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Be Prepared

by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

  

Library » Philosophy » Character | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Boy scouts, marines and firemen pride themselves on always being on guard, ready to cope with any contingency at a moment’s notice. A Vietnam veteran I knew once described how he had been so highly trained to respond to sudden attack during his tour of duty, that even today, if awakened suddenly, he goes into instant survival mode, complete with rolling off the bed and clutching for a rifle.

Except for the rifle it kind of reminded me of my children’s reactions when I try to creep past their bedroom door when coming home late at night. Boom, instant awareness, up and at ‘em, ready to play, willing to talk, and in need of a drink, immediately. Kids are like that; they live their lives with a need for instant gratification. Not for them the dubious pleasures of a long awaited reward. Whatever it is; they want it, they need it, and they need it now.

Too much gravitas and self-awareness can also be destructiveIn many ways this impatience is a sign of immaturity; as we age we learn to appreciate that some good things are worth waiting for. I read a study where four year old kids were presented with a chocolate and a proposition: “Eat the bar now, if you wish” they were told, “but if, when I come back to the room, the chocolate is still there, you will receive two bars.” Those kids who exhibited self-control averaged far greater success in later life than did those who gobbled up the delicacy.

When we educate our kids to the teachings and tenets of Judaism we are hopefully training them to exhibit this degree of self-control. A child who learns to wait after eating meat before drinking milk, checks the packet for a Kosher symbol before indulging, and waits for Shabbat to end before firing up his computer game, is a child who is learning to achieve mastery over his desires, and this training will hopefully stand in good stead when older and called upon to resist more addictive or destructive attractions.

On the other hand too much gravitas and self-awareness can also be destructive. Rabbi Shalom of Kaminka was sitting with a group of his disciples late one night when the refreshments ran out. They made a quick whip-around to collect enough money to keep the party going. People gave generously but nobody volunteered to leave the cozy gathering to head out into the cold to buy the supplies. The Rabbi observed all this and then suggested, “give me the money, I have a young boy waiting outside, I’ll send him.”

When the Rabbi reappeared, some half hour later, the shame-faced disciples belatedly realized that the Rabbi himself had run the errand. Noticing their embarrassment, the Rabbi explained: “Don’t think I lied when I told you I’d send a boy to do the job. Many years ago I decided that it was time to set aside my childish preoccupations and grow up. Unfortunately, too often when we take on the trappings of adulthood we abandon even the positive characteristics of childhood, such as curiosity, enthusiasm and ambition. I resolved that I wouldn’t let that happen to me. Even now, I always have ‘my boy’ waiting for me ‘outside,’ ready to be called upon when I need to reclaim my youthful exuberance and hustle.”

Our challenge is to think like an adult, act like a kid. Develop a taste for beauty, and an appreciation for all that is precious in this world. Be prepared to work, sacrifice and wait until you can achieve success. Learn G-d, love Judaism.

Once persuaded of the truth of your mission, chase that goal with all the passion, excitement and perseverance of a child, with a singularity of purpose; crying and trying, till you get not just what you want, but also that which you truly need.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.