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Sing it

When a parent reprimands a child for misbehaving, the child will often not react in the way the parent was hoping for. Instead of calmly stopping the offending behavior, the child will become agitated and possibly even dig their heels in, continuing to misbehave in spite of the parent’s scolding.

Honestly though, can you blame the child? Here they were having a good time, mischievous as it may have been, and then the adult shows up and with a few harsh words tries to put an end to all the fun. Of course, the parent knows best and as the child grows up they will begin to see things from the parent’s perspective; but right now, as a child, all they want is to entertain themselves and have a good time.

If only there were a way to get them to recognize that listening to the parent and stopping the mischief is actually to their advantage too. If only we had tools as parents that would enable us to rebuke our children without coming across as a killjoy and spoilsport.

Like everything else, a clue to how this may in fact be accomplished can be found in the Torah, specifically the second-to-the-last portion of the entire Torah, Haazinu. Written poetically and introduced as a “song,” it contains praise of G-d, but also—and primarily—words of rebuke.

Written on the day of Moses’s passing, it goes through almost the entire history of the Jewish people, will all its ups and down, all the way to the end of times, the coming of Moshiach and the future redemption. Rather than being broken down into sections, placing emphasis on the various missteps of the Jewish people, it is composed as one long continuum, blending the positive and the negative into one poem. By doing so, the Torah reminds us that all elements of our history are part of G-d’s ultimate design. He knew there would be good times and bad, and thus He included them all together in the form of a song.

What better way to reprimand His loving children than with a song containing the ups as well as the downs, highlighting that the goal of the reprimand is not merely to berate us and put us in our place, but to bring us closer to Him. The song reminds us that even when we slip and have earned the rebuke, we are given an opportunity to return; and that should elicit a song, an expression of joy and gratitude.

G-d tells us that He is well aware of our human frailty, and that our imperfections will at times lead to misbehavior; but that’s all part of the process. So lest we be turned off by the rebuke, we are reminded that it is delivered lovingly, as a song, together with some of the most beautiful descriptions of G-d’s greatness.

This is especially pertinent in the days before Yom Kippur, when this Torah portion is typically read, the day our essential connection with G-d is brought to the fore. While ostensibly a “day of atonement,” the emphasis should not be on what we did wrong but on what we can do better in the future. G-d “sings” to us on this day, offering us a glimpse of how He views His relationship with us. He sees our essence, the deepest part of the Jewish soul, and that can never be disconnected from G-d. Rather than rebuke, we are sung to, including all elements of our relationship.

So next time you want to yell at your child, consider “singing” to them instead. This doesn’t necessarily mean to use a tune (although that probably can’t hurt), but to include all elements of your relationship in what you say. Yes, you can reprimand them while still highlighting the love you have for them, and that will have long lasting effects on your relationship with your child. Sing to them and they will remember it forever.

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