In each issue of JLBC, a community rabbi answers questions about Jewish life for those of us who did not grow up in religious homes. FFBs – you can learn something, too!
Amy of Englewood asks:
Q. All boys are supposed to learn Torah, but they have different abilities. Does effort count as much as accomplishment?
Hashem wants us to work and try. He gives us the tools; what we accomplish is up to us. Effort is even more important than accomplishment. With smart boys, sometimes learning is too easy and they don’t know how to work hard. We’ve had boys with limited ability who are really fantastic young men today because they really work at succeeding. That’s what Hashem wants.
Q. Should parents push their children to get the highest grades, even when they are not naturally the best students?
Parents need to recognize the ability of their children. Some pick up quickly and others struggle. Never push for grades; push for effort. Most importantly, be involved in your children’s education. If you just hire tutors, it breaks down the relationship. Your kids have to know they can come to you with questions. That’s the key to their success, self-esteem and confidence.
Q. How can parents inspire children to love Torah and feel connected to Judaism and each other, not just be good learners?
The Gemara says that Hashem wants the heart. Make a beautiful Shabbos and show your children it’s important to you. Show them the beauty and excitement of Pesach and Yomim Tovim; that’s what makes them excited. They have to see you happy. When the father comes home looking forward to a beautiful Shabbos, the children will too. When you show them davening in shul is special, they will try to daven beautifully, too. If you talk about how difficult it is, the kids will pick up on that. What the parents feel is transmitted to the children.
Q. With such a long school day, is there too much emphasis on homework?
Homework should be easy and simple, a review of the basics without much difficulty. The parents shouldn’t have to do it. When the school asks too much, the kids get frustrated.
Q. What role should technology play in Jewish education?
We have to live with technology, and kids can get so much now on line. But it has to be monitored. Parents have to know what’s going on. Kids need limits and guidelines. And they have to understand that you know what they are doing. With finances, we tell parents a debit card is better than cash. They’ll get statements so they know what their sons are doing. You must have oversight.
By Bracha Schwartz