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he greatest wisdom is not to be wise

Even after all the wisdom and sophistication – even if you possess true wisdom – you must cast aside all wisdom and sophistication and serve God with complete innocence and simplicity, with no sophistication whatever.

The greatest wisdom of all is not to be wise at all. The truth is that no- one in the world is wise, for “there is no wisdom and no understanding … before God” (Proverbs 21:30 ) . The main thing God wants is the heart.

Likutey Moharan II, 44

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From Parents’ Guide to Teaching Children Healthcare
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 – 2006
Teaching Our Children

“Educate the youth according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

How many prayers we pour out to the Almighty for our children. Even before they are born, we beg Him to bring them into the world healthy in soul and body. As soon as they are born, thank G-d, the first thing done in the delivery room is to examine the baby to ascertain that everything is normal and functioning. As our children grow, so do the numbers of details to which we must pay attention to check that everything is developing properly.

We go to enormous lengths for the sake of our children’s good and to spare them even the slightest pain and suffering. Every cry, every little sore or sign that indicates that G-d forbid something may not right arouses immediate anxiety and often sends us running to the doctor.

Are we also prepared to invest effort to save our children from adverse health and future suffering by learning to educate them to guard their health, so that their bodies will serve them well for the good, long years we wish them?

Children are a pledge

As loving parents whose natural need to protectively hold and embrace a child has been fulfilled, we are certainly prepared to invest in the wellbeing of our children. In order to direct this natural feeling in a way that brings maximum benefit to our children, we must always remember that first and foremost these precious children are a pledge entrusted in our hands by the Creator of the World. As God’s agents, it is our obligation to protect and guard these pledges to the best of our ability. Every Jewish soul that comes into the world adds to the greatness of the Holy One, each one in his or her own unique way. Each boy and girl is a living continuation of the Jewish People. Every single one is an entire world.

An essential part of protecting of these precious pledges is the protection of their health. From earliest childhood we must help them develop healthy habits and instill in them an awareness of the importance of health. What we as parents do to protect our children’s health is not enough. As they grow older, we must educate them to take responsibility for their own health, so that when they leave us and embark on their own independent lives, they themselves will take the proper care of themselves.

The mitzvah of taking care of our bodies is alluded to in the verse “Guard yourself and guard your soul very much.” The continuation of the verse — “and make them known to your children and your children’s children” — alludes to education!

We are commanded to educate our children in practice of all the mitzvos. Our sages also taught us to prepare our children to face the realities of life in this world and the challenges it brings us. For example, the sages said that a father must teach his son a skill in order for him to make a respectable living. Similarly, they said he must teach his son to swim (Kiddushin 29a). Why? In order to save his life if he should he ever need it. If our sages instructed us to teach our children skills they might need to save themselves from possible danger, how much more are we obliged to teach them to protect themselves against definite harm from unhealthy practices.

How do you teach children healthcare?

Educating our children to take proper care of their health is a work of many years, often having no set times and applicable in all spheres of life. From birth and in early childhood, the responsibility of caring for children’s health falls on their parents, who must provide them with their needs and protect them from hazards. As children grow older, the emphasis shifts to teaching them the importance of health and helping them develop healthy habits.

As soon as children leave the home and enter an educational framework, their teachers must become partners in this enterprise. The nature of the guidance and its content develop according to the needs of each age. Step by step, responsibility for taking care of their health shifts to the children themselves.

In order for the work of education to succeed with the help of God, it is necessary to pay careful attention to a number of points:

Parents themselves must make every effort to lead a healthy life so as to serve as living examples of what they seek to instill in their children. When parents invest in their children’s health, this enhances the quality of life in the home in general.

Throughout the day there are constant opportunities to transmit live messages to the children on health: while attending to little children, at mealtimes, around the house, in the classroom, in the street, on a visit to the doctor.. It is worth taking advantage of every opportunity. All the different comments and explanations add up, and with time, the message will get through and bring results.

Many mitzvos are connected with physical functions, from those associated with food and its blessings to saying the blessing Asher Yatzar, “Who formed man in wisdom..” An integral part of educating our children to carry out these mitzvos is teaching them to satisfy their bodily needs in the manner and within the limitations prescribed by the Torah.

Healthy habits are important, but we must avoid turning healthcare into a strict regimen that irritates our children and makes them hate it..

