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Thought for the Day: When Chinuch and Hanhaga Collide

There is very little that can compare to the nachas of walking with an einikl (oh yeah? so you figure out how to transliterate the yiddish word for grandchild) to shul.  Beyond that, of course, it is also important chinuch for the child.  I regularly daven k'vasikin (when I wake up in time) and my grandchildren live in communities that don't have a vasikin minyan.  That means I daven early on Shabbos and Yom Tov, then just need to get to shul for k'rias ha'torah and mussaf.  As a consequence, I have the opportunity take my darling einiklach (that's plural) at a younger age than usual, since we can leave later than daddy and tati who need to get there for shacharis.

On this last Thursday/Friday/Shabbos yontif, I walked with my granddaughter and a bag of books to shul Thursday morning.  We had a fascinating conversation about snozberries; into which she had put a surprising amount of thought.  Thursday afternoon she asked me if the next day was Yom Tov again; I replied in the affirmative; she squealed happily, "I get to walk to shul with you again!"  Awesome.  Friday we again walked to shul with her bag of books and talked about what different groups are called.  Started with group of birds is a flock, group of cows is a herd, etc.  Then she moved to, "What's a group of houses called?  What about a group of cars?"  I am not sure how much was curiosity and how much was her sense of humor.  In any case, I squeaked by.  (Houses: neighborhood.  Cars; traffic or parking lot, depending on how fast they are moving.)

She was so enthralled with the walk to shul with zeidy that she even agreed to take a nap Friday afternoon so she could stay up later than usual to walk to shul that night.  We walked to shul with her books Friday night. Wonderful.  Then about to head home and I broke into a cold sweat.  The bag of books was pretty heavy.  She could certainly carry them from room to room, but had never carried them the whole walk to or from shul.  Now we were walking home on Shabbos and carrying became an issue for me.

There is an eiruv in her neighborhood; a completely acceptable, metropolitan eiruv.  No problem in principle with granddaughter carrying her books on Shabbos.  Not because she is a k'tana and is not yet chayeves in mitzvos.  If that were the reason, then we she would not be allowed to carry the books, just like she can't watch videos on Shabbos.  She has certainly reached the age of chinuch (for things like that, anyway), and we must m'chanech our children in correct behavior.  (We don't give a child a lulav and lemon, for example.  You do it right or not at all.)  The reason she can carry her books is because the eiruv is kosher.  So why can't I carry?  Because the Mishna Brura, while concluding that a well constructed metropolitan  eiruv is kosher, also ends off that a "ba'al nefesh" should be stringent.  So I am stringent.  In case of a compelling need, of course, I could carry.

Of course, in case of dire need, I could carry something.  Chinuch is important.  Building a relationship between generations is important.  Learning to go to shul and comport oneself properly is important.  Are those compelling needs, though?  I couldn't really justify that in my mind.  Moreover, there is also chinuch in knowing that Jews need to grow and change their whole lives; it's ok for her to know I have stringencies she doesn't.

As we were leaving, I explained that I could not help her carry her bag of books home and that maybe she wanted to leave them there for the next day?  No, she replied, she'd carry them.  (She can be stubborn... I have no clue where she gets that.)  It was both inspiring and heart-rending to see her pick up the bag, drag the bag, switch to the other arm, try with both hands... and so forth.  After watching her struggle like that for nearly half a block, HaShem dropped an idea into my head.  I had her put the bag on her shoulder, and I held her hand.  She was carrying the bag, I was just holding my sweet granddaughter's hand.  And that's how we walked the rest of the way home.

If it's the right thing to do, it can be done halachically correctly.  If it can't be done halachically correctly, then it's not the right thing to do.


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