Wednesday, June 20, 2007

“We Could Probably Discuss It For A Lifetime”

(Picture courtesy of

Chabakuk Elisha commenting on The Epitome Of Selflessness? :

This is a loaded topic and there are many sides to it… we could probably discuss it for a lifetime.

A couple things:

Regarding Moshe Rabbeinu – it was assumed by none other than Moshe’s sister Miriam that Moshe was wrong for separating from his wife. As it turned out, she was incorrect and Moshe was an exception – but that doesn’t mean that others should follow the exception, rather, that perhaps the lesson is just the opposite: We should follow the rule. Most probably, it is only in very extreme and unusual cases that anyone should follow Moshe’s example here.

The Gemora tells a story (I can’t remember where off hand) of a great sage that would learn in Beis Medrash all year without coming home or seeing his wife. He would come home one day a year (I don’t remember what day it was – maybe someone else does?) and he would go back to learn the following day. It so happened that one year, he was so involved in his studies that he forgot to go home.

His wife waited all year for that day. She dressed in her best clothing. She prepared food and organized the house. All day she waited by the door. When night came, he realized that he had missed his day to go home, and unfortunately it was too late – he would go next year.

His wife sighed as the sun set. She saw that it wasn’t going to happen this year – and we can imagine how sad she must have felt. Without question, she supported the lifestyle that they lived, but she was certainly sad that she wouldn’t see her husband that year. Sadly though, his neglect of this responsibility wasn’t taken lightly in Heaven, and he passed away as a result.

So we see that there is a balance here: on the one hand, he spent all his time away anyhow – which we could view as pretty neglectful in the first place – yet, since his wife supported this, and indeed wanted him to spend his time there, it actually wasn’t. Nevertheless, that one day a year was significant – she didn’t want to be neglected on that day, and as a result he was considered too careless.

It is quite important that people put their families first – and how that is done differs in each situation – their needs are no less important, indeed they are more important, than any other worthy cause.

But we do clearly see a common phenomenon: many of the greatest people who had a real impact had no children. In modern times we can look at Sarah Schenirer, the Beis Yisroel of Ger, R’ Aharon of Belz , the Satmar Rov or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to name a few, and notice that all of them were childless, and they were leading figures shaping the face of Yiddishkeit. I know that there were leaders that did have children as well, and I haven’t got the statistics, but I recall a great man once remarked that truly great people cannot be great if they have children – and I suspect that the numbers will bear that out. I would bet that people who had a significant impact were predominantly childless or bad parents (just ask Einstein’s kids).


At June 20, 2007 at 7:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

And to add to the other side of the equation....

Commenting on Shir HaShirim 5:11 "His locks are curled and black as a raven", the Gemara in Eruvin 22a states:

"Rava said you can find this ability in a person who is able to adopt a cruel attitude towards his children and his household, acting like a raven. This was the case with Rabbi Adda ben Matnah who went to study in the yeshiva of Rav. So his wife said to him, "What shall I do with your children?" He replied, "Are no vegetables left in the swamp?"

And here from Likutey Eitzos, Banim 10:

"It is best for children if you leave them alone for the most part rather than sticking to them and playing with them constantly. Don't pay overmuch attention to them. Do what you have to in order to give them their religious education, and training them in mitzvot when they reach the appropriate age. But don't play with them too much"

At June 20, 2007 at 7:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...

I read that more as saying that one shouldn't overdo playing with children. It is possible to play to the point that it is a waste of time, diminishes the respect of the child for the parent, and seeks to make the parent more of a buddy than a loving authority figure. Rather, play with them in moderation.

On the other hand, I'm sure you would agree that it would be wrong for virtually any of us to conduct ourselves like Rabbi Addah ben Matna. If we didn't play with or involve ourselves with our children at all in this day and age, it would be a recipe to create a "child at risk."

-Dixie Yid

At June 20, 2007 at 8:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Another great figure who is childless is the Rosh Yeshiva of Chofetz Chaim, I believe.

Alluding to the above, another method to raising children would be to give them your time, but spend it engaged in useful activity. I don't think it is healthy to send kids out to play all day or to do the same in your home. I do think it is healthy to have children follow you around the house and help with the tasks that need to be done (bring me the eggplant from the refrigerator, here is a cloth to help scrub the countertop, etc).

I do play with my children, of course, but try to engage them and their developing brains. Exercise, dancing, reading, legos, writing, etc.

At June 20, 2007 at 8:27:00 PM EDT, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

ASJ, I found another version of the story that emphasizes R' Adda's faith in Hashem to provide for his family, rather than his neglect or cruelty:

"R’ Ada had once decided to leave his home and family in order to spend his time learning in a yeshiva. To his wife’s voiced concern regarding their children’s welfare and how she would go about feeding them in his absence, R’ Ada proffered simply ‘Mi shelimu kurmei b’agmah?—Has all the grass in the field dispersed?’ ... Now what kind of an answer is that? And yet his wife was appeased. Did he mean to infer that she take her hungry children out to the field and feed them grass, like the animals? Animals, lacking the intelligence to seek parnassa [livelihood], are entirely dependent on their Creator’s benevolence. Had man not deemed to act against G-d’s directive and eat from the eitz hadaas (Tree of Knowledge), he too would have basked in the bounteousness of his Creator without sweat or headache. But since he thought himself to be smart enough to be his own boss, he now scrambles for a living by constant exertion. Nonetheless, he who harbors true faith in G-d, believing wholeheartedly that Hashem is the “nosein lechem lechol bassar” (the giver of bread to all flesh) is granted ease of parnassa … with the compassion He confers upon the animal that is totally reliant on His chesed [kindness]. By referring to the grass in the field, R’ Ada essentially assured his wife that with ultimate faith in Hashem, they would never go hungry.”

At June 20, 2007 at 9:40:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interesting comments on this subject made me think of a short video interview I watched yesterday with a man named Efraim Steinmetz. I thought I would share it. If you go to the website below, click on the video called: "The Little Lantern".

At June 21, 2007 at 11:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chazon Ish also had no children

At June 22, 2007 at 11:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous avi said...

I think you can add Yehoshua &
The Ari to your list of those w/o children


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