Parenting through the Parsha: Lech Lecha and our Master Plan

Molnár József: Ábrahám kiköltözése

Abraham's Journey from Ur to Canaan by Jozsef Molnar 1850

I have to give a shout out to my insightful husband Rafi, for the spark that contributed to this post. We were discussing my son’s former pre-school teacher and her talent for organizing and teaching a mixed-age class of 3-5 year-olds.  She was so successful that my 3 year-old son came home talking about Vincent Van Gough and Marc Chagall. My husband’s contention:  “The fact is, she had a plan! She knew where she wanted to take her students, and she got there.” As I was thinking about this week’s Parasha, Rafi’s words rang true.In Parashat Lech Lecha, Hashem reveals Himself to Avram five times.

  • Once at the beginning when Hashem says, “lech lecha…” and commands Avram to leave his home and family in Haran and go to “the land that I will show you.” (Bereishit 12: 1-3).
  • Once again, Hashem appears when Avram was somewhere outside of Shchem and says “To your offspring I will give this land” (Bereishit 12:7-9).
  • Hashem appears to Avram upon his return to Beit-El following his journey to Egypt because of a famine in the Land of Israel (Bereishit 13:14-18).
  • A fourth time after Avram’s praise of Hashem to the King of Sdom.  But here, it appears Avram is getting antsy. He is aging and hasn’t yet seen even a slight fulfillment of Hashem’s promise of offspring and land (Bereishit 15:1-21).
  • Finally, a fifth time at the end of the Parasha, Hashem changes Avram’s name to Avraham and his wife’s from Sarai to Sara. Hashem also informs the now Avraham, a 99 year-old elder,  and his 89 year-old wife, that by the same time the following year, they will give birth to the son. This son will fulfill Hashem’s promise of descendants and land. (Bereishit 17:9-22).

A careful reading of this Parasha would make anyone wonder why on earth Avraham trusted Hashem and didn’t despair after so many years. Clearly, Hashem was able to communicate with Avraham in a way that resonated with Avraham, but even so, it still took about twenty-five years of waiting for Hashem to fulfill His promise of a son. That’s a long time to wait, even for someone with the utmost trust. Clearly Hashem had a plan, but the key was his ability to show Avraham the way without having to reveal the plan. He had to know His audience, so to speak.

The relationship between Hashem and Avraham gives us tremendous insight into parenting our children. The simple trust that Avraham exhibits towards Hashem is the same trust that inherently exists between children and parents.

This instinctive trust is a powerful tool that we, as parents, must use with care. Our children won’t always be able to tell us what is best for them. No child will say, “Mommy, can you please turn the television off, I think three hours is enough. I’m going to go read a book.” Ok, never say never, but kids shouldn’t have to be the ones to say that. Parenting is our job, right?

Well, that’s precisely what the Parasha is talking about. What do we do with our children’s instinctive trust in us? Just like it is clear that Hashem has a plan (that Avraham is unaware of), we must parent our children with a plan, with a purpose. Our goal must be to think about where we want our children to go and who they will become. We can’t control the future, but we can parent with a purpose, teach our children good values and habits and try to guide them along the path we think is best for them.

We should ask ourselves questions like, “Is this junk food really good for them, or is it just an easy way out for me?”, “Will the tone I’m using with my kids show them that they matter to me, or will it show them that I’m being selfish right now?”, “Will having the TV on right now be good for them in the long-run, or can they fill their time more productively?”. Asking ourselves questions like these, while sometimes difficult and not always instinctive, along with paying closer attention to our actions, helps us define for ourselves what our master plan is.

I’m not saying there should be no TV or that we must never show impatience. But I am saying that we must think, be conscious and conscientious. Have an internal conversation that goes something like, “Will the fact that I do X help Sara become a Y kind of person?” We just have to remember to stop for a moment and think.

What do we want our kids futures to look like? Do we want them to be nice, giving people? Then why not volunteer once a week, or call a friend who is sick? Do we want them to be intelligent, inquisitive people one day? Then why not read a good book and talk about it at home? Or go to the museum or on an “adventure” walk?

Our kids won’t know our plan, but once we have one, they will instinctively know they are headed in the right direction.

What’s your master parenting plan? Have you thought about the values you’d like to impart on your kids? If so, let me know!

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