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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

You have dozens of kids you don't know about

Daf Yomi Kesubos 18


What should the topic of conversation be at the Shabbos table?  Should you talk politics?  Current affairs?  According to Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, it’s all about the kids.  Talk parsha (the weekly Torah portion) with them.  Ask them what they’re learning in school.  Even if you have guests at the table, it doesn’t matter, says Rabbi Twerski.  The guests must know that Shabbos is about the children.

After reading Rabbi Twerski’s sage advice, we adopted this policy in our home for some time.  Until one day it backfired when a young man came into my office to chat.  He had some concerns that he spoke about with me, but at the end of the conversation, he shared something that had been troubling him.

“A couple of months ago, my wife and I were at your Shabbos table and we felt like extras.  You seemed to be focused on your own children.  You hardly asked us about our lives.  We were wondering why you’d even bothered inviting us.”

The Beraisa taught: Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: Sometimes a person must take an oath due to his own admission.  How so?  If one claimed to an orphan, ‘I owed your father a maneh (one hundred zuz), but I repaid him half of it,’ he must swear to that effect.  And this case is one such example of taking on oath due to his own admission.  But the Sages say:  He is merely akin to one who is returning lost property and is exempt from swearing.

The Gemara inquires: Does Rabbi Eliezer not agree that if one returns lost property he is exempt from swearing?
Rav answers: We are dealing with a case where the child initiated the claim against the debtor.
The Gemara asks: But the master taught that we do not demand an oath on account of the claim of a deaf-mute, deranged person, or child?
The Gemara answers: What does child mean?  Adult child.  Why is he called a child?  For with regards to his father’s matters, he is like a child.

Everyone likes to imagine themselves as a child at heart.  And certainly, we are all still children of our parents.   What’s more, when it comes to various aspects of our lives, each of us still has a long way to go in terms of our growth and maturity. 

I am indebted to that young man who opened up my eyes to my Shabbos table and how I could take care of all the ‘children’ around the table.  In one way or another, that’s each person sitting there.  Sure, I have a duty to my own children to teach them the parsha, but what about the spiritual children whom I had invited over – did they know the parsha?  Did they feel like an active part of the Shabbos table?  Did they feel loved and appreciated and integral to the future of our people, the same way I wanted my biological children to feel?

One’s passport is only one indicator of age.  It might be able to tell you how many years have passed since a person came into this world.  But it can’t tell you how emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually mature they are.  Everyone is a child in some aspect of their lives.  When you seek their welfare, you become their ‘parent’ in that sphere. 

Children need our attention.  But we live in a time when most of our people are spiritual children.  May you merit to parent hundreds and thousands of our people and get much nachas from all of your kinderlach (kids)!