Complete the following sentence:
“I want my child to be _______.”
If I were to guess, I would say that most parents would reply, “I want my child to be happy.”
Parents care so deeply about their child’s happiness. They will go to great lengths to make sure their child is happy. They will change their work schedule and carpool for hundreds of hours during the year to bring their children to their favorite activities. They will schlep to one store after another to find the perfect birthday present.
Often, what parents believe will bring happiness to their child, might not be it. Is an after-school program or a lovely birthday present the secret to happiness? Probably not. Still, placing happiness high on the priority list is definitely a good idea.
Happiness can make a tremendous positive impact on our lives. Happy people tend to live longer, enjoy better relationships, and lead healthier lifestyles.
Happiness should be high on our priority list for children (and ourselves!), yet there is something else that should be even higher:
Being a good person.
Being a good Jew who follows G-d’s ways.
Being someone that makes the world a better place.
The thing about happiness is that it’s a self-centered emotion. It’s all about us and the way we feel. On the other hand, striving to be good is about something greater than ourselves.
And giving a child a sense that there is something greater than themselves is the greatest gift we can give them. Thank G-d, this is not an either-or question. We can be both, and in fact, being good almost always leads us to be happier as well.
As often happens, some of the most beautiful lessons for life are hidden in plain sight in the Torah. This one, too, is hiding in the first verse of our Parsha.
The verse begins by describing “the generations (children) of Noah.” But instead of listing the names of Noah’s children, it pivots to discuss Noah himself: “Noah was a righteous man. He was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with G-d.”
We finally receive the list of Noah’s children in the following verse. Why the pivot?
Because you can’t talk about children without mentioning the importance of possessing a good character.
Our goal in raising our children must be one of infusing them with a sense of purpose and an awareness of G-d. Not only to be happy but to be good and to do good.
Regardless of our parental status, we are all raising children. It might be physical children or spiritual ones (i.e., people we educate and inspire). May we inspire them – through our words and, more importantly, our actions – to put goodness on the top of their list.
May we all enjoy a life filled with goodness and happiness!