Parenting: Never Ever Done

According to a straightforward reading of Rashi (Bereshit 37:1), when Yaakov returned to the Land of Canaan he felt that he had suffered enough stress, displacement, and hardship in his life and he could now live a more calm and tranquil existence. He soon had to abandon this hope when Yosef suddenly vanished from his life.  Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895 – 1986) takes issue with this reading because of the subsequent explanation that Rashi provides for how Yaakov went wrong.  According to this reading, Rashi explains that Yaakov’s dream of existential tranquility was never part of the Divine plan.  The only place where the righteous truly rest is in the Afterlife, but in this world the Almighty constantly challenges them with new difficulties and hurdles.  This explanation, writes R. Feinstein, would contradict a Talmudic passage that states clearly that the righteous sometimes have a pleasant time in both this life and the afterlife as well (Horayot 10b).  He therefore interprets Rashi to be referring specifically to the area of parenting and education – chinuch.  Yaakov felt that he had effectively and successfully raised his children, and he therefore didn’t need to worry any further about their conduct and righteousness – until, due to this lapse in his scrutiny, he was blindsided with the tragedy of Yosef’s disappearance.  R. Feinstein writes that this teaches us the awesome extent of the duty of a parent.  No matter how great one’s children may be or, at least, appear to be, a parent can never let his or her guard down.  One must, rather, be ready to constantly and unceasingly – albeit oftentimes while staying concealed in the backdrop – guide, teach, rebuke, and prod them so that they get back on the right track or never fall off it in the first place.  As long as we are alive in this world, when it comes to our children we can never say that we have done enough.

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