Some time ago, the province instituted a no-zero policy in schools. It became illegal to give a kid a zero on an examination for fear of ruining their self-esteem. Only one bold teacher stood up and declared the law ridiculous. If a kid wasn’t prepared to put it in the work, he didn’t deserve a good grade!
It’s getting harder and harder today to please our kids. They grow up with a sense of entitlement. They’re so used to getting whatever they want, and we, as parents, are so scared that if we don’t give them what they ask for, we might scar them for life.
What went wrong and how do we rectify the situation?
The Rabbis taught: Once all of Israel went up for the pilgrimage festival to Jerusalem and there was not enough water for them to drink. Nakdimon Ben Gurion went to a gentile statesman and asked that he lend him twelve springs of water for the pilgrims. He would return the springs by a certain date and if not, he promised to pay him twelve talents of silver, a considerable sum indeed.
The agreed upon date arrived and the rain had not yet fallen. In the morning, the statesman sent a message to Nakdimon requesting either the water or the money that was owed to him. Nakdimon responded with a message indicating that the day was still young. In the afternoon, he once again sent a message requesting either the water or the money owing. Again, he sent back that the day was not yet over.
The statesman mocked, “The entire year, it has not rained and now you expect it to rain?!” He then entered the bathhouse joyfully. While he went off to the bathhouse, Nakdimon entered the Holy Temple in a state of melancholy. He wrapped himself up in his tallis and stood in prayer.
He said to the Almighty, “Master of the universe, it is obvious to You that I did not engage in this deal for my honour or the honour of my family, but I did it for Your honour so that the pilgrims would have water.”
Immediately, the sky was filled with clouds and the rain poured down until the twelve springs overflowed. As the statesman was exiting the bathhouse, Nakdimon was leaving the Temple. They bumped into one another and Nakdimon said, “Nu, give me the change!”
The man replied, “I know that the Almighty only shook the world for your sake. But I still have a claim to make of you to demand my payment. The sun has already set and so the rain came down on my time!”
Nakdimon returned to the Temple. He wrapped himself and stood in prayer.
He said to G-d, “Master of the universe, let it be known that You have loved ones in Your world.” Immediately, the clouds dispersed and the sun shone. At that moment, the statesman said to him, “Had the sun not pierced through, I would have had a claim on you to exact my payment. . .”
It was taught: His name was actually not Nakdimon, but Bernie. Why was he called Nakdimon? Because the sun was ‘nikdema’ (brought forward) for his sake.
How did Nakdimon earn his title? It wasn’t for the miracle of the rain. It was for the second miracle of the sun shining through the clouds. What was different about the two times he entered the Temple to pray? The first time, he asks G-d not to perform a miracle for his sake, but for the Almighty’s sake. The second time, he asks G-d to demonstrate His love for him.
In other words, the first time, Nakdimon asks G-d for a miracle because that’s what he expects of G-d. His act of munificence in purchasing the water for the community was hardly munificent if at the end of the day he expected G-d to pay up! It’s just like our children talk to us – they just expect us to give them whatever they want.
The second time, Nakdimon was honest with himself and His Maker. He realizes that he had not acted altruistically and was just expecting G-d to compensate him. So, this time instead he asks, ‘Do it because You love me.’ At this point he faces up to the truth of his actions and appeals for salvation based upon G-d’s love for him. That is what earned him the real miracle of the story and his new title.
We want to give the world to our children. But we need to impress upon them that we really don’t owe them anything. We do it because we love them. Once they understand the right way to ask, the whole relationship changes. They are no longer demanding out of a sense of entitlement. Instead, they reach out to us with love and we respond with love.
And we’re just as guilty. How often do you do our Father in Heaven’s bidding, expecting something back from Him in return? If you’re serving Him with expectations of reward, are you really serving Him? Or are you serving yourself?
It’s okay to appeal to G-d for your needs and wants. But not because He owes you anything. He has given you so much more in your life than your actions merit! Ask Him for your needs because He loves you. And just like a parent would do anything for their child, G-d wants to provide you with your needs and wants.
He loves you! Talk to him. Tell Him what you need. He will provide because He loves you so so much!