Parenting is one of the most important roles we’ll ever have and yet, it comes with the least amount of training. As soon as our children are born, we realize that there are countless ways to parent. Sometimes, we may feel like we have responded well to our children. Other times, we may wish that we could have responded differently. In our conversation with Judy Elkin, a certified professional coach who guides individuals through the amazing and challenging journey of parenting, we discuss parenting without guilt, as well as tips for raising curious and empowered problem-solvers.
What does it mean to be a “good enough” parent?
Being a “good enough” parent means parenting without guilt, understanding that there’s no such thing as perfection, and letting go of our instinct to judge ourselves. There are so many moments of parenting during our kids’ lives and we can’t get every single one of them right. Also, we often won’t know the impact of our parenting until 20 years have passed. Parenting is an art and no two kids and no two parents are the same, so different parenting advice will work differently for each person. The most important thing is that we care and that we try to do our best.
The home is where we nourish and receive nourishment. It’s where we learn about acceptance, forgiveness, and second chances. It’s where we receive physical and verbal expressions of love that give us so much of our self-esteem. When we experience Shalom Bayit, which means peace in the home and family harmony, we can positively contribute to the outside world. In this interview, JWRP Trip Leader Ruchi Koval shares strategies for apologizing effectively, as well as modeling harmonious behavior to our children, in order to achieve a state of true Shalom Bayit.
Why is Shalom Bayit a Jewish value?
In Judaism, “shalom,” which means peace, completion, and wholeness, is one of G-d’s names. Pursuing peaceful relationships with our family is a prerequisite for living a life of Jewish values. In fact, in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), a series of Jewish teachings, Rabbi Hillel says: “Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them close to Torah.” In order to live a full Jewish life, we must first get along with our loved ones. Only then, are the foundations set to make your home peaceful and tranquil.
What is one way that Judaism encourages Shalom Bayit?
During the Jewish holidays of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot, the Torah instructs us to “be happy.” Rabbis explain that the husband should receive meat and wine, the wife should receive clothing and jewelry, and the children should receive treats and sweets. While the specific gifts that we give each other may differ, Judaism emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one another’s happiness.
How can apologizing impact Shalom Bayit, and what are effective strategies for doing so?
The closer you are to someone, the greater the capacity for making mistakes and hurting each other — whether you do so intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, apologizing and forgiving are necessary ingredients in family relationships. Judaism teaches that there is a correct way to apologize. Say what you did wrong. Consider that the goal of your apology is the other person’s forgiveness. Show remorse. And make an effort not to repeat the same mistake again. Sometimes you may apologize sincerely, but the person wronged will not be ready to forgive you. Judaism teaches that you may apologize three times in three different places. After that, you are exonerated, even if the other person hasn’t accepted your apology.
What does a strong relationship with one’s children look like in Judaism?
As Jewish parents, we are responsible for shamelessly transmitting our values even when society and their peers may have opposing views. We must also be there for our children emotionally and physically even when it’s not convenient for us. At the same time, we need to give our children space to fly, to experience their own journeys, and to make their own mistakes.
What are some activities that can actively help us model Shalom Bayit to our children?
First, spend time alone with your spouse. Go out to dinner for a few hours and reconnect as a couple. Don’t talk about your problems or your stress. Discuss the topics you loved to talk about while dating — ideas, feelings, interesting books that you read, funny conversations from work, and your hopes and dreams for the future. When we share more of ourselves with one another, we can fall in love again and again. Also, don’t be afraid to let your children see you and your spouse argue in front of them. This will teach them that couples disagree, and show them healthy ways for navigating conflicts. Finally, a key step for creating a peaceful home environment is to put your partner first — and make sure your children see you doing that. For example, greet your spouse at the door each day. By consistently treating your partner well, you can make a very deep impression on your children.
What are strategies for dealing with obstacles to peace in our homes?
Conflicts will always pop up. If we have a sense of humbleness and self-awareness, we can use these as opportunities for growth. Be open about what you need to work on, and what your spouse needs to work on, too. In an emotionally healthy environment, these strategies will engender more positivity and a greater mutual commitment to growth and improvement.
Shalom Bayit Prayer
Whilst creating a peaceful home and achieving Shalom Bayit involves physical and emotional acts of giving and sacrifice, the spiritual act of prayer can also be a deeply meaningful way of showing intent and will to achieve an ultimate state.
