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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Keeping our apples close to the tree

Beitzah 2

‘He who is frummer than I is crazy.  He who is not as frum is lazy.  (And as for me?  Well I guess you could say I’m just a little hazy. . .)’

We all think of ourselves as the ultimate centrist Jew; that we have found exactly the right formula and balance in our religious life.   As a result, we hope that our children will be ‘chips off the old block;’ that they will follow precisely in our footsteps.  And after all, why wouldn’t they?  I’ve figured it all out already!

And yet so many do not.  What are we doing wrong?

Beis Shammai says that if an egg was laid on Yom Tov, it may be eaten immediately. But according to Beis Hillel, it may not be eaten until after the festival.

Rabba explains that the Mishnah deals with a case when Yom Tov fell on Sunday.  Beis Hillel’s concern is that if the egg was laid on Sunday, then it must have completed its growth on Shabbos, the day before.  Since it was ‘created’ on Shabbos, it may not be eaten. 

“So do you mean to say,” asks Abaye, “if Yom Tov fell on Monday, then Beis Hillel would agree that the egg may be eaten?”

“No,” responds Rabba, “due to the concern of a case like ours where Shabbos and Yom Tov are back to back, the rabbis instituted that one may never eat an egg laid on Yom Tov.  That way people won’t err and eat it when Yom Tov falls on Friday or Sunday.”

“But didn’t we learn,” continues Abaye, “that if one slaughtered a chicken on Yom Tov and discovered a fully-grown egg inside, one may eat it (since it is treated like a limb of the chicken)?  Why didn’t the rabbis likewise decree in that case that the egg is forbidden since we don’t know when it was created?”

Answers Rabba, “Finding fully-formed eggs inside their mother is a rare occurrence.  And the rabbis didn’t make rules for rare exceptions.”

Much as we might like to have our children stay in our nest until they are fully-formed replicas of ourselves; it is a rare occurrence indeed.  As parents, we can only do so much in shaping our kids’ attitudes and values before they go out into the big wide world and make their own decisions about life and how they’d like to live it.

It is rare to find young adults who are perfect ‘chips off the old block.’  Why is that so?

Whether we like it or not, they are being exposed in their lives to so much more than the ‘traditional’ values that we have instilled in them.   If we want our children to end up somewhat resembling our religious and other values, we need to make sure that we are offering them both sides of our ‘centrist’ perspective.

For all the hours of extra-curricular dance and sports programs we enroll our kids in, are they getting just as much extra Jewish programming?  When we visit Israel, do we take our kids just to experience the Tel Aviv beaches and nightlife or do we also take them to a chasidic tish in Meah Shearim, to balance things out?   Just because it may not reflect my family’s values doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t offer the experience to my kids to taste, especially if I’m offering them other experiences that may or may not reflect my values. 

The chances that our children will be ‘fully-formed in their mother’s womb’ are getting less and less with every Jewish population study.  The latest statistics are terrifying – it is now more likely that your children will marry outside the faith than in it.   What opportunities are you providing your children with to counterbalance that scary probability?

What are the chances that your daughter will wear a shaitel when she gets married?   What are the chances that your son will choose to learn a couple of years in kollel?  These might not be your ideal choices in life, but unless there’s at least as much probability that these things could occur as intermarriage, G-d forbid, then you are not even trying to create ‘chips off the block.’

They used to say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  That’s only true under normal climatic conditions. In the storm that we find ourselves today, the apple could land miles away, Heaven forfend. There are no guarantees in life, but if your hope is that your children will share your values once they have left your nest, you must do your very best to ensure that their religious experience is as balanced and wholesome as possible. 

Today’s Life Yomi is dedicated l’iluy nishmas harav Yosef ben harav Eliyahu Mordechai, Rabbi Joseph Maza zt”l.  Rabbi Maza had the merit of seeing not only children but grandchildren who were ‘chips off the old block,’ following in his righteous footsteps.  


  1. I guess the question is, am I a chip off the old block of my parents and what might have changed the scene for me and what's likely to further change it for my kids.

    1. Knowing your folks as I do, I think it's a real tribute to them that you are your siblings are all 'chips off the old block.' My bracha to you is that you aspire to achieve the success of your parents with your own children!