We must exercise our imagination to find ways of making healthcare meaningful, practicable and attractive to our children. Everyone needs encouragement. Games, competitions, prizes and other inducements play an important role in gaining children’s cooperation in acquiring healthy habits.

An interesting educational method

Once the king’s son went mad. He thought he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit under the table without any clothes on, pulling at bits of bread and bones like a turkey. None of the doctors could do anything to help him or cure him, and they gave up in despair. The king was very sad…

Until a Wise Man came and said, “I can cure him.”

What did the Wise Man do? He took off all his clothes, and sat down naked under the table next to the king’s son, and also pulled at crumbs and bones.

The Prince asked him, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“And what are you doing here?” replied the Wise Man.

“I am a turkey,” said the Prince.

“Well I’m also a turkey,” said the Wise Man.

The two of them sat there together like this for some time, until they were used to one another.

Then the Wise Man gave a sign, and they threw them shirts. The Wise Man-Turkey said to the king’s son, “Do you think a turkey can’t wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.”

The two of them put on shirts.

After a while he gave another sign and they threw them some trousers. Again the Wise Man said, “Do you think if you wear trousers you can’t be a turkey?” They put on the trousers.

One by one they put on the rest of their clothes in the same way.

Afterwards, the Wise Man gave a sign and they put down human food from the table. The Wise Man said to the Prince, “Do you think if you eat good food you can’t be a turkey any more? You can eat this food and still be a turkey.” They ate.

Then he said to him, “Do you think a turkey has to sit under the table? You can be a turkey and sit up at the table.”

This was how the Wise Man dealt with the Prince, until in the end he cured him completely.

– Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

In the parable of the Prince who thought he was a Turkey, the Prince is a symbol of the rebellious side of children that pushes them not to listen to parents and teachers. Children live in their own world, a world in which the rules and relationships are different from those of adults. We can learn from the Wise Man that it is possible and necessary to give children a feeling of trust that they can do what we ask of them without giving up on their own private world. Similarly, the Wise Man shows us that we can achieve good results only with patience. Getting our children to acquire good health habits is a very important goal. The way to attain it is by going with small steps at their rate. With God’s help these small steps will lead to great achievements

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He spoke thus: “I told one other story, about trust, and this is it.”

