Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Korach 73 - Put your relationship first !

The mission of the spies to the land of Israel ended in disaster. The generation of the spies lost their right to enter the 'promised land' and they were now destined to spend the next 40 years in the desert. There was a lot of dissatisfaction with Moses' Leadership. Korach and his followers challenged Moses right to lead and started a rebellion against Moses. God intervenes -  Moses remains the leader and Korach and his followers are destroyed. The commentators talk about how destructive strife, conflict and friction are to a community and encourage ' Shalom '  peace without sacrificing God's truth. ' Peace –harmony 'is the vessel through which God's blessings is able to reach us as a community and a family.
There is an interesting Medrash Rabah  insight taught by the Rabbis on Psalm 34 verse 15.
'Seek out shalom=peace and pursue it ' The verse says – seek out peace but not Mitzvot = good deeds.
 This medrash is very strange. Are we not taught to seek out and do good deeds , is this not our purpose here in this world?  (our ) Rabbi   Yeruchum from Mir explains that our purpose is really to seek relationships with people based on shalom. If our purpose is to ' collect ' as many good deeds as possible, the focus becomes 'oneself 'and there is the danger of a ' self righteousness'  distorting one's judgment. But when we give our good deeds the context of shalom and relationship, our focus is on the relationship and other people.
What does this Medrash say to us as parents ?
We should ask ourselves – what type of relationship do I have with my kids ? Do they see me as a help, caring and loving , somebody who they can trust and learn from or  do they see me as being judgmental, critical , demanding and show less love when they screw up. ? Instead of being right, and self righteous insisting on ' our principles and standards ' we should focus on relationship. It suggests that we  should put our relationship with our kids first.
Alfie Kohn in his book Unconditional parenting suggests that  we should be careful not to jeopardize our relationship with our kids when we try to get them to do certain things or say the unnecessary Nos. We should consider whether some of our demands are worth pursuing in the first place, are they developmentally appropriate for  a young kid or a kid that is not flexible and has a low frustration tolerance. We can try and make the environment more user-friendly so we need to exercise less control – for example –parents , whose kids play in a safe environment and serve healthy food including for deserts don't need to be controlling in the park or home , limiting what kids can do and  forcing them  to eat healthy foods. We can drop ' our principles ' and lower the rope when it comes to kids rooms so the only place that is truly a child's own does not have to be maintained at high parental standards. We need to ask if what we are doing or demanding is worth the possible strain on the relationship.While ' relationship ' is important as an end , Alfie Kohn suggests the following benefits.Misbehavior is easier to address and problems are easier to solve – when children feel safe enough with us to explain the reasons why they did something wrong. CPS – collaborative problem solving rests on the info we gather from the child about his concerns and perspectives. Kids are more likely to come to us when they are in trouble or to look to us for advice.    Why are parents and teachers the last to know when their kids or students screw up.? Kids are more likely to want to spend time with us when they can choose whether to do so. When kids know they can trust us and their concerns are generally taken into account , they are more likely to do what we ask if we tell them it's really important.
The medrash is telling us parents- remember  to put the relationship first.

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