Gotcha!

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Picture this scene. Your eight-year-old daughter comes running in with blood pouring down her hand. Sobbing, she explains that her teenage sister left the food processor cutting blade in a sudsy sink full of water. When younger sibling reached in to get a spoon, she badly cut herself.

In addition to bandaging up the wound, are thoughts of punishment for the older child running through your head? After all, the rule about not leaving sharp objects concealed so that they can hurt someone has been discussed many times.

I actually do not remember if I called out my oldest child’s name in anger (though I’m sure she does) before realizing that the “blood” was actually ketchup and the entire story was a fabrication concocted in the mind of a mischievous, sometimes verging on fiendish, little girl.

Knowing the entire story, in context, makes a world of difference.

The above story is one of many I could tell about that impish little girl with a glint in her eye. She is now a lovely young woman, married, the mother of two little boys and a practicing nurse. Fortunately, her sense of humor has matured while remaining vibrant. My thoughts immediately jumped to her when I saw headline snippets of a hard-hearted and clueless Washington state senator declaring that nurses spend their time playing cards.

The facts were almost as incorrect as in my opening story. Senator Maureen Walsh did say that nurses, “…probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” But she was making a point, poorly worded as it was, that was not meant to denigrate nurses or nursing, but rather to point out the difference in the needs of hospitals in urban, rural and remote areas. In a debate on regulations, she was highlighting that rules which make sense under certain conditions can be crippling under others.

My point isn’t whether her argument is accurate or a good one. That should emerge from debate and factual information. However, instead of discovering what she actually said and discussing it, what happened was a public keel-hauling, taking her remarks out of context and stirring the social media pot of venom. Could her words have been more carefully chosen? Of course. Yet, there is not one of us who hasn’t clumsily said something we could have better articulated.

My daughter, who worked in the ICU for two years has, along with her colleagues, missed meals while on 12-hour shifts. They have found it impossible to catch a rest or go to the bathroom. We increasingly treat both our doctors and nurses poorly, if not cruelly, in ways that demoralize them and decrease the care they can provide for patients. Some of that is the result of regulations that sounded good on paper but worked out completely differently in reality. Debate on many issues is desperately needed. A society that plays “gotcha” instead of encouraging open conversation and dialogue, as it did with Senator Walsh, is establishing a more dangerous scenario than the one concocted in my eight-year-old’s imagination.

ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT
for our best price of the year on library packs

Complete Library Package PLUS

SALE

Always a great value.
For two more days,
an even better one.

Complete Library Package
Complete Library Package PLUS Complete Library Package

What do you eat at a Passover feast?

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel – they’re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple.

But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod’s Temple?

Thank you,

Joshua F.

Dear Joshua,

Are you trying to start an international incident? A religious war? The foods you cite—gefilte fish, potato kugel, carrot and prune tzimmes and the other foods you mention are traditional foods only for Jews whose ancestors lived in eastern Europe. But, we Jews have been around for a long time and we have lived everywhere from China to Morocco, from Johannesburg to Gibraltar. Some of these communities lasted for a short time, others for thousands of years. Jews were expelled from Egypt, Libya and other Islamic countries during the second half of the twentieth century but a few still live in Iran and many other countries that would surprise you. A traditional Syrian or Yemenite Passover meal would have none of the foods you mentioned.

Even the ceremonial foods that are required as part of the Passover Seder will look different in different communities. For example, a vegetable from the ground is needed, but our own family uses potatoes while other families use leeks. The matzah itself, the centerpiece of the meal, looks quite different if baked by those from Arab countries vs. European ones.

Having said that, you ask what the meal would have looked like in the land of Israel when the 2nd Temple was standing. There would have been wine, roasted lamb (which we deliberately do not have at the Seder today) matzah and a vegetable. The spices and methods of cooking would have been those of the place and time. There certainly would not have been the plethora of kosher for Passover items that fill grocery stores today.

If you’re looking to recreate a historical meal, we would suggest looking in cookbooks from the Yemenite community, which dates back to the days of King Solomon. You might also look at the Roman Jewish community that pre-dates the destruction of the Temple.

The bottom line is that “Jewish” cooking is any cooking that follows the laws of kashrut, the basics of which are shared by all these communities. Other than that, each community adapted to what was available and popular in its own country. So, please, in the pursuit of peace, stop talking about traditional Jewish cooking!

Hearty appetite,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

PASSOVER SALE
Best prices of the year on our value-jammed library packs

Sale ends when the store closes Thursday night in honor of the final days of Passover. Complete Library Package
      Complete Library Pack PLUS            Complete Library Pack

 

Find the Father

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Progressive societies tend to quickly impose restrictions on behaviors that are considered dangerous to ‘society’.  Occasionally, this goal of providing security for society is achieved at the cost of people’s freedoms but progressive voters don’t doubt that the exchange is a worthwhile one.

For instance, some people, many of them thoughtful and educated parents, choose not to vaccinate their children for various reasons.  Progressive politicians like New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, have little hesitation in imposing mandatory vaccination orders with fines of $1,000 for violators.  This sounds logical and seems to be prudent public policy. In the name of public health government trounces parents’ freedoms.

Years ago the freedoms of a private citizen to open a restaurant that allowed smoking were abrogated.  By that time, the rights of people to smoke in most public areas had long since been trampled.  How was this achieved?  By government addressing what it saw as its duty to provide health for all.  But wait, then surely government should have banned not only smoking but also mountain climbing and bungee jumping along with all other life-threatening activities?  “No,” answered big-government progressives. “While climbing and other high risk activities imperil only the participant himself,”  they insisted, “smoking jeopardizes everyone because smoke exhaled by the smoker pollutes all the air for all living things.”   Again, the greater good was achieved with a corresponding loss of freedom judged by many to be a worthy exchange.

To be clear, then, we are comfortable restricting the freedom of parents to make their own health decisions for their children and we are okay with restricting the freedom of restauranteurs and of people who choose to smoke tobacco.  Yet, at the same time we utterly reject the notion of restricting the freedom of people who engage in a certain activity which imposes great public health penalties along with other costs on us all and which significantly increases the likelihood of us becoming the victims of criminal violence.

What is this damaging activity?  It is conceiving and giving birth to children without the partners being married.  Why is this as or more damaging than second hand smoke or unvaccinated children?  As the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and other studies show growing up without a father in the home dramatically increases the likelihood of teens engaging in criminal behavior.  The National Center for Education Statistics points out that 71% of school dropouts are fatherless.  Children in fatherless homes are four times as likely to be dependent on welfare.

In America, about one-third of all children born this year will live in homes without their father present.  This adds immeasurably to the likelihood of you becoming a victim of a violent crime perpetrated by a man who grew up without a father.  It guarantees you having to help underwrite the more than a hundred billion dollars a year that this growing trend costs. 

Up until the 1960s in no group in the United States was a teenage unmarried mother a common sight.  Since then, government and culture have methodically removed all the impediments to having children out of marriage.  Well-intentioned government programs have eviscerated those social attitudes and economic realities that used to be such an effective barrier to this destructive conduct. The cost to the health and safety of individuals and the public have been enormous.

Whenever a group of people suffers from the pathologies of crime, poverty, and homelessness, the main culprit is nearly always fatherless families.  After two hundred and ten years, Egyptian slavery had undermined the role of the Israelite father.  Before any tiny spark of freedom could be ignited that would lead to a healthy nation, father-led families needed to be restored as a normative pattern.

Speak to the whole community of Israel and say that on the tenth of this month each of them shall take one lamb to each father-led home…They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts… of the house in which they are to eat it. They shall eat the meat that same night…roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.
(Exodus 12:3-8)

Aware that in years to come, the word ‘family’ will come to lose much of its meaning, the Hebrew text prophetically avoids the word mishpachah—family.  Here it uniquely stresses the father-led home.

The inescapable point is that before a damaged group of people can attain real freedom, they must first restore the foundational pillar of a healthy, functioning society, namely the father-led home. 

Why does a government that compels its citizens by force to vaccinate their children against measles not at least check the health of illegal immigrants arriving from countries with comparatively high prevalence rates of tuberculosis? 

One might also ask why a government that shuts smokers into small designated areas never quarantined AIDS carriers even while that deadly disease was considered to be highly contagious?

The answer surely is that to a government whose driving values are secular liberalism rather than the American constitution, some things are just more important than public health.  Not impinging on the ‘rights’ of all to enter the United States is more important than public health.  Not casting any aspersions on the demographic group whose sexual choices were then believed to be behind the spread of AIDS was more important than public health.  And since the 1960s, not even criticizing anyone’s sexual behavior even when that behavior will bring a child into a fatherless home is more important than defeating poverty and crime. 

Each Heavenly chosen word and phrase in Scripture holds life messages such as this one.  Our written, audio and video resources are designed to help you gain a fuller understanding into how the world REALLY works in all its wondrous and varied detail through exploring this ancient Jewish wisdom. Our Library Pack and Library Pack PLUS provide tremendous value all year round, but this week, until we close for the final days of Passover on Thursday evening, we are offering an additional discount. This opportunity will be gone soon, so act now.

HOLIDAY SALE

Complete Library Package
Complete Library Pack Complete Library Pack PLUS

Helicopter Mom – Me?

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

If there is one thing that, until now, I have never been accused of, it is being a helicopter parent. If anything, more than a few of our children’s friends’ parents thought that my husband and I allowed our children too much independence. One of our daughters was incredibly upset that we did not sign her up for SAT review classes or care enough about her grades once she attended a ‘real’ high school.

Yet, as homeschooling increases in the United Kingdom, one British columnist has labeled me, by association and after the fact,  a “militant,” “arrogant,” and “controlling” mother who homeschooled to “dominate and diminish” my children. Wow!

To be fair, the author, Janet Street-Porter is willing to debate home-schooling mothers she knows and works with. Her strong language seems to more headline-grabbing than actually insulting. However, I think it is worth analyzing and rebutting her arguments.

While homeschooling has become rather mainstream in the United States, that isn’t so for much of the rest of the world. It is highly regulated in some countries and illegal in others, most notably Germany. When I was teaching my children, the most frequent accusation hurled at us was that we were hampering their socialization skills. That was laughable If you knew our outgoing children and the many friendships and relationships they had, but that tired allegation didn’t even make it into this article.

Instead, the article’s slant is the damage caused to British society in general and their  children in particular by parents take them out of the system. Ms. Street-Porter contends that those who don’t feel the school system is satisfactory from an educational point of view are  selfish to care only for our children rather than working within the system to improve academics for all. I admittedly am not familiar with British bureaucracy, but if it is anything like America, we’re not talking a fix that will be accomplished within the schooling lifetime of any student today.  Things are that bad and the status quo is too entrenched. I know many homeschooling parents who actively work to improve education on a community and national level. Doing the best for one’s own child doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else’s.

Another accusation hurled at homeschooling parents in this article was a reluctance to embrace the necessity of discipline. Again, unless British schools are complete opposites from American ones, most homeschooling families are far more disciplined than classrooms, not less. Parents who are disorganized wimps can scrape by when their kids are out of the house for many hours a day. When the kids are always home, structure and routine usually co-exist with learning and play.

As for the recommendation that children must learn to handle bullying and that homeschooling to avoid it will reduce children’s resilience and ability to get along with others, I think that is completely misguided. Most parents that I know who homeschool in response to classroom, school bus and schoolyard bullying start out as reluctant homeschoolers.  They have worked with their children, the teachers and administration to try to solve the problem, all to no avail. They are making a difficult decision not to sacrifice their children’s emotional health.

The article closes with this paragraph: “Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children’s lives – monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are “safe”. Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.”

One of the easiest ways to monitor your child is to put them in a controlled environment for most of their waking hours. In other words, send them to school. My children and many of their homeschooling peers were far more independent and had a wider variety of activities than their friends who marched in lock-step with twenty or so other children of precisely their own age. Dominating and diminishing my children? I prefer to think of homeschooling as assisting my children in reaching their full potential; propelling them aloft rather than helicoptering over them.

Prayers

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Our hearts and prayers go out to our Christian friends whose co-religionists were massacred on one of the holiest days of their year. This is a crime not only against them, but against all humanity.

Strange Bedfellows

April 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

I recently wrote about the #Walkaway Movement, founded by Brandon Straka, as one of the bright lights on the American horizon. I avoided mentioning one aspect of his crusade that I do think deserves discussion. I would like to do so now. How I can ally with them and more so, greatly appreciate their involvement in affecting the future of this country, while disagreeing vehemently with many of their lifestyle choices?

The movement is diverse in a way that few areas of American life are today. Rather than identifying by color, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion or nationality, those signing on agree on shared ideas. Among them are a love for the United States, respect for freedom of speech and thought, and serious concern about the bullying and hate being promoted by today’s Democrat Party.

