Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mikeitz 75 - Joseph - Honoring your father

Joseph has become the ' viceroy' of Egypt, second in command to Pharaoh. He is blessed with 2 sons. He names his eldest son Menasheh acknowledging that God has helped him to forget all the  hardships which his brothers inflicted on him and his entire father's home.  This seems to explain the 22 years that Joseph did not contact his father and put him out of his misery and focus instead on creating a new family and history.  Joseph was being thankful that God removed any ill feeling that he had for his brothers and that he understood that everything   that happened was part of a Divine master plan. Joseph saw his purpose was   to reunify the family and to realize his dreams. Only after the brothers had done Teshuvah= repentance and regretted their ' selling' of their brother could the family be reunited. He couldn't reveal his destiny to his father because he was part of an agreement made by the brothers that 'banned' anyone revealing to Ya'akov- Jacob what had happened and Joseph's whereabouts without their consent. Even God was party to this oath and so Isaac who through prophecy knew of Joseph's plight was unable to comfort a mourning Jacob.

 Contacting his father and performing the mitzvah of honoring his father presented another problem. It could be only done at the expense of his brothers. They would have been disgraced when the reality –' a beast has devoured my son Joseph and torn him to bits' was found to be a cover up for the sale of Joseph. This would have also compromised family unity. There are limitations and boundaries to the mitzvah of honoring parents. The Talmud –Ketuvot 103 relates how 'Rebbi' on his death bed gave instructions to his sons as to what positions of leadership some of his   sons and students were to be assigned. R' Haninah was to be given the position of Rosh Ha'yeshivah.  He refused to accept the position as this would be at the expense of R' Afes who was older than him. Rebbi's sons and students did not insist on honoring Rebbi's instruction as it would be at the expense of someone else.

I find it interesting that both Isaac and Jacob did not rebuke their sons for not honoring them and not fulfilling the mitzvah of ' Kibud AV'. It could be that parents perceive their parental authority and honor is not dependent and derived from the Torah itself.  Teachers teach kids that the Torah gives a parent authority because of their positions as parents and there is a very important mitzvah to honor their wishes and respect them.   Parents however cannot demand obedience because of the Torah. It not only undermines their authority, but it comes at a cost to children. Parents who invoke the Torah in the hope that kids will respect them come across as weak and have no stature, personality or leadership to deal with their kids. Parents should embrace the ' authoritative pose or stance ' of leadership rather than ' authoritarian '. Their source of authority is not because of the 'power' their position or status gives, but their sense of humility about the great responsibility of parenting and addressing the needs of kids in a way that respects their dignity. Their credibility is independent of their status but rather depends on who they are as teachers, guides and care givers. I remember a father asking a Rabbi if his child has to stand up when he comes into the room. The Rabbi said yes, but you also have to be a father. And that's why the child stands up and addresses the parent – My father, my teacher. Demanding respect and having demands that are developmentally not appropriate or you know your child is not the easy going compliant type of kid, will just create conflict and disrespect. You will also have some responsibility for the child's behavior - transgressing the mitzvah of' ' Kibud Av ve Aim ' as your parental demands are for sure to be ' a stumbling block before the eyes of a blind person'. Focusing on 'compliance' means that parents have to resort to the use of power either using punishments, consequences or trying to control through seduction with rewards. Not only do kids resist being controlled but these methods do not contribute to a commitment and kids internalizing the values behind the things we ask them to do. Better to use  ' I messages ' -  the playroom is in a mess , It would  be great to have a nice, clean and tidy room instead of you made a mess of the playroom , go and tidy it up! I messages focus on how the parent feels, they don't judge the kids and provoke resistance but allow the kid to take responsibility for her behavior. We can use ' dialog questions '  and even better use collaborative problem solving as a tool not only to solve problems but to collaborate with kids in all areas of life. Parents start to feel listened to when they use collaborative problem solving. When kids feel understood and they concerns heard, they are more likely to hear the concerns of parents and take their perspectives. They learn to trust their parents as guides and seek them out for guidance, support and feedback as they navigate their worlds.  And in this way parents earn respect and honor in the most authentic way.  When parents don't focus on their honor and are prepared to 'forgo ' or relinquish it  =' mochel  bich'vodo' , they  make room for their roles as guides and teachers  and this actually enhances  the respect and honor kids will have for them. 

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