Monday, October 19, 2009


Nine Year Olds and G-d

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths


“I just came back from learning with two boys. We were learning about what was created on each day. One boy asked, ‘Who created G-d?’ How would you answer a nine- year-old boy?”


The first rule of children’s Jewish education is that it must be fun for them. If it is not enjoyable, then, as soon as they are able, they are going to run away.

I often see grown men who are still running away from teachers they had when they were small children. To this day, they refuse to put on tefillin because they were taught by a teacher who did not know the joy of the mitzvah. Instead of sharing the wonderment of the mitzvah, he forced them to put them on. You can not stuff information into children. They must be brought to see the excitement of the Torah in a happy frame of mind.

As to this specific question: First, congratulate the child who asked. Let him know that he is very smart to have asked such an excellent question. Also, it is wise to have small trinkets in your pocket to reward such good questions.

You have to answer children on their level, in ways that they can understand.

For instance, you could answer, “Imagine two characters in a comic book having a conversation. One of the characters asks the other, ‘How did you get here on this page?”

“And the other character answers, ‘Charlie, the artist, is drawing me. That is how I am here. And you know what? Charlie, the artist, is also drawing you. That is how you are here, too.’

“The other character stops and thinks for a moment, and then he asks, ‘But, who is drawing Charlie?’”

The obvious answer is, Charlie is not drawn; he is the one who is doing all of the drawing.

Learning with children is a tremendous honor and an awesome responsibility. May Hashem bless you with success in guiding those most valuable treasures that you have been entrusted to teach. Their education is our future.


  1. you had the opportunity to really give this child a gift, and you gave him a trinket. you could have said " HaShem always was, is and will be. isn't that amazing?!"
    and if the boy questioned you, you could've told him about things that are beyond our understanding.
    instead, you gave him some trinket about charlie the artist.

  2. i think you gave him more than a trinket (in the hypothetical). because you acknowledged the question as a good one, while teaching him an answer, gave a mashal with which he could relate.

    while it is undoubtedly true that some things are beyond our understanding, the danger of Anonymous' answer to the follow-up question (iiuic) is that it a non-answer, and discourages critical thinking, which may be a real turn-off for some people.


  3. That's what I learned. It's best to acknowledge their questions and teach at their level. You can even use that mashal for adults and just change it to 2 people in a painting talking about the painter.

    Plus I agree about teaching with joy so they stick to it.

  4. True, children have to be taught according to the level. The problem is that when they grow up they do not learn what they need to in order to deepen their understanding. This was a key point Rabbi Hartman made in his shiur on leyl Hoshana Rabba. Many of us are taught midrashim and such as nice stories when we are children. Then we get educated and sophisticated in the ways of the world and consider these stories to be not all that. But that is because we have not even taken the measure of the tip of the iceberg -- let alone the depths. So we have the situation in which grownups who may be on a graduate level in math, science, or literature scoffing at aspects of Torah because they never advanced in it beyond the understanding they had as a nine-year-old.

  5. Obviously, the mashal to the artist does not really cover the concept of G-d in Torah because the artist simply brings the drawing into being, but it then continues to exist independent of him. It is not enough to see G-d as the ultimate artist or watchmaker who set everything up to operate.

  6. It's still best though to teach a child at their own level so they understand. And when they are older, they should learn a more sophisticated view.

    The basic idea is that we should understand that the ultimate cause has no cause, since it was always there

  7. These moments are precious for teacher and child. We homeschool our kids so that they can live this wonder and openness and honesty all of the time. Thanks for inspiring me.


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