Here is our prayer for Shalom Bayit:
May it be Your will that You cause Your divine presence to dwell with me and my husband, and unite over us Your holy Name of yod heh. Place in our hearts a pure and holy spirit, and distance us from all evil thoughts. Bestow a pure and unsullied soul-bond between my husband and me, such that neither of us will be drawn to any person in the world, only me to my husband, and he to me. Let is appear to me that there is no man in the world as good, handsome, and charming as my husband […] And likewise may it seem to my husband that there is no woman in the world so beautiful and graceful and worthy as I, and may all his thoughts be of me, and not of anyone else in the world […] As it is written, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife”.
And may it be Your will, Lord God, that our union prosper: a worthy union with love and fraternity, peace and friendship; a proper union according to the teachings of the Torah and Jewish tradition; a worthy union with fear of heaven and fear of sin; a union producing children who are worthy and righteous.
This prayer is taken from Huppat Hatanim by Rabbi Rafael Mildola.
Reflections from Our Trip participants on Shalom Bayit
The Place of Love in Shalom Bayit and Wholeness
This morning we learned that in Hebrew, ‘peace’ and ‘wholeness’ share the same root, which means they share some connection. The Hebrew language is fascinating and so rich in meaning. The mere choice of a word for a given concept, its mere expression, can provide us with deep revelations and insight into the truths of life. Hebrew is that rich. For example, while we say in English that love is not enough to maintain a relationship, I would not say the same in Hebrew. “I love you” in English, is an expression of a feeling that I sense and experience deep inside of me; it’s about me. If I say the same words in Hebrew, the true meaning is very different.
The word ‘love’ in Hebrew shares the same root as the verb: to bring (Hav). Interestingly not a feeling, but an action. So loving someone requires me to take action. “I love you,” literally translates in Hebrew as “I bring you,” i.e., “I bring to you.” It’s all about the other person.
This morning, we talked about the fact that a successful relationship requires us to do for the other. Though we start separate, as we DO for one another, we grow closer. We strive for peace and wholeness.
As we saw, the words peace and wholeness in Hebrew share the same root, which means, meaning that both concepts share a common origin. They have the same source. What if then to achieve a peaceful, successful relationship meant also achieving a certain wholeness? Wholeness in the relationship itself, but also within yourself. When you are whole with something, it means you are one with it, no longer separate from it and thus also at peace with it.
When you come to a relationship from a place within you, of wholeness and inner peace, you can achieve Shalom Bayit with more ease than when you come fragmented. Our internal starting point, therefore, impacts our relationships with others, perhaps it is even an expression of it. What if our relationships with others served as a mirror for our relationship with ourselves? It would mean that by doing for ourselves, growing and becoming better versions of ourselves, we also impact all of our relationships. By improving our relationship with ourselves, we improve our relationship with others. By becoming whole from within, we can ultimately become whole with another. We can achieve Shalom Bayit.
Now that is powerful!
Montreal, QC, Canada
Peace and Wholeness in the Home
Today started with an incredible speech from Ruchi, our Trip Leader/primary educator.
She spoke to us about the value or principal of peace and wholeness in the home. And how it’s the mother and woman who is primarily in charge of this.
She spoke about the soul and how two souls can be knit to together over different lifetimes. How the Jewish people believe in old souls, and of course, I believe in this. This concept is called Shalom Bayit.
She spoke of emotional bonding, and how these two souls can be knit together as best friends, lover, arched enemies, and they can be there to teach each other, to grow together. It’s not always as a typical husband and wife relationship.
We learned that:
Love is a choice.
I, of course, believe this. You can be a positive person. Choose to see the good. To choose to look for the good, the light, the positive. Or to look for the negative. I try to do this and of course, can always improve in this area.
Do show – Don’t tell
Actions speak louder than words pretty much. If you show how you feel, you don’t have to say it, but of course, you should also. But you can say it and not show it. You can’t say “I love you” but not act in a loving way. You can’t say, “I’m so nice,” and not behave kindly.
She spoke of a marriage is like a cup, sitting in a bowl (your immediate family). If you fill up your cup with love and attention, it will overflow into your family with goodness, that it’s not that your kids should come before your husband but the other way. And we shouldn’t make our husbands feel last. I’m guilty of this. And I need to work harder on this. It seems most of us are in the room need to…why is that?? Ask yourself what you’ll do the bring us closer/further Intimacy both physically and emotionally, and not prioritizing efficiency first.
I wrote about Brachas and how I needed to be more like that. I realize how I used to embody that more. Why is that? Why was I freer when I was younger? When I was away in Iceland, I spoke to my husband about working on that. Today has reinforced that.
I need to let loose and be softer with my husband and my kids, especially with my two older kids.
Livingston, New Jersey
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