Thursday, July 17, 2008

If the Only Way We Can Sell Our children Torah is by Forbidding Everything Else, Then We are Bankrupt

Over Shabbos, I saw a quote from Rav Shlomo Freifeld in Rabbi Yisroel Besser's book, "Reb Shlomo," which captured so much that my rebbe has been teaching us as well. He said (paraphrasing) "If the only way we can sell our children Torah is by forbidding everything else, then we are bankrupt."

I read this to mean basically the following: While it would be foolish not to forbid clearly damaging things to our children like TV, movies and unfiltered internet, when our isurim get more and more dakusdik by overextending them to see potential dangers in almost anything in life, it begins to totally miss the point.

We cannot blame Lipa Schmeltzer (esp. starting at minute marker 11:00), gold-decorated women's shoes, or text messaging to explain why our children sometimes go off the derech. Before these things, along with TV, the internet and Lipa Shmeltzer concerts existed, kids went off the derech because of the haskala or Enlightenment, Reform, or any number of other movements throughout the years. Whereas before, different ideological and intellectual movements may have been attractive, now it's cheap entertainment that threatens by appearing more exciting than Torah. There is always going to be something that will be the kli to draw Jews away from Torah and mitzvos.

However, if we allow ourselves to get caught up in these problems which are merely the conduit through which our children sometimes go off, we are deluding ourselves as to the real problem. If the Yiddishkeit that we live and that we teach our children is not the most vibrant, joyful, exciting and meaningful thing for us in our lives, then almost any vanity of this world will seem more attractive by comparison. It is cruel and unusual punishment to our own and our children's neshamos if we try to correct the presence of text messaging in our midst but we don't correct the kind of messaging that is going on between ourselves and our Father in Heaven! As long as we ignore the internal problem within our own neshamos and our own homes, there will always be some temptation that will "take the children away from Yiddishkeit."

Rav Freifeld said that if we can only get our children to like Torah by fobidding everything else, we are bankrupt. What does it mean to be bankrupt. It means you have nothing! You're empty handed. If our Torah and Mitzvos are empty, then of course we cannot compete with anything of this world. It is a tragedy to blame outside forces when they are just the conduit through which our internal, spiritual problems express themselves. Let's not miss the point. Instead of focusing on outside threats, we must work on filling our spiritual bank accounts so that we can emerge from bankruptsy and live the kind of ruchnius-dikeh life that will make any of these ancillary external distractions pale in comparison to the beauty, happiness, fulfillment and joy in our own Yiddishkeit.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Shor Yoshuv)

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Akiva said...

Well said! Though I would add one further point - not only are we forbidding everything, but we are avoiding providing ANY kosher alternatives.

Soccer field for kids - bittul Torah if they're past bar mitzvah, goyish if they're before bar mitzvah. Almost every children oriented activity - the same.

I would love to fill my childrens lives with kosher activities - some sports with other frum children, jewish card games, yes even a jewish video and kosher computer game. They're going to encounter it out there, let me provide them the kosher stuff.

The only one that has made inroads into the community is kosher music. And we see that moving into serious controversy.

Hashem Yerachem.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Very very true. And when one tries to make an empty space from all of the bad things, but doesn't fill that void with something positive, it is inevitable that some kind of Tumah will end up filling it instead.

As the Piaczezna Rebbe said, the soul craves excitement. And that need will be filled one way or the other. If it is not brought up to feel the excitement of Torah, something else will fill it. For those who are zocheh, it will be filled with "kosher excitement." But for those who are not zocheh, and "kosher excitement" is forbidden as well, then people will find that excitement through Tumah.

The problem of not having "kosher alternatives" to secular amusements from children and teenagers is not the most basic problem though. Yiddishkeit, Torah, davening, chesed, etc. should fill that role. It is when these do not provide the excitement for people (I'm speaking more about teenagers & adults - children almost universally need time to play) that we get into dangerous ground, where you need kosher things to do, so people won't go to the "non-kosher" stuff. You're right that given this already "bidieved" situation, that it would be far better to have kosher alternatives, than it is in the current situation. But the #1 goal should be that no soccer game, video game or card game could compete with avodas Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

I received the following comment by e-mail: Hi Interesting article on reb shlomo comments not sure I agree with your understanding of the quote. If that's the case we should let our children hang out with girls/boys smoke pot and go to clubs. I think that the quite means that if you assur everything but miss the big pic then what you are doing is worthless. there is a valid reason that boys should not txt girls wife's txt men not there husbands

just a thought

keep up the great work love the sight

My response:

Thank you very much for the comment. It's not only innappropriate for girls/boys to hang out to gether, or smoke, but like I mentioned in the post, common-sense things have to be forbidden to our children under normal circumstances like TV, movies, unfiltered-internet. etc. That's what I meant by interjecting that comment. It's also why the examples I gave are of minutia or of things where they're really not inherently inclined to be used badly like the soccer example from Akiva. It's not all or nothing. TV/movies/clubs/boys-girls can be out of bounds. But that doesn't mean kosher jewish music, sports, gold-decorated shoes, cell phones have to be asur. When one tries to asser everyting that could possibly become a threat, he's missing the point. And it's a way of avoiding doing the real work of living and demonstrating a living Yiddishkeit that will make the kids want to stick with it.

It's annalogous to security around sensative sites in the U.S. You have to put significant security around obvious places which may be attacked. But if you focus so much on security that you want to place security guards by every oil delivery truck & bus and office building in america, it's missing the point. You have to go after the terrorism at it's root sources on the offensive. In our case, this is having a living, exciting, vibrant avodas Hashem for ourselves and our children.

Of course men/women/boys/girls shouldn't txt each other. It should most obviously used for quick & easy communication w/in a family or among friends. If it's abused, like anything else, it's taken away, which can be done from server-side with the cell phone company. But the point is, you don't have to allow everything just because you don't asser everything.

-Dixie Yid

David5Ts said...

Still can't access the shiur from the Philly Kollel site...

Anonymous said...

DY: Would you tell us of ways you think our yiddishkeit could be more exciting?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


If you feel that your Yiddishkeit isn't that exciting, perhaps you could give some specifics about how and in what areas that is so, so we could talk about suggestions for improvement.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

No, I was asking your opinion in general, how you think we could make our yiddishkeit more exciting than a rock concert of a soccer game?

I just want to hear your opinion before I offer my suggestions.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Anonymous said...

Vus? Not sure what you mean by that. You're the balabos here so I wanted to give you first go and then add on the margins if need be.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


You wascally wabbi. Thanks for the e-mail. Why didn't you tell me it was you? I thought you were some kind of wise guy. :-)

-Dixie Yid