Monday evening, as the CBS News story on infidelity hit the Internet, I received a flood of emails asking for my reaction to it. Although the broader issue which this story represents is not something that can be casually responded to, my short answer is that we need far more “When” and a lot less, “If.”
I am in middle of writing a series of columns in Mishpacha Magazine on the perils of overly sheltering children. The first column was titled, Egy, Kettö, Három -- Analyzing the Wisdom of Overly Sheltering Our Children and the second, “If and When” is in this week’s issue.
From my vantage point, sheltering children is not wrong. We should continue to reasonably protect them from the ills of society as much as we can. But as the same time, with the explosion of technology, all the rules are changing. Unfortunately, individuals have been committing indiscretions since the beginning of time. Read through any of the sheila-and-teshuva seforim over the last 400 years, and you will see how our great leaders responded to incidents similar to what the CBS story conveys. But the Internet accelerates and amplifies everything. The Internet didn’t create immorality – it only facilitates this behavior in a way unthinkable 10 years ago. Likewise, sheltering our children didn’t create immorality – but sheltering them will clearly not be enough to prevent it moving forward. To properly respond to these challenges, we will need to think long and hard about a multi-pronged approach to our new reality. Please read the linked columns for a more comprehensive treatment of these important issues.
I have been writing about the overall challenges of the Internet, Walmart is Coming, and the phenomenon of frum, spiritually hollow adults who graduated from our mosdos, (see All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go) for some time now. In fact, the very first column I wrote (Proactively Addressing the Chinuch Challenges of Our Generation)in the 35-and-counting series of columns more than two years ago in Mishpacha and the column entitled, Seven, Eight, Nine, ... pretty much spell out my greatest fears; in fact it has gotten far worse since then.
If there is any positive outcome that can be had from this horrible chilul Hashem, it would be that we engage in a serious cheshbon hanefesh about the importance of the need to teach hashkafah – WHY to be observant – with as much or more importance attached to it as gemarah and chumash, (see Rambam or Ra'avid and Educated Consumers). We need to teach our children about the beauty of our Torah life, (see Elevator Pitch) not be busy with banning this and ‘assering’ that. To quote a great line from a mother who was looking for a high school for her son (Kiruv For Our Children), “Rabbi, my son needs a salesmen, not a policeman.”
We also need to stop the counter productive model we have created; perpetuating an elitist system that shreds ‘average’ children and go back to the curriculum I was raised with – before we lost our sense of balance, trying to raise gedolim instead of children. We should be Rolling out the Welcome Mat and lowering the pressure for ‘average’ kids like Yossi (see Pulling in the Gangplank). And we should listen – really listen, to our kids (see Exit Interviews) and design schools with programs that match their ‘normal’ needs.
As the CBS story was primarily about the heimish community, I would be remiss if I did not mention how toxic ‘machlokes’ is to the ruchniyus of our children. I have heard this from hundreds of bachurim and yungeleit – it is often the first thing they mention when they talk about why they have left the fold – or stay despite their disillusionment. I sincerely believe that cooler heads would prevail and more shalom would exist, if everyone heard the cynical remarks that our children make about the various ‘machlokes.’
I pray that we have the courage to change. As a great thinker once said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
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