Remember that article titled a "Five-Star Pesach" in which Jonathan Rosenblum posted the comments of an anonymous Los Angeles Rav, known for his "particularly biting style of mussar," who named Pesach hotels as the number one problem facing the Orthodox community? I attempted to write that mussar directed at "others" (in this case Pesach vacationers) was ineffective as the mussar targets other people, rather than causing the receiver to engage in self-reflection.
Now, Mr. Rosenblum has a new article up, "Pesach Hotels: At Second Look," essentially retracting the mussar that he was so taken by and felt the obligation to share. He writes: "To all who wrote to explain why the hotel experience helped their ruchnios experience of the Chag, I can only say, 'I was not talking about you.'
Now that we are back to the seder of learning Pirkei Avot, where we learn that talmidei chachamin should be especially careful that their words are understood, it strikes me just how unclear the messages that are coming from those with a pulpit often are. I understood the Rav's message to be that we are immersed in a culture of astonishingly wasteful spending, seemingly never ending materialism, and that we live in a constant pursuit of entertainment. But, Mr. Rosenblum "[presumed] the rabbi quoted meant is that the external performance of mitzvos, without any inner connection to the mitzvah itself or the One Who commanded it, is the central problem." If the adults are coming away with such different takes, only Hashem knows what state of confusion our children are living in, as they see and hear conflicting messages from us, from Rebbeim, from teachers, etc.
I respect those who are willing to take a second look at a subject. But, I think I could have done without this second look. Perhaps the saddest comment Mr. Rosenblum received in favor of going to a hotel for Pesach (quoted at the outset of the newest article) was from a friend who told him:
"Going away to a hotel allowed him to spend most of his week in the beis medrash, a luxury he would not have had at home, where he would have been the program director for his young children."
I had written about the subject of parents who seem to want to have children, but don't want their children to get in their way (see the case of a father who does not want to "waste" his money visiting his children on visiting day, or see the case of a mother who is mad the schools give a winter vacation and expects them to plan winter camps so she won't be inconvenienced by their schedule, or perhaps you can listen to those in your own backyard complaining about the week between school and camp when the kids are home, etc, etc).
I was blown away that this quote served as the opening argument in defense of Pesach Hotels. While I respect a man's desire to do some extra learning and have some uninterrupted time in the Beit Midrash (something he should be able to do without going to a hotel, but by arranging his schedule accordingly), I must again ask, what good is learning that you don't want to apply to the most sacred job of raising children by actually getting your hands dirty in the process? Why are we seemingly more makpid on the mitzvah of pru v'revu than of being mechanech our children (a job that many seem to want to reassign completely)?
If you had asked me a month or two before Pesach what I found most troublesome about the Pesach hotel advertising, I would have told you the advertising for "Baby Clubs" and full day camps. I find it a sad commentary that a "family vacation" would include separating the family with such ease. I find "Baby Clubs" particularly problematic.
There is a book, which you can probably find at your local library on the Parent Reference shelf by Drs. Brazelton and Greenspan titled The Irreducible Needs of Children. I have not read the complete text, which is series of conversations and wishful thinking between these two known doctors/researchers/professors, but I would highly recommend the section on childcare where the doctors point out the need for long term relationship between babies and their caregivers. In the chapter "The Need for Ongoing Nurturing Relationships," the doctors write, "although consistent nurturing relationships with one or a few caregivers are taken for granted by most of us as a necessity for babies and children, often we do not put this commonly held belief into practice." They write that "[babies and children] require sensitive, nurturing care to build capacities for trust, empathy, and compassion. More recent studies have shown that family patterns that undermine nurturing care may lead to significant compromise in both cognitive and emotional capacities."
I believe that we owe it to our children to be selective about when we utilize outside care for our children and that we don't shuffle too many caregivers through our children's lives. I believe that we owe it to our children to have a far more positive attitude about spending time with them. Our children need and deserve familiar care. They need the nurturing and discipline that comes with established relationships. To think that we can shuffle our children from one "club" to another "camp" to another "activity" in order to concentrate on whatever it is we need/want/desire to do, and not have such bite us (the frum community) in the bottom later is ludicrous.
Perhaps the real numero uno issue is not Pesach Vacations, but Parenting?