Wherein lies the problem? Many, including the founder, Brandon, identify and behave, particularly in the sexual arena, in ways that I not only think of as religiously sinful but consider damaging to the long-term health of a culture. Yet, I am grateful for their presence. For their part, they are not demanding obeisance from me or anyone else for how they live their lives, though I imagine at least some are hurt by what they see as my prejudices. At its most basic, you could say that the relationship is based on the idea, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but I think that is not only incorrect, but misses an opportunity.

My husband and I have cultivated relationships outside our “box” for many years. In the early years of our marriage, this took the form of leading a synagogue made up mostly of young Jews who had a strong ethnic Jewish identity but negligible religious education or knowledge. (If you’d like to know more about our electrifying experiences during those years, check out Judy Gruen’s The Skeptic and the Rabbi, telling her story of reluctantly being drawn to faith via my husband’s teachings.) This meant that the Jews we welcomed into our home often behaved in ways that were counter to our convictions. They drove by car to our home or synagogue on the Sabbath; brought us non-kosher food as hostess gifts and sometimes even approached topics with our young children that made us uncomfortable. We had no difficulty distinguishing between their behavior and them. Over the years, many of them involved themselves in our congregation and began to follow the Torah; others did not. People in both of those categories came to be our dearest friends.

When we shifted our professional focus away from our Jewish community and onto the national stage out of concern about the anti-Godly direction the United States was taking, we again forged friendships with those different from us. In this case, our new relationships were mostly with Christians. While we agreed on the moral vision for the country, our theologies were not congruent. Since we all took God and His book seriously we could work towards a mutual goal, however this meant putting our differences to the side. In our case, we truly were (and are) completely not disturbed by the notion that some of these individuals are convinced that we will not meet them in Heaven. (It actually amuses us that some secular Jews who profess not to believe in an after-life and Heaven at all, get highly offended at that theological view.) We respectfully listen as our Christian allies pray in Jesus’ name.  Our Christian friends, on the other hand, put to the side their religious duty to share their faith (evangelize) and rather do what they can to support our religious needs. Once again, we count many of these Christians as dear and cherished friends.

I see the #Walkaway group as another example of this kind of alliance.  I think that many in this group have mistaken ideas and I’m quite sure many in the group think I do too. I can embrace them for their political decisions without embracing everything about them.

Knowing something of history is imperative for making wise choices in life. However,  trying to live as if we were still in an earlier  era is an easily made mistake.  When the Jewish Reform movement first started in Germany during the  1800s, those Jews who abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did so deliberately rebelling against God. At that time and place, Orthodox Judaism sought no common ground with Reform. Instead what was needed was vigorous opposition to this distortion of Judaism.   By contrast today, most Reform or completely unaffiliated Jews aren’t rebelling; often they are extremely serious about the only version of Judaism they’ve ever known.

When European pogroms against Jews were regular occurrences in many countries, frequently encouraged by the local priest, the answer was not to form a Cossack-Jewish friendship society. But that is no longer today’s world.  For the most part, anti-Semitism today stems from Islam and secularists.

And when sexual norms began to be shattered during the 1960s, whether through the birth control pill, the normalization of homosexual behavior or the  deprecation of marriage, loud voices of opposition were required. However, many of those living by those new rules today are not revolutionaries. They are often following a path that they believe to be good and normative.

I still think that when Jews desecrate the Sabbath, it is a problem. I still think that homosexual activity is a sin, along with many other behaviors (like gossip) that are completely accepted today. Yet those who do these things are not automatically my enemy. A common theme one hears in the #Walkaway stories is how supporting President Trump or even having something positive to say about any Republican is enough to end decades of friendships and destroy family relationships. Yet, what I read and hear is not a desire to reciprocate the venomous feelings towards these ideologically pure “progressives,” but a wish that these estranged loved ones can overcome their hatred.

At this time in history, the right thing is to build alliances with anyone who doesn’t think that those who disagree with him should be physically, emotionally or financially attacked. It is time to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who feels that the power of government should not be used to impose thought control over the populace. It is time to find common ground with anyone who is willing to let each American live by his or her beliefs rather than strip us of our freedom of speech, religion and assembly. There may be numerous areas of disagreement, but, disturbingly, today there is an ascendant group that is trying to crush those with whom they differ. At a time such as this, new friendships and alliances are needed. There may be other times when doctrinal purity must be emphasized. Now is not one of those times.

P.S. In honor and observance of Passover, our online store will be closed from Friday evening, April 19th through Sunday evening April 21st.

Catch these sale prices!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin Audio Rabbi Lapin Download
Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Biblically-based Introduction to the Hebrew alphabet Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt MP3

 

Notre Dame Will Rise Again

April 16th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

Landing an American on the moon and bringing him home again in 1969 was a multi-year project that involved all Americans. A few directly but most through willingly paying their taxes that underwrote the huge expense. Building Notre Dame Cathedral on its island, with its sandstone walls, its rib vaults and its flying buttresses took about a hundred years and must have also involved a large part of the population. For the 12th century, it was no less a technological miracle than was the moon landing in the 20th. So ahead of its time was Notre Dame that it retained its title as the tallest building in Paris for hundreds of years. Wars, riots and revolutions over the centuries inflicted severe damage on the cathedral but it was always restored and often improved. Again this time, many generous benefactors along with the French government promise repair. They do so because to many, the cathedral is no more than an irreplaceable artistic and cultural legacy; a national monument. The fervent Christian faith that inspired its creation and made it possible has faded into obscurity in modern day France. But in reality, it was the fuel of Christian fervor that hoisted those colossal oak beams two hundred feet up in the air to form the base for 200 tons of lead sheeting as the roof. Along with many massive stone blocks, all this was raised and placed into position with no electrical power, no steam power, and no hydraulic power. As has happened on many occasions during the past few hundred years, Notre Dame will again be restored but let’s not forget that regardless of the secularization of France today, that cathedral was built by the Christianity that shaped western civilization and for the best part of a millennium it has stood as a monument to the faith that built it and that was practiced within it. That won’t change.

My daughter has ‘come out’!

April 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

My 47 year old daughter now says she’s lesbian. She has always been heterosexual. Please use your wisdom and experience to help me. I’ve never known anything like this close to me.

I pray for you and Susan, Rabbi. Please pray for me just once – I know your busy life.

Thank you.

Shocked Mom

Dear Shocked Mom,

Your poignant letter reached out and touched our hearts. We certainly pray for you and for all parents who are blind-sided when a grown child shocks them.

First of all, and we don’t mean this at all in a frivolous way—stop and take a few deep breaths. When news slaps us in the face, we need to give ourselves time to assimilate it. Ask God to support and guide you and be on the lookout for small ‘hugs’ from Him.

Second, and our reaction here may surprise you, we would like to encourage you not to overreact.  You don’t tell us anything about your relationship with your daughter, but separating her and the interaction between the two of you from her behavior is terribly important. Is this one more grenade she is hurling at you or have you always been close and she is worried that you are going to reject her? Are a husband and/or grandchildren involved? Whatever the answer to those questions, she is your daughter and that is not a relationship you want to sever.

If I (Susan) can give a piece of advice from personal experience, get a hold of Barbara Johnson’s book When Your Child Breaks Your Heart: Help for Hurting Moms (I believe it might have been published originally as Where Does a Mother Go to Resign?). While none of us wish trouble on other people, it does help to know that our situation isn’t unique and that others have trod the road we are on, even if the details differ. When I was going through a tough time as a Jewish mother, I found the Christian Mrs. Johnson’s faith-driven words helpful in a way that secular books were not. 

We are going to venture a guess that your daughter is hurting. We want to let you know that Biblically speaking, women with women is in no way comparable to men with men. Lesbianism today is presented as simply an alternative choice, but very often women “discover” this predilection in themselves after having been badly hurt by life, often in situations involving a man or men. Your daughter may very well be seeking love, companionship and affection in a society that confuses that, and much else, with sex.  You are absolutely justified in feeling that this may be a poor choice and one that goes against your beliefs and values, but at the same time you are most likely facing a wounded child.

You need to find the optimal place between the two incorrect extreme reactions of, “As long as you’re happy, everything you do is fine with me,” and “I never want to see you again.” You cannot control the actions of a 47-year-old and you need to acknowledge that her choices at this point in life are independent from you.

Obviously, if this revelation includes walking out on a marriage and affects the lives of grandchildren, your response is even more crucial. We want to reiterate our advice to breathe, pray, get support and think through the situation with as much empathy, clarity and wisdom that you can muster. The film of your daughter’s life is still rolling and we pray that it concludes in a positive way.

Blessings,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

P.S. Please note that our online store will be closed from Friday evening April 19 to Sunday evening April 21 in honor and observance of the opening days of Passover.

