The Significance Of Every Action
By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber

Every parent and educator, as an outgrowth of their position and role, must be involved in educational guidance. Naturally, the goal of every educator is that his words, as well as the message they convey, be actualized b’poel mamash by the student.

When we say "poel mamash," we mean that we want to see actual results. But that’s not all. There’s a deeper significance to the concept, and when we understand it, it will open a window for us so that we will see our role as educators from another perspective.

The word "poel" means action or actual, and the word "mamash" means substantive or significant. We must take substantive action, while recognizing the significance of every action.

Chassidus teaches – and the Rebbe has repeated it countless times – that every positive act we do, whether big or small (at least as we see it), joins the total number of positive actions which support the world and tilt it towards the side of merit. Quality is important, but quantity is vital because it provides a tremendous strength for change, starting with family members, then outward to one’s surroundings and to the entire world. Thus, we build an environment in accordance with values and the way of life we exemplify, and we pave the way to form our child’s personality in accordance with our expectations.

The Rebbe has demanded repeatedly that we do increased acts of holiness, while glorifying every positive act, even when it is a small detail. Obviously we shouldn’t be satisfied with little things. We have to start with them, and then go on to greater deeds. However, even when the actions are small, they must be carried out with the same enthusiasm, being conscious of the worth of every detail and its influence on the grand scale.

This way of thinking requires a great level of awareness, because when we look at goals and demands, we generally measure them according to size, weight, and significance. We engage in comparative evaluation and construct a hierarchy of priorities.

The accepted phrase with which we bless a new couple is "binyan adei ad" (an everlasting edifice). The emphasis is exactly as the words express it: the building should stand firmly forevermore. We know that the concept adei ad refers to the era which corresponds to "ad sof kol ha’doros," i.e., the couple is being blessed that their binyan last throughout all the seasons of life, that it be an eternal edifice on a strong foundation.

It’s natural that things in life change. It’s the way of the world, and we can’t change that. There are ups and downs, and then there are lateral shifts, neutral sorts of changes. We have to know how to act so that the changes, turn out positive, so that the ups remain ups and that the downs be redirected upward.

When a young couple gets married, they plan on raising a family, but until they experience it, they don’t know what to expect and what is demanded of them. The birth of the first child is a huge change. A family with two or three young children requires a different approach, and a family that also has older children needs to learn how to function in a completely different way. In order for family life to continue to flow straight and sure and tranquilly, one needs the proper mindset to take positive action, b’poel mamash.

The home can give so much more than a school. That is on condition, of course, that the home is capable of assessing properly what, how, and when to implement these actions.

It’s no secret that when a child begins to mature he experiences physical and emotional changes which confuse him. At the same time, and perhaps as a result of this, he is under pressure, both real and imagined.

Social pressure is a big issue. The maturing child seeks an independent identity. Suddenly he finds himself asking: Who am I really? This is a question which, as a child, never bothered him before (unless, and this happens with a tiny percentage of children, this maturing process begins at a relatively young age, while still in childhood), because generally a child knows who he is – the axis around which the world turns! Or at least his personal world. When he begins to mature, his eyes open and he realizes that the world belongs to other people too, and "just as their faces are not the same...," and he wants to develop himself and all his qualities with which he was born, and which he is beginning to identify: his personality, his talents, midos, intellectual capacity, emotions, inclinations, and so on, including an independent personality in which these characteristics are expressed in a mature way.

However, desire and ability are two separate things. The maturing child is still strongly attached to childhood. Growing up is a long process, in the course of which he is confused and doesn’t find himself. As a result, there are often extreme changes, such as a lack of balance which comes from mood swings and which often have a boomerang effect. The child experiences powerful emotional storms. He rocks to and fro and loses his stability. It requires tremendous effort to preserve his spiritual balance.

A bystander doesn’t notice the warning signs that caution is needed. Instead, he encounters behaviors which upset him, and he doesn’t make the connection and realize that the infuriating lack of accepting authority, for example, or not complying with the yeshiva’s sedarim (for which an adolescent has very convincing excuses), are really his way of signaling S.O.S. to us.

The parents’ job is to identify those distress signals, and the first positive action they must take in the aforementioned situation is to show understanding. This is a very serious action. Showing understanding doesn’t mean looking away when a child does something wrong, being quiet when he is disrespectful, and nodding understandingly when he loses it. Not at all. Properly showing understanding is done through positive actions which come from understanding the emotional and behavioral state of the child.

Parents have to give this serious consideration and come up with tasks and projects that will give the child responsibility he can handle, so that he can feel that he is actualizing the "maturity" which suddenly landed on him and that without guidance he doesn’t know what to do with it at the moment. These shouldn’t be projects which solely benefit the parents/educators and the immediate environment. It would be far better to sit down with the child, and to jointly discuss and decide with him which areas he is strong in and can easily prove himself. This way the parents will be sure that they aren’t imposing on the child tasks which, rather than allowing him to prove he is mature, force him to demonstrate that he isn’t little anymore.

At the same time, parents must follow up to see how the child is doing. Perhaps he miscalculated the level of difficulty when he took it on, and now he’s too embarrassed to say so. Or maybe the job is too easy. Maybe it turned out to be boring, and needs some variety. In order to forestall situations of crisis or despair, apathy, loss of interest, and other negative emotions, parents must ensure that the child is indeed functioning within the norm.

At the same time that parents exhibit understanding, they must be strong and not give in when it comes to their principles, values, and the ways of conduct which are important for building the child’s Chassidic self-image. The child senses the firmness of the parents’ resolve and gets the message that these are values of the highest order which may not be compromised. Aside from this, a strong stand, in addition to understanding, together create a feeling of stability and balance.

These two guiding lights – the openness and understanding with the strong stand on principles – when they come together, help to shape the child’s maturing and developing personality and give him the support he so greatly needs during this confusing stage of his life.


The parents’ job is to identify those distress signals, and the first positive action they must take in the aforementioned situation is to show understanding.


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