.