3 Great Choices on Sale

Rabbi Lapin Download Rabbi Daniel Lapin Audio
Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt MP3 Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Language

What’s Right with the Teenage Mind and Wrong with Society

April 16th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

A Practical Parenting Golden Oldie: 

Thinking “I told you so” is gratifying. Saying it might be crass, but thinking it feels pretty good. Reading a Wall Street Journal article entitled, What’s Wrong with the Teenage Mind? I definitely underwent an “I told you so” moment.  My husband and I tried as best we could to structure our children’s upbringing according to 3,000 year old Torah principles rather than to the latest issue of Psychology Today. After all, when the newest fad passes you don’t get a chance to press “rewind”. For instance, if you teach your children to call you by your first name when the currently reigning psychologist explains how that will foster closeness, you will struggle to regain lost authority five years later when the most recently crowned psychologists reject that reasoning. 

One commonly accepted view that my husband and I disregarded was a prevalent concept of “adolescence.” We did not accept it as an inevitable stage during which our teenagers would automatically behave recklessly because their prefrontal cortex wouldn’t fully develop until a few years later.  We certainly expected their judgment to improve as they matured, but we were never tempted to excuse destructive, impulsive behavior by blaming it on biology. We anticipated their making proper choices and overwhelmingly, they delivered.

The author of the WSJ article cites the latest studies showing that real life experiences drive the maturation of the impulse controlling parts of the brain. She mentions how cultural psychologist Barbara Rogoff studied Guatemalan Indians and found that their children could handle machetes quite competently. Yet western teenagers basically sit in classrooms, an activity which often starts when they are toddlers and continues for years on end. They may very well be acquiring information; they are not acquiring wisdom. Wisdom means understanding how the world really works. It comes from interacting with people and things, slowly developing a variety of skills. This is best achieved with a mentor who gradually accords his or her disciple greater independence. Information has potential value, but activating its potential means applying, practicing, testing, reassessing and utilizing the raw data.

As our children grew, we helped them develop skills. At tender years they worked in the kitchen, using the stove and sharp knives at ages which would have made Child Protective Services uneasy.  They learned to read charts and check the gauges in a boat’s engine room, to care for infants and toddlers, to do their own laundry and to earn money in ways which probably didn’t meet child labor laws. In varying degrees they learned to sew and work with wood and how to use public transportation and navigate bureaucracies. They studied as well, but book learning and safe, cocooned adult-directed activities didn’t consume their entire time. As they proved themselves capable of shouldering responsibility we gave them more freedom, and for the most part their teenage years were a delight.

While discussing the later arrival of impulse-control in today’s times, the author of the above article also says, “…for reasons that are somewhat mysterious, puberty is now kicking in at an earlier and earlier age. “ For those of you who don’t have time to wait for the next psychological revelation to explain the mysterious reasons for the earlier onset of puberty, let me suggest an important component.  I believe that just as our actions influence our brain development in the prefrontal cortex, they also influence our hormones.

As a society we now give our children less and less freedom to roam and ramble and to push their physical limits. We provide them with an increasing number of electronic gadgets keeping them entertained and isolated in the home rather than playing in the streets. We organize their sports, arts and learning rather than allowing them independence. We do this (in my opinion usually to a much greater degree than is necessary) in the name of protecting them from the dangers which lurk outside. But at the same time we expose them to levels of sexuality which would have ranked as pornography in earlier times. We dress five year old girls like tramps and think it’s cute when little boys learn to parrot lewd expressions. This past week I was in a hotel room and flipped through TV stations. Three minutes of a popular show aimed at pre-teens were so brazen that I couldn’t watch it.  We force our children to lose their innocence in sexual education classes and bombard them with too much information as mommy and daddy host a revolving door through which boyfriends and girlfriends pass. We force intimate, private actions onto a public stage and we push our children into front row seats.  Lacking a shared moral compass in our society we contribute to early puberty with premature and excessive exposure to sexuality.

There may be satisfaction in seeing the world come to accept something which I never doubted. But I would gladly give up that satisfaction and instead be part of a correct-thinking community. It is incredibly difficult to defy the downward gravity of a society bent on devolution. Those of us who believe in timeless truths rather than transitory trends have a hard path to hoe – preferably shoulder to shoulder with our children as we guide them along.

Originally published Feb. 8, 2012

Passover

April 15th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

As we head into the exciting week of Passover, please note that our online store will be closed from Friday night, April 19 through Sunday night April 21 in honor and observance of the opening days of this Festival.

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X