B’tzedek tishpot amisecho, judge others with tzedek. (Vayikra 19:15)  How do you judge someone with tzedek?

Rabbeinu Yonah explains this as follows:

Behold, when you hear someone who says a certain thing or performs a particular action wherein you can judge his words or actions in either a negative or positive manner, if the one who has performed this act is known to be a yirei Elokim, a righteous person, then you are obligated to judge him as being absolutely guiltless in this behavior. This is the case even if, upon due reflection, he appears to be guilty.

If the individual who has performed the questionable action is considered to be on the middle or bainoni level, that is to say he usually is careful and holds himself back from sinning, but, on occasion, does sin, here, too, one should give him the benefit of the doubt regarding this questionable conduct and judge him as being guiltless.

Rabbeinu Yonah then writes: [In the case of the bainoni, even] if the action appears to be sinful, you should perceive it as only being doubtfully so, k’mo safek, and do not judge him as being guilty.  (Rabbeinu Yonah, Shaarei Teshuvah, Shaar 3, paragraph 218)

What is the definition of usually?  What is your definition of success?

On a percentage basis, how often do you expect your child to meet your expectations?

Let’s compare your idea of how often meeting a goal makes a person a success with some real life numbers.

The most successful hitter in baseball history was Ty Cobb.  His record setting lifetime batting average of .366 means that he succeeded in getting a hit just over one third of the time!

In the NHL, if your shot puts the puck into the goal 20 percent of the time, you’re not just a success, you’re a superstar!

Major League Baseball players and National Hockey League players spend years training and honing their skills.  How well has your child been trained and given the opportunity to hone his skills at meeting your expectations?

How do you train your child and hone his skills at meeting your expectations?

Let’s see what we can learn from the 1948-1980 radio and television game Beat the Clock.

Beat the Clock contestants were married couples chosen from the studio audience.  In order to win prizes, they were required to perform tasks (called "problems") within a certain time limit which was counted down on a large 60-second clock.  The task often looked easy but then a complication was revealed.  For example, the host would say, "All you have to do is stack four plates", check the clock to see how much time they had to do it, and then add, "Oh, and one more thing...you can't use your hands".  Other times, the contestants were hobbled by being blindfolded.  One member of the couple was given the task and the other would guide them, helping them overcome the handicap that had been imposed.

Beat the Clock is the mashul.  Here’s the nimshal.

You are the helpful partner to your child, you guide her when she figuratively cannot use her hands or is blindfolded in a way you cannot discern.

What is the blindfold that makes it hard for your child to comply with your requests, to complete your task or “problem?”  What pushes her hands in the wrong direction?

The answer may be found in Maariv: ve-haseir Satan milfoneinu umei'achareinu, remove Satan from in front of us and from behind us.  Rav Yehezkel Abramsky, ZT’L, explains that from in front of us means that when we want to do a mitzvas aseh, to do the right thing, the Satan [or Yatzer Harah] stands in front of us and tries to block us from carrying out our good intention.  The term from behind us means that when we are tempted to violate a mitzvas lo-sa’aseh, to do the wrong thing, the Satan pushes us from behind towards that error.  (Gaonei Lita al Siddur haTefila, page 182)

There may be physical impediments to your child’s ability to comply with your wishes.  More often, there are emotional and attitudinal blocks in the way.

Before you address any of these, think of the percentage of shots on goal your child does score.  How often does she comply?  How often, on her own initiative, does she say or do something you appreciate and admire?  How often do you sit back and think about the person you have molded thus far?  How often do you feel a sense of accomplishment over how far you’ve helped her to come rather than despair over how far you think she needs to grow?

Once you have calmed your emotions and changed your attitude towards her, it will be much more likely that you will be able to work with her on calming her emotions and changing her attitude toward you and what you ask of her.

Be her partner in solving the “problems” and completing her tasks.  Help her when she is blindfolded and emotionally hobbled.  The prizes of growth for her and nachas for you are well worth the effort.  The clock is ticking.


Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.

He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time  Available at bookstores and on Amazon.

He can be reached at 718-344-6575.