Friday, June 24, 2005

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Children and the Esoteric

Renegade Rebbetzin wrote (on her blog, original post here):

I'm sooo upset right now. One of my kids has recently become acquainted with the concept of death. No big deal; we've been through this before, and we go through the scripts we're supposed to go through...

My kid announced to me recently that "when Maschiach comes, everyone who's dead is going to be alive again." Now, knowing my kid's teachers, I was somewhat surprised, and quite certain that Phillie didn't hear this in school. So when I asked Phillie where Phillie heard it, Phillie confirmed that it was not from school, but from a kid who was visiting our shul, who learned it at another school - and this visiting kid is four years old.

Here's my response (which I posted in a comment on her blog as well)...

There is a tendency in Judaism to focus on the legalistic aspect, halacha, Talmud, is it kosher or treif, etc.

But, particularly in today's vacuous society, some people ask WHY? Why Torah and mitzvot, what's G-d, where's G-d, what's with souls, etc. While it has not been a heavy focus of Judaism in the past, especially when the 'masses' have been less than scholars and the scholars have been focused on the operational / legalistic aspects, today the situation has changed (which is not to say that scholarship is not critical to Judaism, nor that Jewish education has not always been a key priority, but historically I'd be surprised if generations past exceeded 15-20% 'scholars').

Even our children are often more significantly educated in religious concepts than our great-great grandmothers were (not to say they weren't holy and righteous women, but most were probably not worrying about how the soul is impacted by mitzvot, or G-d forbid the opposite).

My 10 year old daughter came home and asked, "Charity saves from death, but in the Midrash of the time of Sdom we were told the story of the woman in Sdom who did charity and was horribly tortured to death for it, how can that be?"

The study of pnimiut ha'Torah (the inner essence, the secrets) is not just for men over 40 anymore.

If I can describe the Big Bang in great scientific detail, why can't I describe the Creation in great spiritual detail?

How's a baby made? Skipping the um-hmm part, I can show my children detailed pictures of the growth of a fetus and the amazing biology of life. Why not the details of a soul moving through the heavenly storehouse down the divine channels and into the body?

In today's world, the children (especially the Jewishly-educated ones) will probably not be challenged when another religion is thrown in their face. But what when science is thrown in their face, in exquisite detail, and they're told 'there is no g-d'?

Parshas Ha'azinu, Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:20 -

For they are a generation that changes; Children that have no upbringing. They have made Me furious with no god,Provoked My anger with their nonsense.

I think teaching children, appropriately, esoteric concepts of Judaism, it's theology if you will, is critically important for this generation.

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