A person should say, Masai yagiu ma’asai lima’asei avosai Avraham, Yitzchak, v’Yaakov? When will my deeds reach those of my forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov? (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Rabba chapter 25)
According to Chazal, we should aspire to be like our ancestors.
This is a realistic expectation.
Each and every one can be like Avraham our father and like the other holy fathers, and there is no generation in which there is no man like Avraham our father and like all the holy fathers. Everyone is obliged to say when will my deeds will reach the deeds of the fathers, and even the women are obliged to say this, when will my deeds will reach the deeds of the holy mothers.
Each and every one has planted in him the power of the Holy Fathers and the Holy Mothers. (Rabbi Ran Yosef Haim Masoud Abuhatzira, https://www.hidush.co.il/hidush.asp?id=16340)
Our children have been exposed to a contradictory point of view.
Here, from a recent newspaper article, is that point of view:
I love my dad, and I’m in no hurry to turn into him.
The article explains:
[There is a concept called] Introjection — the phenomenon of humans absorbing the attitudes, values or traits of the people they spend the most time with. [This concept] never seeped into the popular consciousness. But in 2015, Progressive’s chief marketing officer, Jeff Charney, was hunting for a novel insight about the stages of life around which to build a new ad campaign. He stumbled across the concept of parental introjection — the absorption of the traits of the adults we’re around first and most frequently. [This is the basis of] Progressive’s Dr. Rick ad campaign — in which a tough-love Dr. Phil type helps millennials and Gen Xers avoid taking on their parents’ behaviors.
(Excerpted from: Afraid of becoming your parents? Dr. Rick comes to the rescue, smartly satirizing a generational divide, Washington Post, March 16, 2021)
Think about these diametrically opposed attitudes towards becoming our parents. Where are you holding? Where are your children holding?
Obviously, you and your children are holding by the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu.
According to the Aruch haShulchan, it is obvious. When some of his contemporaries questioned the use of eruvim, the Aruch haShulchan expressed concern over how this challenge would reflect on the fathers and grandfathers who had been using those eruvim. He presented a list of authorities on each side of the issue, and wrote:
Nonetheless, what do we gain from all of this analysis [of the various opinions in Rishonim about whether or not a rishus harabim requires six hundred thousand people] now that most Jewish cities have had eruvim for hundreds of years based on this permission? It is as if a Bas Kol had gone out and said: the halacha is this way. And if we were to [attempt to] stop this [use of eruvim], not alone that they will not obey. We would appear to be going crazy, for this thing has spread throughout Israel and in the poskim… In addition, it is a mitzva and a chova to be melameid zchus on Klal Yisrael. Therefore, I have set it into my heart to find permission, as I will explain b’Siyata d’Shmaya. (Aruch HaShulhan, Orach Chaim, 345:18)
The Aruch haShulchan considered it vital to maintain the respect for fathers and grandfathers that is best demonstrated by emulation. By accepting their practices, we relate to them as role models.
If, on the other hand, we chose not to be like our parents, how does that affect our attitude towards them? How can we see them as role models when we take on different roles?
When a son or daughter takes on the role of baal nefesh or yirei Shamayam as the basis for choosing to be different from a parent, what does this imply? What does he or she think of their parents in contrast to themselves? How do you emulate someone you have superseded?
The Rebbe asked his talmid: Are you modest and humble? Do you admit that the old father represents an old tradition? Do you believe that the father is capable of telling you something new, something exciting, something challenging, something you did not know before? Or are you insolent, arrogant, and vain, denying your dependence upon your father and your makor?
"Do you have a father?!" exclaimed the melamed, pointing at my study mate Yitzik, who was considered the town's prodigy. The melamed turned to him and said: "What do you say? Who knows more, you or your father the blacksmith who can hardly read Hebrew? Are you proud, Yitzik, of your father?” he asked. “Do you feel humble in his presence? Do you have a father?”... (Excerpted from Do You Have a Father?, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, The Jewish Home, Pesach 2021)
How do our children think of their fathers and mothers, grandparents and ancestors? Do they see their parents as partners of Hashem in their creation at birth with no role in their formation into adults?
What should it be? What does the Torah tell us about the role of a father?
Rav Tzadok Hakohein (Machcheves Charutz 86, Yisroel Kedoshim 33, and elsewhere) taught that if we want to understand the essence of a concept, we must look at the first place in Tanach where the word which refers to that concept is found. The way the word is used there teaches us the deepest essence of the meaning underlying that word.
The word for "father" is used for the first time in Bereishis 4:20-21, although it is not used in the context of a biological relationship. The pesukim there say as follows: And Ada gave birth to Yaval, who was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle and the name of his brother was Yuval, he was the father of all those who grasp the lyre and flute. We therefore see that the essence of what it means to be a "father" has nothing to do with biology. These individuals, Yaval and Yuval, initiated new ways of doing things, they blazed new trails such that anyone else who followed in their path throughout history is like their child and they are that person's parents, who brought them into that way of life. (ibid.)
Our role today is to teach our children how to maximize their practice of Yiddishkeit without minimizing someone else’s. We do this by teaching them the principle called shavyei a’nefshei chaticha d’issura.
I eschew something. My choosing to abstain has a valid basis. I respect that those who choose differently also have a valid basis.
Teach your children that making different choices doesn’t always make someone better and someone worse, and daven that they will want to be like you.
Note: For a discussion of when a baal nefesh should be machmir see Yoreh Deah 116:7; Sh’ach 8; Pischei Teshuva 10.
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.