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A Never-Ending Job

Friday, 27 May, 2016 - 1:02 pm

They say that Jewish parents only offer advice twice.

When you want it and when you don’t.

***

As my son Dovid celebrates his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat, I am compelled to think about all the advice Esther and I have given him over the years, welcome and unwelcome. More than that, however, I wonder what our role will be like now that he is Bar Mitzvah. Will he seek our counsel once he is away in yeshiva? Will he want our advice anymore? Will he listen to our ideas as he matures?

I don’t have the answers, but I suspect that it will be a mixed bag.

What I do know is that, as parents, our job has not ended. It’s an ongoing process.  Parenting is something that never ends. It simply metamorphoses into different phases.

As a parent you need to recognize what your role is in your child’s life. Spoon-feeding a 10-year old could be a problem. So could lecturing you grown child. Or, maybe not. And that’s where it gets interesting and challenging.

But, it’s still a continuous journey.

As Esther and I look on with pride at what our son has become, we wonder if we have finally made it as parents. We might be wise to look in this week’s parsha.

***

In Parshas Behar the Torah tells us not to charge each other interest when giving out a loan.

Why not?

Interest is a normal business procedure. It doesn’t seem to be immoral. After all, if my money would not be tied up in a loan I could put it to other profitable uses. So, why can’t I reasonably profit from the loan?

Taking interest on a loan is receiving reward for a past deed: the one-time act that took place at the beginning of the transaction. In contrast, a business investment is an ongoing venture, requiring constant effort, risk and attention.

The Torah doesn’t want us to earn money for ‘has-been’ endeavors. The Torah isn’t only teaching us proper work ethics – no pain, no gain. It’s more than that.  The Torah is instructing us that our efforts must never end. Loaning money with interest creates the false idea in our heads that we have finished achieving. ‘I don’t need to work anymore; my money can work for me.’

There’s no such thing as retirement in Yiddishkeit.

And, this is perhaps the crucial point for all of us, regardless of financial status.

Resting on our laurels and relying on past successes is a form of taking interest. For example, once we have expended efforts in educating our children, students, or anyone else over whom we have had any influence, and have succeeded in inspiring them to teach others, we might be tempted to “retire.” We might entertain the notion that it’s time to focus on myself.

We might feel it’s high time that we reap the rewards for our previous efforts. It’s time to stop giving and start receiving, especially some well-deserved Yiddishe nachas.

No, says the Torah. You are never free to retire. Rather, keep ‘investing’ in your children and you will surely reap great dividends of nachas.

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