Positive Vision - Day 48

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

Day 48 - Self-Interest - Preserving Individuality and Family

R' Shlomo Wolbe would say that the yetzer tov is a very unreliable friend.

You just can't count on him.

He tends to be enthusiastic at the beginning but then loses interest and tires out. So he - and we - need help to persevere. Where to turn? Help can be found in the most unlikely of places - with the yetzer hara, who clearly has much more "stick-to-it-ism" than does his counterpart.

If we serve Hashem with both inclinations, by harnessing even shelo lishmah considerations - that is, we do what is right for self-interest, and not to serve Hashem - we are much more likely to persevere.

Here is one such consideration.

A scientist once put five monkeys in a cage, placed bananas beyond their reach, and placed a ladder beneath the bananas. As soon as one of the monkeys spotted the bananas, it began climbing the ladder to get to them. As it did, however, the scientist sprayed it, and all the other monkeys, with freezing water. The monkey scrambled off the ladder and all five sat for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon a second monkey decided to give it a try and began climbing the ladder. Again the scientist sprayed it and all the other monkeys with freezing water. Most of the monkeys had by now learned their lesson: Going for the bananas meant a freezing shower, so they abstained. One of the monkeys, however, was a little slow on the uptake so he figured he would give it a try. As soon as his sharper cage-mates saw what he was up to, they attacked him and prevented him from doing so.

The scientist then began replacing each monkey one by one. Each newcomer would of course reach for the bananas, and the rest of the monkeys - as expected - would beat it up. Eventually, however, every one of the original monkeys was replaced with a different monkey, one that had never experienced or even seen the initial punishment. Nevertheless, whenever a new monkey was introduced and reached for the food, the rest of the monkeys would attack it. Why? Because it had become their minhag (custom)!

This experiment, like the "Face the Rear" experiment we mentioned earlier (Day 37), highlights the idea of "group mentality." Members of a group tend to conform their behavior to that of the group, whether this behavior is logical or completely baseless. Whereas earlier we spoke about lishmah considerations - i.e., how important it is, therefore, to regulate our environment - we now wish to stress a "shelo lishmah" consideration. Let's not even talk about kedushah. Let's talk simply about personal space.

The entire day, every member of your family is out- side your home, joining one group or another. Group mentality discourages individuality and critical thinking. It declares, "Just fit in! This is the way we do things here." The group impacts, and to a large degree determines, their behavior. You and your family members then come home. The walls of your house allow for individuality. The home leaves room for personal space, for family members to be alone with themselves, and with their siblings as well. Both of these relationships are important. A person needs time alone, and needs time with family. In fact, there is no greater nachas for parents than seeing their children bonding and coalescing as one unit.

The Internet, and specifically social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc), undermines both of these relationships. It constantly brings large groups of people together, leaving them with a mob mental- ity without individual perspectives and values. It is always, "What is the other person thinking?" These distractions also rob them of the opportunity to bond with their siblings and parents.

To foster within your children both a sense of individuality and of family, allow your home to be free of all outside influences. Allow yourself and your family to be their true selves. Why allow anyone "out there" to infringe upon your space and invade your castle?

By restricting technology in your home, you make space for your family to flourish as individuals and to coalesce as a family.