By Yochanan Gordon
I had a business relationship with the owner of a local mattress retailer. On one of my sales visits to him, in addition to our discussing his regular display ad in the paper he began inquiring into placing a classified ad, seeking a new salesman/manager. I detected a smirk on his face, so naturally I asked him what that was all about. He said, “He recently came into work one afternoon and found his salesman sound asleep on one of his plush mattresses. Jokingly, I said, “What could be a better testament to the comfort and quality of your products than your own salesperson sleeping so comfortably on it?” It was clearly understood however, that sleeping on the job was not in this salesman’s job description and so he was seeking a new, more responsible manager for his store.
Pesach is now behind us. In addition to all of the food and junk which we normally have no problem laying off of, as well as the Torah and words of inspiration and added study time which many do not normally have, we were also afforded more time to spend with our families. For kids of any age, be it at home or in school, from the lowest grades all the way on up, it is important for us as parents to have the opportunity to gauge their growth and development personally and academically, and yom tov provides ample time for us to get an idea of how things are progressing.
Despite the unpredictability of the weather these days there were a couple of opportunities for us to head out to the Lawrence park, giving the kids an opportunity to run free and expend all of the youthful energy that they are filled with before tiring themselves out and getting ready for another night’s sleep. No value could be placed on the importance of kids having time and an outlet outside of their school days to be kids. But more important than the time affordability is the presence of a parent to acknowledge and express contentment and satisfaction while the child is enjoying him or herself.
We have all at one point spoken about or overheard people discussing family planning. What we could take away from the matter is that Jews as a whole are not into family planning. Despite the exorbitant costs incurred with the birth of every child, we still hear of families with upwards of 15 children. Perhaps this is based on the belief that each child causes further blessing on the livelihood in the family and so as believers we don’t pay too much attention to statistics. However, there still are those cynics who look in wonderment at the yeshiva families with eight or nine children where the father is getting a small kollel stipend and the wife contributes however much she could by assuming the responsibility of breadwinner in the family. At the same time however, these people earn six or perhaps seven figure annual salaries which requires 60 hours a week in the office as well as untold hours of work at home, leaving little time to personal spiritual growth as well as time for the wife and kids. Time is just as valuable a resource as is money. So if, in your opinion, a meager salaried family should better balance the number of children they have, I would say a family which just does not have the time and the level of self sacrifice that it takes to bring up physically and emotionally healthy children needs more balance as well.
It was troubling to see how many kids over yom tov had to spend their afternoons running around at the park being watched by a home helper because their parents needed the time at home to rest up before yom tov is over and their grueling schedules are back in full swing. Parenting was never meant to be easy and it requires a constant watchful eye and self sacrifice in order to ensure the wholesomeness and happiness of each child. In a family where both husband and wife work fulltime jobs and there are kids at home who need to be looked after, there is little that could be done to avoid having that help around the house to put our minds at ease in that regard. However, at times like on a Shabbos afternoon, after dinner on a late spring or summer evening, and especially during yom tov, a child should have their parents at their side while they unwind and at the same time get the recognition and acknowledgement necessary for their development.
In addition to the halachic aspects of the yom tov as well as the joy and pleasure derived from the culinary extravagance and the abundance of shiurim, yom tov is there so that we could spend time on personal reflection. I was always puzzled as to the relevance of the prayer for strange dreams that we recite during the Priestly blessings during Mussaf. In light of all this, perhaps, it is due to the inconsistency in the dreams and aspirations that we have in life and the amount of effort and self sacrifice that we are willing to invest to see those dreams through to fruition. There, the Kohanim are blessing us with peace. The word for peace in Hebrew is shalom, which is comprised of the same letters as shalem, or whole. We all aspire to raise physically and emotionally wholesome families but we sometimes are not honest with ourselves with regards to what it takes to achieve that end goal. In the Shir Hama’alos that we recite before Bentsching, it says, “Those who plant in tears will reap the fruits with joy.” A child too is born as a result of a seed. In order to joyfully reap the rewards of our families, we have to be willing to sacrifice not just our money but more importantly our time so that they know that they come first without any excuses.
Parenting is a job that spans a lifetime. Vacations are necessary and expected but we have to be prepared to give it our all while we are on the job and not get caught sleeping, even on Shabbos and yom tov, because that is not in the job description. v
Yochanan Gordon is a sales manager and contributing editor for the weekly 5 Towns Jewish Times. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.