| Parshah |

Think or Sink

Failure to think causes failure to succeed spiritually




“Let us make man in our image, as our likeness…” (Bereishis 1:26)


A famous brain surgeon once commented that if the soul really does exist in man, it probably resides in the brain, for it’s the most mysterious and magical part of the human body. As our bodies are in Hashem’s image, our minds are our reflection of His divineness on earth.
If the goal of life were the pursuit of physical pleasures, there’d be no need for man to be created with divineness within him. Our G-dliness forces us to pursue a higher calling, to make morally correct decisions using our precious gift of thinking. (Rav Shmuel Brazil)

“So, who’s your rebbi?” My kids all jumped on each other as they returned home on the first day of school.

“Rebbi Fried,” Yitzi answered. “I heard he is strict-o.”

Behind his back, Binyamin wiggled his eyebrows, reminding me that he’d had Rebbi Fried two years earlier for math. If my memory served me correctly, the math he’d learned was mainly along the lines of three strikes and you’re out.

In general, I’ve been really happy with my boys’ teachers over the years. I hoped Rabbi Fried wouldn’t change that attitude.

Everyone would love to have a life coach accompany them throughout the day. Truthfully, we all already have one. It’s the heavenly spark in our brain that directs and encourages us to stay on the right path.
The rebbi of the Chofetz Chayim, Rav Nochum Grodna, went so far as to pay someone to follow him around the entire day taking notes on his speech and actions, so he could review them nightly.
We don’t have to listen to our brain’s life coach. We can tune out and distract ourselves with physicality until we no longer hear that moral voice. A great quote I’ve read: “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our deeds.”
As they say, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Failure to think causes failure to succeed spiritually.

A week later, reality came knocking.

“Where’s your watch, Yitzi?” I asked innocently as he was running late one morning.

“Rebbi took it,” he said nonchalantly, gathering his books. “I was twirling it during class without realizing it. But he said he’ll give it back in a week.”

A week? For absentmindedly twirling a watch? Yitzi was a good kid and his watch kept him on time for school, minyan, Erev Shabbos… What right did the rebbi have to confiscate it? What kind of chinuch message was he sending?

My thoughts were picking up momentum as I picked up the phone to give the rebbi a piece of my mind. Then I planned to call the principal. This wasn’t even the first punishment Yitzi had gotten in the past few days and all for doing nothing. It had to stop!

Consider the following acronym as assessment before you act or speak: THINK: Truth, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind. When we discipline ourselves to THINK this way before acting, we’re using our divine reflection of Hashem to form deeper relationships with Him, our fellow man, and even with ourselves.

The arrival of the school bus thwarted my phone call. By the time all the kids left, I’d put the brakes on my reactions and realized I’d miss the piece of my mind I’d been ready to give over. How would this rebbi react to a hysterical mother confronting him one week into school? Couldn’t bode well for Yitzi. And how would the principal relay my concerns, if I came in riled up over this incident?

Taking a deep breath, I went into my closet where I keep stationery items and chose one of my nicest gift bags, then headed off to the supermarket for pomegranates-shaped chocolates and a small bottle of liquor. I added a personal note wishing the rebbi a shanah tovah and wrote how much Yitzi had been looking forward to the new year.

Then I said a perek Tehillim and stapled a pretty ribbon to the top.

After a moment’s thought, I decided like packages were in order for all my kids’ teachers. I don’t know if they’ll help me solve this specific punishment problem — but unlike that method, these couldn’t hurt.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 761)

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