| Parshah |

Of Papas and Mamas

Chazal say that women have a tendency to utilize outside influence more in their avodas Hashem

“And Haran died during the lifetime of his father Terach…” (Bereishis 11:28)


he famous midrash describes Terach renouncing his two “blasphemous” children to King Nimrod, who gave them an ultimatum: Either worship idolatry or be burned alive in a fiery oven. Avraham adamantly refused to worship idols and was thrown into the furnace. Miraculously, he emerged unscathed.
Meanwhile, his brother Haran was weighing his options, as he knew he’d be next. Haran decided that if Avraham were saved, he would follow him, and if Avraham were burned, he would worship Nimrod’s idols. When Avraham emerged unscathed, Haran allowed himself to be thrown into the furnace — but he was burned. However, the Midrash explains, he wasn’t burned in a normal fashion. His innards were burned, but he came out of the oven alive, and then died.
How do we understand Haran’s behavior and punishment? Was he a rasha? A fool? A gambler? (Rabbi Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg, The Torah Connection)

They say opposites attract. My husband and I are a good example of that concept. He’s logical, grounded, a math and science person. I’m impulsive, creative, total literature brain. He’s a chess man; I’m a Scrabblephile. We complement each other perfectly, each stepping in to fit the slot that works best.

Until it came to PTA for my boys.

For decades, I’d show up to my girls’ PTA, with mental lists of issues and topics, wanting to get a comprehensive picture of how each daughter was doing academically, socially, emotionally.

Then those years phased out, and it was the boys’ turn. Where I live, it’s mostly the fathers who attend PTA, and I was more than happy to pass the torch.

This question is further compounded as the Chasam Sofer points out that while all the Avos come from Avraham, all the Imahos come from Haran! The males from Haran — Lot, Besuel, and Lavan — were seriously lacking. How to explain this dichotomy?

After the first PTA in the cheder, my husband came home after 20 minutes.

I was confused. “Did you speak to each rebbi?”

“Sure. The rebbeim said the boys are all doing fine. B’seder.”

B’seder. No further questions.

My husband learned with each child and knew where each was holding academically. But what about the other issues? Their social life? Their organizational skills? My brain was sputtering with questions.

The Maharal explains that there are two types of people. One type has very objective thinking; these people are very secure in their beliefs and immune to outside influences. Avraham was on the “other side” of the rest of the world — all of whom worshipped idols. Avraham possessed the incredible ability to withstand outside pressure. There are others, however, who advance in their avodas Hashem with support from the outside, by speaking to a rav or mentor, by observing the other’s world and learning from them.
Chazal say that women have a tendency to utilize outside influence more in their avodas Hashem. They speak more, are more perceptive toward others’ needs, and in general have more mercy and empathy. The Gemara tells us a son has a natural tendency to honor his mother more than his father, “because she wins him over with pleasant words.”
These middos are what Haran had as well. However, in his unique avodas Hashem, it wasn’t appropriate for him. Yet he was able to correct this failing by being moser nefesh, once he recognized Avraham’s stalwart belief.
Haran’s middos are exceptional when utilized by the Imahos of Klal Yisrael. But the males stemming from him were seriously lacking. That’s why his insides were burned in the fire, but his outsides were not. He lacked the internal commitment, relying on outside influences to guide him.

When the next PTA came along, I was determined to ferret out more info.

“Can I come along?”

“You want to? You may feel like the odd woman out.”

Sure enough, although there were a couple of women there, I was surrounded by black hats and jackets, feeling like a peacock among pigeons. But I was the mother. I needed to know how my child was doing, on all fronts.

If the rebbeim were surprised to see me there, they didn’t show it. They answered all my questions about recess playmates, missing notebooks, and lunchtime habits.

By the time we left, I felt reassured.

As we left the building, my husband looked at me in a mixture of wonder and amazement,

“Boy,” he said, holding open the door, “PTA with you sure takes a lot longer!”


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 815)

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