I was once talking to a non-Jewish therapist who works with Jewish parents. She told me how much she respects Orthodox Jews. “You have it all,” she said. “You have all the ingredients that you need to raise a great, emotionally healthy kid. You have a close-knit supportive community, a rich tradition, a strong ethical system and a family-oriented society. However, the parents I work with need to stop trying so hard to always make sure their kids are feeling good and happy. There’s a good chance their kids are already pretty happy. The Orthodox lifestyle gives them a leg-up in life.”
Why is it that Orthodox parents are so invested in making sure that their kids are happy all the time?
I think that there are a few reasons. Most modern parents think it is our job to keep our kids happy all the time and protect them from the vicissitudes of life. We also tend to equate our child’s happiness with our performance as a parent. As Orthodox parents, we have an added reason to ensure our kids are happy: we need to transmit our heritage to our children. Deep down, we are links in a chain and we don’t want to be the ones to break that chain. We think that if our kids are happy they will keep the mesorah.
So what should we do? We need to remember that, as frum Jews, we already have access to the ingredients that lead to true happiness. The ingredients to happiness include being part of a close-knit community and having a support system. We just need to highlight what we already have. We need to teach our kids to invest and feel responsible about our community. We want to give over our mesorah in a positive way and help them develop a respect of Jewish ethics and halacha. We want to teach them to make family relationships a priority.
The best way to do all that is to role model. As parents, we need to show our kids that we support our schools and shuls. We need to show them how we take care of the poor through charity and volunteer our time to Jewish causes. We need to develop a love and joy when we practice our own Judaism and show respect for halachah and act with derech eretz. We want to make relationships with our spouses and our children a top priority.
It always nice to hear someone on the outside point out the positive aspects of being an Orthodox Jew. While most of are already aware of the benefits of being Jewish, it’s still nice to be reminded of it. It helps us solidify and recognize our priorities. It helps us take stock and not take for granted all the gifts that God has given us. It allows us to understand that we indeed have all we need to be authentically happy in life.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.