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February 12, 2015

My child, not my possession

by Rabbi Dovid Felt

This semester we started a new Perek in all the Gemora classes. The Gemora the talmidim are doing is the Eighth Perek in Bava Metziah. The first sugya in the Gemora is about the “Daled Shomrim” the four different types of custodians. The Gemora brings  a Mishna that lists the responsibilities of the different custodians in the event of a loss. The custodian who benefits the least is going to be responsible only in the event of his negligence; this custodian is called a “Shomer Chinom” he looks after his friends possession without receiving any monetary compensation. The next level is a custodian who gets paid to look after his friend’s possession; he is called a Shomer Sochar. He is responsible to the owner even in a situation where the item gets stolen or is lost.

The custodian who is responsible for all types of losses even an accidental loss, is the custodian who has his friend’s item and has his permission to benefit from it. For further details of the sugya go to where you can watch a video of the boy’s in Rabbi Strik’s shiur explaining some of the finer points of the sugya.

The source for these Halachos is in this weeks Parsha. The Torah goes into detail listing the different custodians and tells us the different Halachos that apply to each situation. As I was perusing this parsha it struck me that as a Rebbi, what type of Shomer am I to my Talmidim? The difference being what level of responsibility do I have to my students? How does this responsibility manifest itself with regard to their physical well being, to their spiritual well being and to their moral well being.

I then took this idea a little further and asked myself what type of Shomer is a parent to their child, a child is a possession given to us by Hashem, they are on loan to us until they are old enough to be independant. I subsequently found that Bruriah the wife of R’ Meir used this observation as an argument to her husband (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei 31) R’ Meir after two of their children died.

If we were to make a straight comparison I would venture to say that we as parents are on the highest level, we benefit the most from our children which put us at the highest level of responsibility. This level of responsibility manifests itself in numerous ways.

One such way is illustrated through this sad story. A number of years ago a Rabbi was visiting Jerusalem when out of a doorway there was a shout for a tenth person to complete a Minyan. It turned out it was for a shiva minyan that was being held at the deceased’s home. The Rabbi noticed that the room was full of seforim and that they had all been used however, when looking around at the family of the deceased they seemed not to be that religious. After Mincha the Rabbi sat with the mourners and asked them about the seforim. The son of deceased told him “they belonged to my father”. He then asked, “Did any of his children use these seforim”? The son told him “No, only he was religious. You see when my father came home he would go directly to his room and lock himself there with his books. He also never studied with us so we hardly ever saw him”.

This story, which unfortunately is more common than we want to believe, illustrates how as parents have a responsibility to share with our children the good deeds we do. We may want to keep them to ourselves (for good reasons) but if our children don’t know that about us, we are in essence depriving them of their rightful heritage.

Felt Tips

Over the years I have spent raising my children not only have I tried to set up a regular time to learn with them, I have also made sure that I learned with my Chavrusa (study partner) in the dining room – a place where they wouldn’t miss the sight of their father learning. The inspiration I received for this was from my father who coming home from a long day of work would have some dinner and would then dedicate at least an hour a night to learn with his Chavrusa. They split the time, some days the Chavrusa would come to our house and some days my father went to his. Even on the days my father was not home we knew where he was and what he was doing. That hour a day left an indelible impression on me so much so that 25 years later it was the impetus for me to do the same for my children. Recognizing the impact it had on me, led me not to shy away from doing something that I may have felt uncomfortable doing. I believe, as parents, we have an obligation to share the good we do with our children and IY”H they will do the same for their children.

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