Dave had a fifteen-year-old son who dreamed of becoming a firefighter. Driven by the vision of his child taking over his law practice, Dave forcefully encouraged him to join the debate team, focus on academics and eventually get his law degree. His son did so, and joined his father’s firm. He did fine, but always regretted not following his passion.
For some parents it’s academics for others, sports. People often drive their children to fulfill their own ambitions or force their children onto paths intended to enhance their own social aspirations. Far too many parents don’t listen to the child’s soft voice trying to find expression.
Living our life through our child while remaining indifferent to his unique qualities is not right. God granted us the privilege of nurturing one of His children to adulthood. Part of the thrill of parenting is learning to know that little person and gradually guiding that child to achieve full potential in whatever he or she was created to do.
Come along with me as we visit Joseph, serving as viceroy of Egypt. He brings his two sons to his aged father, Jacob or Israel, for a final blessing.
And Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim with his right hand to the left of Israel, and Menashe with his left hand to the right of Israel,
and he drew close to him.
And Israel extended his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head,
though he was the younger son, and his left hand upon the head of Menashe;
he crossed his hands though Menashe was the first-born.
(Genesis 48: 13-14)
Why did Jacob cross his hands? Clearly, he wanted to give the right-hand blessing, usually reserved for the older son, to the younger Ephraim, but quite understandably, Joseph had placed Menashe, the older, in front of Jacob’s right hand.
Why didn’t Jacob say, “Boys, would you mind switching places”? Alternatively, he could have accomplished the same thing by gently pushing the boys to change position. But no, he crossed his hands. This isn’t an easy feat for a 147-year-old man.
Let me tell you why he chose to achieve his goal this way. Moving the boys would have meant manipulating his grandchildren for his own purpose. You see, Jacob knew that it was up to him to do what was needed rather than involve his grandsons in his stage-managing.
Jacob viewed his two grandsons in the context of future history. Ancient Jewish wisdom records that he saw them as the key to eternal blessing. Indeed he concludes with these words:
And he blessed them that day, saying:
“Through you shall Israel bless
(their children) saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and as Menashe
and he placed Ephraim before Menashe.
And those words are exactly how we bless our sons each Sabbath. (There is a separate blessing for daughters, but that is a subject for another Thought Tool)
Jacob knew that Ephraim, the younger, represented spiritual mastery while Menashe represented materialistic achievement. Both are important. Connecting with God and earning a living are the two concerns that most parents have for their sons. While each child needs both the Ephraim and the Menashe blessings, Jacob’s question was which comes first, as represented by the right hand. He knew that although both blessing are necessary, he needed to emphasize spiritual strength and elevate it above material success.
Spiritual achievement can easily bring material success in its wake, however the reverse is seldom seen.
If you have things you want to do, be like Jacob—do them. Don’t force your children to do them for you. But doing everything in our power to inject spiritual mastery into our children’s souls is very worthwhile. Once they are on that path, ensuring that they possess the ability to make a living is also a vital parenting function. Both these need to be accomplished without forcing our children into activities that reflect our own dreams. The tension and congruence between spiritual and material is one I teach about fully in my audio CD, Boost Your Income: 3 Spiritual Steps to Success. It is a huge mistake to leave discussions of either spirituality or money until our children are grown. This CD is a wonderful way to start a vital conversation with the next generation or even with ourselves.
This week’s musing – Glossophobia
According to the intensive .16 second long research I just did on the web, we humans are full of phobias. Ranking relatively high – though quite below fear of spiders – is glossophobia, fear of public speaking.
Read the rest of Susan’s Musings here