The new book by Rabbi Boruch Oppen of Cedarhurst, “Lessons Learned From My Children,” leaves the reader with practical lessons extracted from normal life occurrences. Rabbi Oppen’s perspective on how his own children’s actions influence his life are easy applicable to all. Of course being a better parent also reciprocates back to the child and creates a cycle of life lessons and improvements to the benefit of both parent and child.
Beginning with a forward by Rabbi Moshe Hubner, the book features 50 separate lessons broken down in groups of ten. We tend to allow ourselves to gloss over what really are self-teachable moments, so these everyday life events go overlooked by most.
Rabbi Oppen’s way of viewing the common actions and reactions of his children is inspiring. Each of the lessons (which are well researched and deeply rooted in Torah) ends with several questions called Points to Ponder.
Rabbi Oppen cites sources from Tanach, Mishnah, Gemara, Halacha and Chazal with a healthy dose of the practical lessons learned from Pirkei Avos. He keeps the reader interested and engaged by demonstrating his breadth of worldly knowledge as well, citing from secular books and even from Michael Jordan.
The following excerpt is a quick and simple lesson from what otherwise would be a mundane occurrence learned from Rabbi Oppen’s daughter Ayelet.
While at the park one summer day, I noticed that Ayelet was smiling at everyone, and this reminded me of the Mishnah in Avos 1:15 that tells us to greet everyone with a pleasant face. I took her out of the stroller and brought her to the playground, where she immediately made a new friend who was two years older. They got a long very nicely and were very cute together. This was the first time they had seen each other, yet there was beautiful chemistry between them. As the saying goes, “A smile is contagious.”
My first though was, why would they want to play together? They are so different and are at different stages in life. Then I realized that all they see is another person that wants to have fun and play. Ayelet doesn’t care if the other child is her age, older or younger. She isn’t judging what the other child looks like or what her personality is.
The Mishnah in Avos (4:27) teaches: Rabbi says, don’t look at the vessel, rather what is in it. The western saying is, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
I learned a tremendous lesson from this: Stop being judgmental. We all want to be happy in life. For this to happen we need to work together and “synergize.” As Stephen Covey, in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” puts it, “Synergy is the highest activity in all of life. … Simply defined it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” When we recognize that yes, we are all different, but we are all connected, it will make the world a better place and bring the geulah.
This new book, available in local Judaica stores and on Amazon, is a must-have for anyone wanting to shift their mindset about their relationship with their children and in fact with all people. The simple to understand yet practical lessons presented will change how you view everyday occurrences. If everyone can train themselves to have this perspective, we will, as the excerpt above says, make the world a better place.