An Idea Worth Considering
An idea that has had a profound effect on me and my way of thinking is from Rabbi Yissacher Frand, referenced in both his sefer
In Print and a recording of his lecture.
In his talk about harmony in the home, Rabbi Frand says, “There is no chumrah in the world that is worth the slightest diminution on our sholom bayis." This idea has had a strong impact on me in both my personal life and my counseling of couples and families. Though Rabbi Frand said this in reference to couples, it is true in families- with our own children- as well.
We are a people who are dedicated to getting it right. But, sometimes in our pursuit of perfection, we ignore the fact that our way of doing things is causing resentment, anger, or tension in our family. We focus on the tree, not the forest. We win the battle and lose the war. We may insist on a chumra, all the while sacrificing the greatest determinant for healthy children – sholom bayis.
Though the ideal is that everyone agrees on the practices in the home, the reality is often different in today’s complex world. Though halacha itself is non-negotiable, the same does not hold true of chumras.
It is no secret that in our society’s battle against rising divorce and ‘at risk’ children, we may be counseled to loosen the reins. However, I believe Rabbi Frand adds a new dimension here.
Why not –in cases where there is friction and resentment - consider easing up where it is permissible? Why not forgo the detail in order to preserve the whole?
To my mind, this perspective can help us get our priorities straight and our homes in order.
We would do best for ourselves and our families were we to focus on our relationships with the same degree of fervor that we pursue a chumra. I am not advocating that we drop our own chumras, only that we avoid putting them on others when it damages the relationship. So, for example, forbidding a resentful teen from wearing something that is common in her school- but anathema to you- is a really risky proposition. So, might be insisting that your son daven netz- when all he wants to do is sleep a bit later and daven with his yeshiva. Similarly, insisting that your wife does something she is averse to because it is a chumra you hold dear can only cause bad feeling in the home - which is bound to affect the children.
Rav Pam ZTL has been quoted as saying that effective chinuch is half tefilla and half sholom bayis. Following Rabi Frand’s timely advice is an especially effective way to preserve the sholom bayis in our homes. My personal kabbalah to incorporate Rabbi Frand’s perspective in my life and my work has made a world of difference to me and those around me.
Disclaimer: Consultation with your rav is necessary before making any shifts or changes in your derech.
Dr. Sara Teichman, formerly of Los Angeles, California, is currently a psychotherapist and family counselor in Lakewood. She can be reached at email@example.com.