Obama's Nobel Prize and the Jewish Mom

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You love Obama? You hate Obama?

No matter if you are blazing blue or raring-to-go red, we can all agree that it was extremely strange to nominate the new US president for the Nobel Peace Prize after less than two weeks in office (the deadline for nominations was February 1st.)

And this strange decision based on, apparently, nothing more than Obama’s sincere yet absolutely unfulfilled desire to bring peace to the world, has sparked a flurry of funny emails to my inbox. Featuring lines like:

“My neighbor has always wanted to write a novel. After Barack Obama’s Peace Prize, she’s hopeful she might be up for the Nobel Prize for Literature!”

Or, my personal favorite:

“I’ve been trying to balance my checkbook for years. Now I’m thinking I’ve got a good chance at winning the Nobel Prize for Economics!”

(watch what Saturday Night Live has to say on this matter…)

Should somebody win the Nobel Prize simply for the desire to do something?

How ridiculous can you get?

But after chuckling at and forwarding a few emails, I gave it some thought and I realized something…

I realized that Heaven has at least one thing in the common with the Nobel Prize Committee. Because G-d also rewards us for the mere but sincere desire to do the right thing.

In fact, a Jewish mother’s job, more than anything else, is to instill that ratson, that urgent desire to do good, in her children.

For years, my parenting teacher, Rabbanit Talia Helfer, drilled into our heads the following 1st Law of Jewish Parenting:

Contrary to popular belief, your job as a Jewish mom is not to enforce rules- to demand that your son studies Torah every day of summer vacation. Or to pounce if your daughter forgets to say a blessing before biting into that peach. Or to badger your son until he rolls out of bed in order to go to synagogue on Shabbat morning.

Our primary job is, rather, to make sure that our children will love to do the mitzvoth, even if they aren’t yet necessarily doing the mitzvoth.

But what if your child isn’t living up to the religious standards that you would expect? Every single 3-year-old in your entire neighborhood is reciting blessings over food without being reminded, and your 11-year-old just pops food into his mouth without even a shadow of mumble?

What should you do? Rabbanit Talia taught us: Turn the other way. BELIEVE IN YOUR CHILD! And do everything within your power to make that mitzvah irresistibly sweet for him. Give a chocolate chip for every blessing your son says out loud. Stick a star on the chart leading to a new soccer ball. Act out a dramatic story about the angel created with every single blessing uttered from a Jew’s mouth.

If we do our job correctly, our children will ultimately run to do the mitzvoth just like we used to dash down the street when the Good Humor Truck rang its bell promising something cold and sweet and absolutely irresistible.

And G-d willing, this burning desire to do good will energize our children for the rest of their lives—until they are chasing after mitzvoth hand in hand with their own children and grandchildren.

One comment

  1. Beautiful thoughts! Thank you!

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