To My Dear Sons,
Some people think that the only way to keep their children happy is to be sure that when any one child receives something, they all get something. This becomes expensive, even when parents can regulate it. More often than not, it’s a program that is impossible to enforce. You can imagine the scenarios. “I found three perfect gifts. What about the fourth child?” “Susie, I really wish you would have gotten something for his brother, too.” (Last gift for anyone from that family.) “Why does he always get the biggest of everything?”
We didn’t raise you that way; and I’m glad. There have been unexpected dividends.
When you were very small, we had one of those rare strokes of genius that can only come from Heaven. Drawing from Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just) by Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, we had an answer for you, once we translated it to kid-speak:
“Hashem decreed on Rosh Hashana exactly how much candy you’ll get this year. No kid can take the candy G-d has determined is for you… and if you try to take your brother’s candy, G-d will make sure that your share is later diminished — because He is in charge, not people.”
The fact is that from where we humans are sitting, life and the distribution of favors doesn’t seem fair. We as parents saw that one of two lessons could be taught to you: either the impossible lesson, that people will always rush to make sure that you get just as much as everyone around you; or the more reasonable lesson, that he is wise who appreciates what he has, and doesn’t covet that which belongs to his neighbor — and that somehow, you will get what you need in this life.
The Ramchal’s wisdom (in Chapter 21, should you care to look it up for inspiration, now that you are grown and thinking about whether or not you make enough parnassa [income], or acquire possessions as nice as your neighbors’) has certainly helped Abba and me to be satisfied with our allotted portion. It seemed to help you through periods of unfairness in your childhoods. We were able to celebrate birthdays without buying presents for non-birthday-boys. If we found “just the right gift” for one or two boys, but nothing for the rest, you all seemed to understand that your turn would come. As responsible parents, we tried to see that this was the case — whether we were dispensing candy or presents or compliments. We tried our best to keep you all in mind — just not necessarily all at the same moment.
Today, I am proud to see that you are all on the lookout for nice things for each other, that suit your temperaments and tastes and hobbies, without worrying constantly about whether you’ll get your share. Abba and I also take great pride in hearing you look for opportunities to praise each other’s unique talents, without whining that your brother got a bigger share of the pie in that area than you did.
It seems you took to heart that G-d’s got your back. May you be blessed, this Rosh Hashana and for many, many years to come, with an awareness that Hashem will not let you be cheated out of your fair share.