During a Tuesday evening a few weeks ago, one of our younger sons asked me to turn the shower on for him. Being that the first burst of water is cold water, he wanted the water to be nice and warm when he went in. Being the incredible father that I am, I went to do so. Standing on the outside of the shower, fully dressed, I unsuspectingly turned the nozzle full blast. I was totally unprepared for the rush of cold water that sprayed me in the face and drenched the bathroom. It took me a few seconds before I realized that the shower head had been facing outwards. I was wet and annoyed, as I cleaned the water from all over the bathroom.
When I came downstairs a few minutes later, my wife asked me what I thought of the new cleaning lady. I replied that although she did a decent job cleaning, she needed to learn to turn the shower head back towards the shower when she was finished cleaning it.
It’s famously said that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. A wise friend noted that although the line is true, there is an important addendum to the quote. Although you can’t make a horse drink, you can make it thirsty. Once the horse is thirsty, then it will want to drink on its own.
In a sense, that quote encapsulates the essence of chinuch. Our objective is to make our children and students thirsty for greatness. In the words of David HaMelech, “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh pines for You, in a parched and tired land, without water.” If we can evoke that thirst and spark an inner desire for growth in avodas Hashem and Torah study, our children will want to drink the water on their own.
The challenge is that the proverbial shower head is turned in other directions. There are so many other forces competing for our and our children’s attention. It is therefore a formidable struggle to keep our children thirsty for the spiritual waters that we want to shower upon them. It entails ensuring that our observance is dynamic and passionate. We may not be able to be overly enthusiastic every single day. But we have to find ways to celebrate and demonstrate our excitement to serve Hashem and to be part of the eternal people. Shabbos and Yom Tov are particularly important in this regard.
The haftarah of Parshas Toldos is from the first chapter of Sefer Malachi. Sefer Malachi contains the final words of prophecy uttered until the arrival of the Mashiach.
The Prophet begins by encouragingly stating, “I love you, says Hashem!” He continues, however, by chastising the nation: “If I am a father, where is My honor?”
He then questions why the nation fulfills mitzvos and brings offerings in the cheapest manner possible. He bemoans the fact that the nation seeks to fulfill its responsibilities in a heartless manner, just to be done with it. If their connection with Hashem was of a loving relationship, they would seek to perform mitzvos in an ideal manner, not trying to cut corners. If we seek to serve Hashem passionately, it will invariably affect our children, as well.
Currently, there is a wave of Jewish pride and unity sweeping the Jewish world. It’s been said that virtually every Israeli soldier who has gone into Gaza is wearing tzitzis and has a T’hilim. The goal is for us to maintain that excitement and pride after Hashem blesses us with victory and life returns to some level of normalcy.
At that point, it will become more challenging to keep the showerhead facing in the right direction.
As the lights of Chanukah begin to appear on the horizon, we should feel and convey our excitement for the holiday and its timeless message.
I must add, in conclusion, that the following Tuesday evening, when I again went to turn the shower on for my son, I was rudely reminded that that the new cleaning lady comes on Tuesdays. I guess we are both slow to learn.