Once there was a king, who thought to himself, “Who is there in the world with less worries than I? For I have all the good things, and I am a king and a ruler.” He went to investigate this. He went in the night, and stood by peoples’ houses, to eavesdrop and listen to the words of the world. He listened to the worries of each one – this one had troubles with his shop, and another had a problem for which he needed to see the King, and so with the worries of each one.
After this, he went and saw one house, partially submerged underground, its windows almost touching the ground, and the roof broken and collapsed. He saw a man sitting inside, playing a harp to which one had to listen very carefully to hear. He was very happy, and had a jug of wine sitting on the table before him. There were also foods placed before him, and he was very happy, filled with joy, and without worries at all. The King entered the house, and greeted him, and he answered. He saw the jug of wine and the foods, and how the man was filled with joy. The man invited him to drink, and he drank to the King, and the King also drank, out of affection for the man. Then he lay down to sleep, and the King saw that he was only joyful, without any worry. In the morning, the King rose, and also the man rose, and escorted him. Then the King asked him, “How did you obtain all this?” The man answered, “I can fix all sorts of things that are broken. I go out in the morning and fix things, and when I have gathered enough money – five or six gold pieces – I buy all these foods and drinks for myself.”
When the King heard this, he thought to himself, “I will sabotage this.” So the King went and made a declaration, that anyone who had something needing repair, must not give it to any other man to repair. Either he must fix it himself, or buy a new one. In the morning the man went looking for things to fix, and they told him about the ruling of the King. It was very difficult for him to accept, yet he trusted in the L-rd. He went and saw a nobleman chopping wood, and asked him, “Is this in accord with your honor?” The man answered, “I searched for someone to chop it for me, but could not find anyone. So I had to do it myself.” He said, “Allow me, and I will chop for you.” So he chopped the wood, and the nobleman gave him a gold piece. He saw that this went well, so he looked for more wood to chop, until he gathered six gold pieces, and again bought his usual meal, and was happy. The King again went near his house, peering through the window. He saw the man sitting there, with the drink and the foods before him, appearing very happy. The King then entered the house, and they had an exchange similar to the first time, and the King slept there as on the first night. In the morning, the King rose, and the man escorted him out. The King asked again, “Where did you get all this? For this requires a good deal of money.”
The man answered, “It was my custom to fix things needing repair. Then the King decreed not to give any item to any man to fix. So I cut wood until I gathered enough money for all this.” The King then left, and passed a decree not to let any man chop wood. When the man came to someone and asked if he had wood to be chopped, the man told him of the decree of the King. It was difficult in his eyes, for he had no money. Nevertheless, he trusted in the L-rd, and he went and saw a man cleaning a stable. He asked him, “Why would someone such as you be cleaning a stable?” He replied, “I looked for someone to clean it, but could not find anyone, so I had to do it myself.” He said to him, “Let me clean it.” He cleaned it completely, and the man gave him two gold pieces. Then he went and cleaned other stables, gathered six gold pieces, and again bought his customary meal, and went home, and was very happy.
The King came again to his house to see how he had fared, and he saw again everything as before. He entered the house as before, and in the morning the man again escorted the King, and the King asked him and he answered, all as before. So the King went and decreed that no man should be allowed to clean a stable. In the morning, the man went looking for stables to clean, and they told him of the King’s newest decree. So the man went and enlisted as a soldier with the minister who recruited soldiers for the King. For there are soldiers who are enlisted mandatorily by the government, and there are other soldiers who are hired for a salary. He had himself hired, and he set conditions with the Minister that he would not be enlisted permanently, rather on a daily basis. Every day in the morning, he would be paid for a day’s work. The Minister outfitted him immediately in a soldier’s uniform,allotted him a sword, and sent him to where he was needed. Afterwards, in the evening, after having finished all his work, he stripped off the uniform, bought his usual meal, went home, and was very happy.
The King came to see him again, and saw that all was prepared before him, and that he was very happy. He entered and slept, as before. And he asked him as before, and the other answered as before. So the King went and summoned the Minister, and commanded him not to draw any money from the Treasury to pay any of his men that day. In the morning, the man went to the Minister to receive his daily pay, and the Minister would not pay him. He asked him, “But did we not agree that you would pay me each day?” He answered that the King had decreed not to pay any man that day. And all that he argued with him was to no avail. The Minister said, “It is better that I pay you for two days tomorrow, but today it is impossible to pay you.” What did he do? He went and broke off a piece of his sword, and affixed a piece of wood in its place, and the difference could not be discerned from a distance. Then he went and polished that piece of metal, and bought with it his usual meal.
The King came again, and saw that his happiness was even more complete than before. He again entered the house and slept there, and asked him as before, and he explained that he had been obliged to break off a piece of the sword, and had polished it and bought with it his meal. “Later, when I get paid for that day, I will use the money to repair the sword, and the damage will not be noticed at all. For I can fix all sorts of broken things, and there will be no damage to the property of the King.”
The King then went to his house, and called the Minister, saying that there was someone sentenced to the death penalty. “So call for that man who you hired as a soldier, and command that he specifically should be the one to decapitate him.” The Minister did accordingly. He called him, and he came before the King. And the King commanded to gather all the noblemen, to come and see this farce: Being that there was a man who had inserted a piece of wood in place of the blade of his sword. Then the man came before the King, and fell on his knees, asking, “My lord the King, why was I called?” The King answered, “To cut off the head of the man sentenced to death.” He answered him pleadingly, saying that he had never shed blood in his life, and so the King should choose someone else. But the King answered him that specifically he must shed the man’s blood. Then he asked the King if the man’s guilt was certain. “I have never shed blood in my life, all the more difficult it would be for me to execute someone whose guilt was not assured.” The King answered that it was without question that the man was guilty, for there was certainly an accurate sentencing. “And now, it is specifically you that must spill his blood.” Upon seeing that it would be impossible to sway the King’s decision, the man turned to the Holy One, Blessed be He and said, “G-d Almighty, I have never shed blood in my life. If this man is not guilty, may the metal of my sword turn to wood.” He unsheathed his sword, and everyone saw that it was wood, and it was an object of great hilarity. And the King saw that he was a charming man, and he let him go.

-By Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

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