Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Chinuch -- Utilizing Nature/Mazal

Shlomo HaMelech tells us, Mishlei 22:6:
חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר, עַל-פִּי דַרְכּוֹ -- גַּם כִּי-יַזְקִין, לֹא-יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה.
Education/train/nurture the child according to his way; also when he grows older/wiser he will not turn away.
The Gr'a explains why it has to be according to the child's way.  Everyone is born with certain innate character traits, which the Gr"a says is the meaning of "mazal".  For example, a person born under the mazal of m'adem will have a nature to spill blood.  He is born with that, neither he nor anyone else can change it.  Trying to change it will only be a futile exercise in frustration.  Worse, he may do what you want while he is under your control, but as soon as he out from under your control he will throw off the training.  Truthfully, this is powerful advice even for an adult trying to work on himself.  You must know that you have a certain "hard wired" nature.  You can try to fight it, and you may win many battles, but in the end the war will be lost.

The chinuch, therefore, must be done in such a way that it uses the nature of the person.  This really shouldn't be such a surprise.  If you try to train a duck to stalk and a cat to swim, you are setting yourself up for failure.  We don't think of our nature, though, as that fixed, but prefer to think that we just need to curb our "tendencies".  We are wrong.  So what should a person do?  Is he doomed to be a murderer?!  Obviously not; while we have no choice about our natures, we have complete freedom of choice as to how we utilize that nature.  A rasha will choose to be a murderer, an average person may choose to be a butcher, the tzadik will chose to be a mohel.

According to this, the pasuk could equally have read "al pi tivo"/according to his nature.  Rabeinu Yona explains that chinuch is a derech, a pathway; constantly moving, constantly changing, constantly requiring decisions.  The beauty of that is that one should never feel he is stuck; "This is the way I have to act; I'll never change!"  The mistake is to confuse one's nature (which is out of his control) with what he can do with it (which is completely in his control).  You can't choose whether you are a '57 Ford or an '89 Ferrari.  You can and must choose which road to take, and you can turn off any time.

Parents provide chinuch; there are better and not so better parents.  Teachers/rebei'im provide chinuch; there are better and not better teachers/rebei'im.  Ultimately, you are your own m'chanich, and you can be as good as you want to be.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…