I was somewhat taken back by your answer to Diane – the woman in her 60’s who was being disturbed by the neighborhood children. I basically agree with your response to the noise level issue but thought your advice that she form friendships first before expecting the children to respect and not damage her property just encourages the idea that one only has to be respectful of property to those she knows and/or likes.
Is this right?
Thanks for giving us a chance to elaborate on our answer. We are all obligated to respect other people’s property whether or not we know or like the person. That is a basic timeless truth of Scripture. In fact, ancient Jewish wisdom says that those who treat other people’s belongings casually will end up treating other people’s lives casually as well. Shall we say that we aren’t surprised that after the mayor of Baltimore adopted a, ‘we’ll let them destroy property’ attitude, the violence did not end with vandalism; it continued on to bloodshed.
However, we were trying to provide Diane with effective advice rather than an intellectual response. Sometimes, a second best route can achieve a desired goal, while insisting on the purest path will often lead to failure.
Should Diane form friendships with the neighborhood children she will then have an opportunity to mentor them and help shape their values. It would be wonderful if she can convey to them the gravity of respecting everyone’s property. Our hope was to help her see the importance of making a connection and building relationships in the first place.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin