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Jeffrey Kobrin
Looking to the Parasha to Inspire Our Parenting

Not Good Enough

When is good enough good enough?  When should we push ourselves harder?   Olympic athletes inspire us in their pursuit of excellence: pushing their bodies to accomplish feats never recorded in human history.  I’m a runner, so I’m particularly drawn to athletes who are often competing against themselves as much as they are against others: skater Nathan Chen wants to win gold this year, but just as much wants to redeem his lackluster 2018 performance.  What do we do in our own lives to push ourselves beyond our past disappointments – or even beyond our past successes?

This week’s Torah reading of Tetzaveh details the various articles of clothing that Aharon and his sons were to wear to work in the Mishkan.  The sons were made coats, kutanot, girdles, avnetim, and turbans, migba’ot.  Each of these items was to be made le-lavod u’le-tifaret, “for glory and beauty.”  Gersonides, the Ralbag, explains that if the kohanim’s clothing wasn’t absolutely stunning, it could not be worn.  The Netziv adds that these glorious clothes were to make sure that the People of Israel realized that these kohanim, by dint of their profession, were on a higher level than the average person.  The very clothing pushed its wearers onto an entirely different plane of responsibility and of behavior.  

In his wonderful book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Wharton psychologist Adam Grant writes that the concept of “best practices,” which we often tout as, well, the best things we can do, think, or say, can be risky.  He writes that “once we’ve declared a routine the best, it becomes frozen in time… [we are] no longer curious about where it’s imperfect and where it could improve.”  What best practices do we want to revisit?

I had the zechut this week to spend two days with Jewish school leaders from across the country at Prizmah’s Head of School Retreat.  It was rejuvenating to see friends I hadn’t seen in three years (and enjoy the weather in Fort Lauderdale weather), but what was most inspiring was the attitude of the entire group, who between them have been leading dozens of schools and thousands of kids and their families through the pandemic.  No one was content to rest on what we had done; everyone sought to do better.  

What are we working to improve as parents?  As spouses?  As children to our own parents?  What personal bests (or even personal mess-ups) do we have to go beyond?  And as a community, now that we can possibly begin to imagine a world with endemic COVID rather than a pandemic, what is the best that we need to strive for together?

If you had to pick one aspect of your life that you do well – or, for our kids, one that they do well – and decide to improve it, what would that be?  What would it take?  And how would it feel?  

Because sometimes even good enough isn’t good enough.

Shabbat shalom.

About the Author
Jeffrey Kobrin is the Rosh HaYeshiva/Head of School at the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, New York. He has bachelors and masters degrees in English literature from Columbia University, semikha from RIETS at Yeshiva University, and a PhD in English education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. He lives in Riverdale, New York, with his wife, Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, and their daughters.
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