This week’s parsha opens with the reunion between Yaakov and Eisav. As Yaakov prepares for this momentous event, the Torah outlines three different strategies that he employs towards ensuring a successful meeting. Firstly, he sends gifts to Eisav in order to appease him and show that he is approaching with only the best of intentions. Secondly, he creates a contingency battle plan, splitting up his own camp into two groups so that, if one is attacked, the other can escape. And finally, he davens to Hashem, asking Him for protection from Eisav and his influence.
Many commentaries over the years have used Yaakov’s actions as a model for our approach to moments of conflict and challenge. First of all, we must do all we can to avoid the confrontation. If avoidance proves impossible, we must prepare for the conflict/challenge with a two-pronged approach- we must do our השתדלות by investing the effort to face the approaching test successfully, and we must also turn to Hashem for help and protection, recognizing that ultimately not everything is under our control.
When it comes to parenting as well, this two-pronged approach should form the basis of our fundamental strategy. Firstly, we must strive to be the best parents that we can be- by putting in the time, thought and effort essential to our success. As we have mentioned before, we should not assume that we will simply “figure this parenting thing out.” Being a parent demands placing a tremendous amount of reflection and care into how we can best raise our children.
But after we have done what we can, we should never underestimate the other major aspect crucial to our success as parents- davening to G-d about our children. The importance and power of davening- particularly for success in the chinuch of our kids- is something that often gets overlooked.
We often put a lot of thought into certain aspects of how we raise our kids- where to send them to school, to camp, etc. We also give of ourselves totally to encourage them to become the people that we dream for them to be. Yet as our children get older, we come to realize that, as with everything in life, there is so much about our children’s lives that we cannot control.
This realization can be difficult to confront. It is at that point that we are meant to turn to Hashem and daven for help. In doing so, we recognize that ultimately, we are not raising our children alone, but are, in fact, doing so in partnership with G-d. There are so many factors that contribute to whom our child becomes- and to the potential success of our endeavors- that are beyond our control. The child’s innate characteristics and traits, whom he meets and befriends, events and incidents that occur to him and around him in his lifetime, are all out of our hands. We must recognize how much we depend on G-d for success in raising our children- and we must daven on their behalf on a daily basis- not just in times of crisis or when something goes wrong.
Davening to Hashem for our kids can take many forms. For some it may consist of the special bracha that parents give their children every Friday night. Others have a custom to say a perek of Tehillim for each child every day. Whatever form our efforts take, however, the importance of keeping our children in mind during our tefillot cannot be overstated.
The story is told of a principal of a school in Eretz Yisrael who went to Rav Aryeh Leib Steinman to get advice about dealing with a problematic child, and to get permission to expel the student from the yeshiva. Rav Steinman turned to him and asked, “what is the boy’s name?” The principal answered him. “And what’s his mother’s name?” Not sure what Rav Steinman was getting at, the principal answered that he didn’t know, but he could find out. Rav Steinman then responded- “what do you mean you don’t know? Are you saying that you are thinking about throwing this student out, and you haven’t even davened for him? How could that be!?” Part of being a mechanech, and parent, is to daven for those whom are under our care.
Recognizing this partnership with G-d can be incredibly meaningful and comforting. During moments of particular challenge and despair as we navigate this unfamiliar territory, we know that we always have whom to turn to for support- we are never alone, there is always more we can do. And this recognition can also be encouraging – as we are partnering with the best there is. Finally, davening to Hashem on behalf of our children has the added benefit of forcing us to think about, concretize, and verbalize the hopes and aspirations that we have for each of kids. While we may think about these goals often, it is important at times to reinforce them in a more concrete way and davening for them will help us do so.
On the eve of his meeting with Eisav, Yaakov underscored that, at moments of challenge and opportunity, Jews must strike a crucial balance. We must prepare and do all we can practically to be successful, and then we must turn to Hashem and daven that He help us as we move along our path.
We need to daven that to Hashem that He protect our children and give them the tools to be successful and productive in the ways that we dream for them. And of course, perhaps more importantly, we need to daven to Hashem that He should give us the wisdom and knowledge to make the right decisions in raising our children to be the best that they can be.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom!