I feel bad for my children.
Like every parent, I always wanted to give them the best possible life: one that’s easy, free of difficulties, and full of opportunities.
That didn’t happen. Instead, In their short lives, they’ve already been witnesses to monumental global events: the COVID-19 pandemic halting life as we knew it, the unsettling war in Ukraine, and the recent heartbreaking massacre in Israel
It’s clear now that my dream of a difficulties-free life for them was just that – a dream. In a world where challenges are constant until Moshiach comes, I realize that my role as a parent must evolve. I need to help them prepare.
But how do I prepare my children to navigate a world fraught with obstacles? What knowledge and traits do they need to face these challenges head-on and emerge stronger?
In my quest for answers, I turned to our holy texts, seeking wisdom in the Torah. And there, in this week’s Torah portion, I found a story that resonated deeply with our current struggles.
It’s a short story, only one verse long, but it contains a powerful lesson.
The story takes place in the city of Gerar (fun fact: ancient Gerar was located near present-day Gaza!), where Yitzchak, our forefather, endured threats and the abduction of his wife. After saving his wife, he looked to rebuild his life.
Here, our story begins.
“Isaac sowed in that land, and he found in that year a hundredfold, and the L-rd blessed him.”
Just like today, Yitzchok was facing enormous challenges. Not only does he need courage to overcome his terrifying experience, but his property is not in a good shape. As Rashi points out, the verse uses the words “that” land and “that” year to tell us that it wasn’t just any land or any year; it was a piece of infertile land during a year of famine.
And his success was phenomenal, too. It was a “hundredfold!” (Don’t confuse this with a 100% growth. A hundredfold indicates a return of 100 for every unit invested – a 10,000% growth!)
Such an impressive success despite his challenges; sounds good to me! Where do I sign up?
Our sages explain that this success was not immediate. First, Yitzchok measured his crop. He needed to count to fulfill the Mitzvah of Maaser (giving a percentage of his crop to a Cohen, Levi, and poor people). The first count was nothing out of the ordinary. But then, because he fulfilled the Mitzvah of Maaser, G-d blessed him with an exponential growth of 10,000%.
If I put the entire story together, this is what I get.
First, Yitzchok worked hard. He then saw some success, but instead of saving his meager crop to provide for his family, he was willing to share a part of it, and was then rewarded in ways he never was blessed before.
So here is what I am going to tell my children (and honestly, to myself, too!):
1. Work hard. Give it all you’ve got.
2. Don’t let yourself be a victim of your circumstances. You can always rise higher.
3. When you succeed, remember it’s all from G-d. Be thankful for His gifts.
4. Give Maaser and share your blessings.
5. And then you will see even more blessings in your life.
Reading this list, I see how following Yitzchok’s ways will provide them with a deep and meaningful path that will be enriching and satisfying for many years to come.