Communication is Key
I’m currently reading Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields. One of the challenges with parenting is just that, how do we raise good humans? As parents, we are leaders in our own homes. It is impossible to raise good humans if we are not good ourselves. Hunter Clarke-Fields writes that communication is one of the keys. Her book encourages us to communicate to our children in a way so that they will listen. Without giving the book away, she mentions that we must love our children unconditionally, learn that it is Ok to experience various emotions: anger, sadness, grief, but learn to manage those emotions so that they do not control our lives. Then, we can help our children also learn to manage those emotions.
The book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) is a Master Class on communication given by Moshe. Moshe reminds B’nai Yisrael of the past, where they are in the present, and what could happen in the future. Moshe begins Parashat Re’eh with the words:
"See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced.”
רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה
אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם
וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לָלֶ֗כֶת אַחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם (Devarim 11:26-28).
Moshe is reminding us of our freedom to choose. We can choose between good and evil. Moshe wants us to focus on the big picture. It is easy to get lost in all of the minutiae of day-to-day life. Jewish law, with its 613 mitzvot, is very detailed. Each and every aspect of our lives is meant to be holy. I saw a quote on Instagram that said “Judaism isn’t meant to remove you from this world. It’s actually meant to be a platform that enriches your experiences within it.”
According to Rabbi Sacks, “Moshe is telling us not to think that we can survive as a nation among nations, worshipping what they worship and living as they live. If we do, we will be subject to the universal law that has governed the fate of nations from the dawn of civilization to today. Nations are born, they grow, they flourish; they become complacent, then corrupt, then divided, then defeated, then they die, to be remembered only in history books and museums. In the case of Israel, small and intensely vulnerable, that fate will happen sooner rather than later. That is what Moshe calls “the curse.””
Moshe communicated effectively to B’nai Yisrael that even though it will not be easy if we choose good, we will be rewarded. Life is full of trials and tribulations. What matters is how w respond when we experience difficult times. Will we fall further into decline or as the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say will our “descent lead to an ascent”?
Alexander Tytler wrote about the cycle of decline. Beginning with bondage->spiritual faith->courage->liberty->abundance->selfishness->complacency->apathy->dependence->bondage. This cycle of decline is happening throughout western society, including America. It is very sad how, nations that at one time valued freedom, succumb to the winds of change. However, things can turn around. Leaders who can effectively communicate our purpose; to live a life that G-d has laid out for us and share that message with others, will change the tide. We have a choice; will we choose wisely?