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: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

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: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…