Monday, May 12, 2008

Rabbi Horowitz hear my voice!

At what age do people first realize that they can be wrong? A baby knows that he's always right. If he's hungry, or tired, or hot, or bothered, then that's the way it is. A child always thinks he's right. Not necessarily in the information he has, but in the way he feels and thinks. As he matures this certainty stays with him. At some point people realize that their opinions may be wrong; not because of misinformation or because someone else is to blame, but simply because they are wrong. The question is, do people really acknowledge that they are wrong, or do they simply accept other peoples' opinions? Meaning, are they simply overpowered, or do they actually change? Do people become whiteboards, ready to reflect whatever is written, or do they internalize the message they broadcast? At the end of the day, do people become better?
These are all questions that have been asked a million times, and have been answered a thousand times. I just thought that I'd give my stab at them, and see if anything particularly interesting came out. Maybe I'll just take a stab at Rabbi Yakov Horowitz's challenge, "What is the greatest threat to Judaism today?" Yeah, that sounds like it has potential.
Boy, there are so many problems that I don't know what to pick. How about several? One problem is that people don't know their history. They think that "back in the day" people didn't have problems. This is nonsense. As King Solomon says, "There is nothing new under the sun." There has never been a time in Jewish history, at least not since the days of Solomon himself, that the Jews weren't facing destruction, whether of the physical or spiritual variety. I hear, and more and more I see, that "our children" are abandoning the values we hold dear. Is this a problem? Certainly. Should we work as hard as we possibly can, and at least half an hour longer than that, to try and solve this problem? Of course. At the same time though, we have to realize that we aren't living in a vacuum. Our parents had the same struggle, and so did their parents too. Maybe that struggle was physical, but it was the same trouble. And for those who would prefer that physical struggle, well, they obviously don't know what's good for them.
It's funny, because there are a couple of things that science and Torah have agreed to agree on. One of them is that the universe has a beginning, and that time is not infinite. Another is that the sole purpose of life is the propagation of the species. Science is much more clear about this, but anyone who bothers to think for a second will surely realize that this is what the Torah says as well. The first Mitzva is to have kids. According to some opinions in Halacha (I don't recall the source, you'll have to trust me on this one), a person only fulfills this requirement if they have grandchildren. The point? That propagation is the most important thing. The Torah does not say that the Mitzvah is to have Frum children, or smart children, or obedient children; the Torah wants us merely to have the children.
Obviously, we have a responsibility to these children of ours. We must teach and guide them, but ultimately they are responsible for their own actions. So our are children the most important problem facing Judaism today? Yes, but they are also the most important solution facing Judaism today. Without them we are nothing.
This ties into a question that I've been asking myself as of late: What is the most important thing to me, to have all my children or all my grandchildren be Frum. It's not an easy question, and obviously I hope that all of my descendants follow in the paths of their fathers, but I think that the question is ultimately a moot one. My job is to have the kids and try to teach them; the rest is up to G-d.

Shocking new revelations at 8:00 PM

All righty folks, Nemo has commented, and I have to admit that he's right and I'm wrong. No, really, procreation is not the be-all and end-all of our lives. G-d wants us to do certain things, but only with certain conditions. He put us in this world to have Jewish children with Jewish spouses, following the Jewish code of law, and nothing less will do.


Nemo said...

" ... there are a couple of things that science and Torah have agreed to agree on .... Another is that the sole purpose of life is the propagation of the species."

Are you kidding? If the sole purpose of life was propagating our species, how could the Torah have commanded us to take wives, and Jewish wives at that. The idea of love and marriage go against the very grain of the scientific idea of continuing a species. The exclusivity of procreation in Torah would seem to imply that it isn't solely to reproduce, but that there should be Jewish posterity, brought up presumably in something of a Jewish atmosphere.

Consider also two points:

1. If a child were not to be Frum, they could possibly marry non-Jewish, thereby affecting the continuation of the Jewish line. To ensure the continuation of the lineage there must be an actual effort to encourage the creed.

2. In addition to the Torah saying to be fruitful and multiply, it said also in many places to pass on the spiritual beliefs to one's children. In other words, there must be some element of education and knowledge that accompanies rearing Jewish-born children. It is necessary to make them physically Jewish as it were, but not sufficient.

Just like a guy said...

OK, point taken...

Nemo said...

What an honor to get such special mention ...

But from a more practical, less theological point of view, I hear where you're coming from. If we won't at least be Frum, let our existence as Jewish people not disappear. Certainly isn't the most "Frum" logic, but hey, we might just have to be satisfied with that one day.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. R. Shliach: I note that you have tapped into probably the greatest issues faced by a parent - finding the right balance between guiding our children in the right direction and forcing them to follow a certain path. Both methods have their risks - guiding might be too vague and imprecise and the children will wander off in the wrong direction and forcing may be too strong and they will rebel and go completely in the opposite direction. Of course this all presupposes that the parents are satisfied that they have the answers and the direction they want for their children is the right one. So parents must have both the insight to know what is right and the courage to guide/impose that course on their children. Come to think of it, your formulation of the solution ("my job is to have kids and try to teach them; the rest is up to G-d") is the most succint insightful approach I've heard. Well done! Leo dT.