Sunday, July 21, 2019 -
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Fibbing at the border

Dear Tzviling,

We are a very religious family from Flatbush, NY, and heard about your column. You must help me. You see, my 11-year-old son never listens to me.

Never. What do I do?

Did I mention that he never listens to me?

Malkie, sent by e-mail

Dear Malkie,

Your son never listens to you?

So tell us, does your son turn off the lights during Shabbos?

Dear Tzviling,

G-d forbid that my son should turn off the lights on Shabbos. We are very religious, you know.


Dear Malkie,

Something doesn’t make sense here. You told us emphatically in your first e-mail that your son never listens to you. And yet your son never turns off the lights during Shabbos. You must have educated him and told him not to do so. So why is he listening to you in this case, when he “never” listens otherwise?

Dear Tzviling

Hey, I never thought of that. Indeed, why does he listen to me by not turning the lights off on Shabbos, when he otherwise never, ever listens to me?


Dear Malkie,

We’ll tell you why. You were obviously consistent in teaching him this important Shabbos lesson. You told him about it, and more importantly, you lived it. You acted it. You never displayed an inconsistency regarding this expectation.

But everything else, he most likely heard one thing, and then noticed something different in your behavior.

If you want your children to respect Shabbos — or anything else — don’t (just) tell them.

Show them by example how you respect Shabbos. If you want to make sure your children do not say negative things about others (lashon hara), make sure you do not speak that way on the phone, thinking they do not hear.

Let us share with you a story that happened in New York a number of years ago:

A son approached his mother one Monday morning before school began and asked for a signed note proving he had done his required assignment during the weekend.

Mother: But Moshe, I don’t remember you working on any assignment.

Moshe: But Mommy, that doesn’t matter. It’s just a note.

Mother (surprised): Moishe, you want me to write you a note when you didn’t do the homework?

Moshe: That’s okay, Mommy. Everybody does it.

Mother (shocked): Moishe, I’m shocked. Who taught you that it’s okay to lie!

Moshe: You did, Mommy.

Mother (flabbergasted): Me?? How did I teach you that?

Moshe (innocent): Mommy, you remember when we drove to Montreal to visit Uncle Zushe and Aunt Freidel?

Mother (Calculating): Yes? (. . . that took place almost a year ago).

Moshe: And remember when we came to the border and they asked if we had any new things to declare. And you said no? Mommy, you were sitting on a whole bag of new things.

Mother (speechless).

Ah, you see Malkie, Moshe didn’t say anything at the time, but he filed it away in his impressionable mind. And when it suits him well, voila, out it comes.

Remember, we don’t teach by teaching. We teach by doing.

SEND your questions to to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

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