Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ki Tisa 74 - Avoid saying NO

The portion-parasha of Ki Tissa deals with the sin of the golden calf.  The people miscalculate the day Moses is supposed to return- a day earlier- because they included the day of his ascent of Mount Sinai in the   40 days and nights that Moses would spend with God.  When Moses did not yet return  on the day he was supposed to according to their calculation , the people perceived that  that they had lost their leader, and their  intermediary between God and themselves. They  asked Aaron to do something about it. The sin of the Golden Calf was that there were people, even a minority who mistakenly saw in the Golden Calf an expression of idolatry with independent powers and people stood by complacently watching this organized idolatry.

God tells Moses what is happening in the camp and that He wants to start a new nation from Moses. Moses'   prayers to God asking God  to use his attribute of mercy, are answered. Moses then begins his descent with the 2 tablets – the 10 commandments - in his hands. When Yehoshuah and Moses came closer to the camp, they saw  the  golden calf and the dances. Moses response was to throw  the  tablets and shatter them at the foot of the mountain.

The obvious question -  did not Moses believe what God had told him, he already knew that the nation was involved with idolatry. And despite this fact, his intention was to give them the Torah. What made Moses change his mind. Moses despaired of changing and helping the nation repentwhen  he saw the 'dances' – that they were enjoying their blasphemous and immoral behavior. It was not a sign of a desperate nation who felt they had no leader.

The Talmud – Shabbat 87a   shares with us Moses' thinking.  Moses reasoned- if a heretic is forbidden to do even one mitvah -  to eat from the' pesach offering'- korban pesach  ,surely a nation of heretics cannot be given the entire Torah. It is   suggested  that  Moses' reasoning is faulty because a heretic is only forbidden to eat from the pesach offering but is obligated to observe all the other commandments. And in any event , he should have given them the Torah so that they could repent.  Rabbi David Lapin answers that the kal va'chomer , the reasoning - was not intellectual and so open to questions  but an aesthetic kal va'chomer -  reasoning.  A heretic is forbidden to eat from the korban pesach =pesach sacrifice because it is incongruent that a person who denies God should participate in eating   from  the  pesach sacrifice a symbol of   God's providence and his commitment to serving Him. The 2 – the heretic and the pesach  sacrifice  just don't fit together , or as they say in Yiddish –' des pashst  nishtzs ' So how much more incongruent is giving the whole Torah to a nation of heretics. – 'Des pashts nishtzs ' the Torah and the children of Israel in their present situation just don't fit.

Parents often use the argument  -'  des pashts nishts ' with kids – it is not appropriate or our family does not do this type of thing. Generally, if parents show a passionate belief in what they say and offer explanations it might help, but sometimes the parents are forbidding something which is allowed according to the halacha – law ,but they hold by higher standards and the kid is not there with them.  And here Ha'rav Osher Weiss in an answer to a question from an  overseas  'anglo-saxon'  audience concerning certain  English literature for kids said -  sometimes saying NO has a worse impact than allowing a kid his request . It is not the message we teach - …..  , but the message kids learn is that their concerns are not taken seriously by us and ignored. This is the down side to the advice parents are given -  tell your kids NO a few times a day so they get used to hearing NO.

I prefer to avoid saying No . Saying No is essentially only one solution to a concern . Because the solution only addresses the parents concern we are using Plan A. – imposing Adult will.  I recommend 'Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily, try to say yes and don’t be rigid.'

I like the phrase - ' I am not saying No '

Of course this does not mean I am saying yes , it means ' I just want to hear your concerns , can you tell me more ?' Our purpose is to get a conversation going with the child mainly speaking and  we  listening. We need to gather information about the child's  concerns.

When our concerns are put on the table, we are in fact setting a limit, because our concerns will be addressed by the mutually satisfying solution.

Any solution must be mutually satisfactory addressing both concerns of the parent and child. Of course there will be times that a parent will insist on his way but the kid who has had his concerns taken seriously in the past is more likely to trust his parents when they insist on  their solution.

Try to talk things through and help your child connect with his true inner core so that the mutually satisfying solution is one that he feels is his own, meets his needs and an expression of who he is. The CPS - collaborative problem solving process Cp builds relationship , promotes life skills that will be needed when he goes out into the world and especially help with important relationships including marriage. The process also  supports his autonomy in a healthy way.


  1. Thank you. All the way from Los Angeles well needed. All our best! The Cohen family

  2. Thank you. All the way from Los Angeles well needed. All our best! The Cohen family