Monday, September 30, 2013

I Will Walk Alone By The Black Muddy River ( Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Black Muddy River")

As our thirteen year old becomes more social; she prefers to spend time more time with her friends out from the watchful eye of her parents. Recently she found herself confronted with a choice: go along with her friends and disobeying her parents or adhering to the rules and the values she had learned and accepted and not be included by the group friends. I would like to think that most parents share the same attitude regarding their child dealing with peer pressure as we have with our young teenager. We have spent so much time trying to instill a sense of self and sense of purpose. We have attempted to teach her the importance of sometimes having to act alone rather than go along with the crowd. We have tried to teach her the importance of thinking for herself and making decisions that are best for her and not to worry about what everyone else thinks. As parents, we never really know if the lessons are penetrating our child’s brain. We can only hope and pray that when our child gets put into a difficult situation, they will respond the way we have taught them. As our daughter found out, sometimes having lots of friends and being a social butterfly can lead to feeling all alone. Recently she had to make a difficult decision which meant losing a “popularity contest” with her friends. We talked about it over dinner and welcomed her to officially being a teen-ager and dealing with peer pressure. We also explained that this was a good lesson in leadership as well.  Sometimes a person leads by being out in front of an issue. Sometimes a person leads by sitting on ones hands and waiting for the right opportunity to make a point.  Sometimes a person leads by having enough patience and confidence and faith that things work themselves out while simultaneously being minimally invasive. Sometimes a person leads by making sure to cause the least amount of tumult, anguish or divisiveness. Perhaps the great leaders are the ones who know when to sit on his/her hands and knowing when to be aggressively proactive. Noach is an excellent case in point. Certainly he was proactive. He prepared for the Mabul, the Flood. However he didn’t enter into the Ark when the first drops arrived. He waited until the last possible second when there was no hope of saving anymore of God’s creation.
 This week we read Parshat Noach. Noach’s story should be familiar to all of us. God sends a flood as a means of dealing with the growing disappointment in mankind abysmal behavior. However one man, Noach, is deemed Ish Tzadik B’Dorotava righteous man in his generation and God makes a covenant with him and his family.  As a result, Noach, his family, and the male and female of every species will be saved in order to re-create after the flood. God instructs Noach to build a Tevah, an Ark. So Noach becomes proactive and begins building. According to the Midrash Tanchuma, it took Noach 120 years to build the Ark. Also, the Ark was built atop a mountain in order to give Noach the greatest amount of time to complete the project. This meant hauling all the materials up a mountain. Frequently, during these 120 years, Noach faced ridicule from others and death threats. Yet Noach persevered. Imagine spending roughly 1/8th of your life preparing for the future. Imagine spending roughly 1/8th of your life engaged in a single endeavor. Imagine putting off gratification for 1/8th of your life and then knowing your sense of accomplishment is predicated on the destruction of so much. Imagine spending 1/8th of your life hauling Gopher wood up a mountain. Imagine spending a 1/8th of your life contending with the ridicule of others or death threats. Every day Noach spent his time engaged in one activity, building the first aircraft carrier. Eventually the project would become the purpose of living. During this time, Noach’s life was not so easy. In fact, from a practical perspective, Noach’s life seems quite depressing. Yet despite it all, he continued building even though the gratification from the project would not occur for many years.
For most children, making decisions that allow them to be part of the crowd is much more prevalent than making decisions that sets them apart. For most kids, fitting in is much more important than being the best possible person. To be righteous in one’s own generation is no easy task. One must have a strong sense of self, a strong sense of purpose, and a sense of mission to know when to be aggressively proactive and know when to let all that pieces that one worked so hard to prepare to fall into place. Our daughter found it re-assuring that these issues don’t stop when we finish our teenage years. She was relieved to find out that her 23 year old sister still deals with these types of issues. She was ecstatic to find out that both of her parents routinely have to make “unpopular” decisions, even if it means some people very close to us, might be upset. She smiled and immediately realized what we were saying, then thanked us for being good parents even if it means that she gets angry with us some of the time.

Rav Yitz

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