“The Garden of Emuna” by Rabbi Shalom Arush teaches me that nothing in my life happens by chance. Everything that is going on, good or the seemingly bad, is a message from Hashem. My children’s behavior is no exception. In “The Garden of Education,” Rabbi Arush elaborates that my children are my spiritual mirrors. My children reflect my daily service of Hashem and what’s lacking in my actions. By learning to look at my children as my mirrors, with Emuna, I’m able to cope better with their behavior. Instead of criticizing them, I use their misbehavior to correct my own behavior. This example from about a year and a half ago always sticks out in my mind.
I was trying to give my two girls a bath while they were both having trouble listening. I could feel my patience slipping, as I kept having to ask them both to stand up and stay still. My older daughter was too busy playing with her toys. While I was busy asking her more and more loudly to stand up, she was off in fantasy land with her two toys on their latest adventure. After four or five times of asking (yelling?), she finally stood up so I could soap her up. Then it was my little one’s turn. When I asked her to stand up, she was paying attention. She looked me right in the face and deliberately didn’t budge. It took asking her four or five times as well as including threats of no TV show before bed before she finally stood up. I found myself getting irritated and annoyed inside but thanks to Hashem, I managed to keep it in.
When they were both settled and taken care of, I sat down to work their behavior out the Emuna way. I started to do Hitbodedut—personal prayer to Hashem in my own words. My older daughter had been pre-occupied. She was just too busy playing to pay attention to me. It was almost not her fault, like a complete accident. I asked Hashem to show me where I had not been listening to Him in a similar fashion. The answer came in a flash as a thought popped into my brain: my own exercise regimen. Rabbi Lazer Brody (Rabbi Arush’s main disciple and my rebbe) had recently suggested to cut down on the powerlifting and bodybuilding routines and stick to crosstraining and functional fitness. I had come to see on my own as well how they only contributed to my own ego aggrandizement. But it had been really hard for me to let go. Being known for being big and strong has been a part of my identity for so long. It’s been a real sacrifice of self to go into the gym with the only purpose of being in shape to do Hashem’s will and not for my own ego inflation. I had been slipping and transitioning back to some of the heavier lifts again recently when my daughter misbehaved. I thanked Hashem for the message and resolved to try and let go for good of the ego workouts.
Now what about my younger daughter’s behavior? She had deliberately not listened to me multiple times when I had asked her to stand up. Again, I asked Hashem to please show me where I was deliberately not listening to Him. Again, the answer came in a flash: my own TV watching. I don’t want to start any debates about TV with anyone; let’s just say I haven’t found a time yet where watching it brought me closer to Hashem. Yet I kept finishing off a tired day wanting to lie back and watch shows for awhile. It was here that I was deliberately ignoring Hashem’s warnings to let go of TV. I thanked Him for my younger child’s behavior, apologized and resolved to do better in the future. We have downgraded to no cable, just a few streaming services. TV still isn’t completely out of my life but the progress is there.
Self-improvement isn’t the only way Emuna helps me as a parent. “The Garden of Education” covers many more important facets of Jewish parenting. If you’re interested in learning more, come hear Rabbi Lazer Brody, the English translator of all of Rabbi Arush’s books, speak at Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, at 8 p.m., Sunday, March 18. He will be speaking on the topic: “From Purim to Pesach: Teaching Judaism Through Joy to Our Children.” I hope to see you there.
By Pinney Wolman
Pinney Wolman is a full-time personal trainer. In his spare time, he likes to learn Emuna and help others learn it too. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.