May 25, 2024
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Davening for Our Children

In the beginning of this week’s parsha, as Yaakov prepares for his reunion with Esav, the Torah outlines three different strategies that he employs toward ensuring a successful meeting. First, he sends Esav gifts, to appease him and show that he comes with the best of intentions. Second, he creates a contingency battle plan, splitting his camp into two groups so that if one is attacked, the other can escape. And finally, he davens to Hashem, asking for protection from Esav and his influence.

Many commentaries over the years have used Yaakov’s strategies as a model for approaching moments of conflict and challenge. First, we should do all we can to avoid the confrontation. If avoidance proves impossible, we must prepare for the conflict/challenge with a two-pronged approach: we must do our השתדלות, investing effort to face the approaching test successfully, and we must also turn to Hashem for help and protection, recognizing that ultimately much is not under our control.

When it comes to parenting as well, this two-pronged approach should form the basis of our fundamental strategy. Firstly, we must strive to be the best parents that we can be—by putting in the time, thought and effort essential to our success. As we have mentioned before, we shouldn’t assume that we will simply “figure parenting out.” Being a parent demands a tremendous amount of reflection and attention into how we can best raise our children.

But after doing that, we must also remember the other major strategy crucial to our success: davening to Hashem on behalf of our children. The importance and power of davening—particularly for success in the chinuch of our kids—is something that often gets overlooked.

We often put a lot of thought into certain aspects of our kids’ lives: where to send them to school, to camp, etc. We also give of ourselves to encourage them to become the people that we dream for them to be. Yet as our children get older we often come to realize that, as with everything in life, there is so much about our children’s lives we simply cannot control.

This realization can be difficult to confront. It is at that point that we should turn to Hashem and daven for help. In doing so we recognize that we are not raising our children alone, but rather in partnership with God. There are so many factors that contribute to whom our child becomes—and to the potential success of our endeavors—that are beyond our control. The child’s innate characteristics and traits, whom he meets and befriends, events and incidents that occur to him and around him in his lifetime, are all out of our hands. We must recognize how much we depend on God for success in raising our children—and daven on their behalf on a daily basis, not just in times of crisis or when something goes wrong.

Davening to Hashem for our kids can take many forms. For some it may consist of the special bracha that parents give their children every Friday night. Others have a custom to say a perek of Tehillim for each child every day. Whatever form our efforts take, however, the importance of keeping our children in mind during our tefillot cannot be overstated.

The story is told of a principal in Eretz Yisrael who went to Rav Aryeh Leib Steinman for advice in dealing with a problematic child, and to receive permission to expel the student. Rav Steinman turned to the principal and asked the boy’s name. When the principal responded, he then asked, “And what’s his mother’s name?” Not sure what Rav Steinman was getting at, the principal answered that he didn’t know, but could find out. Rav Steinman then responded, “What do you mean you don’t know? Are you saying that you are thinking about throwing this student out, and you haven’t even davened for him? How could that be!?” Part of being a mechanech, and parent, is to daven for those under our care.

Recognizing this partnership with Hashem can be incredibly meaningful and comforting. During moments of challenge and despair navigating this unfamiliar territory we always have Whom to rely on for support; we’re never alone, there is always more we can do. And this recognition can also be encouraging, as we are partnering with the best there is. Finally, davening to Hashem on behalf of our children forces us to think about, concretize and verbalize the hopes and aspirations that we have for them. While we may think about these goals often, it is important at times to reinforce them in a more concrete way—and davening for them helps us do so.

On the eve of his meeting with Esav, Yaakov underscored that, at moments of challenge, Jews must strike a crucial balance. We must prepare and do all we can practically to be successful, and then we must turn to Hashem and daven that He help us along our path.

We must daven to Hashem that He protect our children—and give them the tools to be successful in the ways that we dream for them. And perhaps more importantly, we must daven that He give us the wisdom to make the right decisions in raising them to be the best they can be.


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and placement advisor/internship coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected].

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