Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Surrounding children with holiness vs. accepting the truth wherever it comes from

I’ve been meaning to post this (and other things) for a while, but could not really find the time to do it. Something my rabbi said two Shabbosim ago.

We learn in Pirkei Avos: “Yehudah ben Tema said: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven” (5:23). This is also quoted in Shulchan Aruch (both the regular one and Alter Rebbe’s) and explained and expounded upon in detail in many places. That’s not what I am going to write about.

At the same time, we know that the Rebbe started a “campaign” against little Jewish children having non-kosher animals in the images around them (on their cribs, their clothes, in their books) or as their toys. I am also not going to discuss this, where it is coming from, halachic and spiritual aspects of, etc., etc. There are those much more knowledgeable than me who have done this, and there are better places online and offline where this was discussed.

What I am interested in considering is something my rabbi said. One the one hand, the Rebbe was against spiritually unclean animals surrounding a young child. On the other, Shulchan Aruch and Pirkei Avos tell us to learn from non-kosher animals. What’s going on?

The answer is: “everything that Hashem created, He created for His glory.” And “just because fools worship, sun, moon and the stars, should Hashem destroy His Universe?” We can learn from anyone and from anything and utilize anything for the purpose of holiness. The Rebbe himself was incredibly emphatic on this point, and in my opinion no stream of thought inside or outside of Judaism emphasizes this idea better and clearer (very strongly but without shtus — unlike some other streams of thought) than Chabad. But — there is time and place for everything. Just because we need to be able to learn from unkosher animals and in general impure phenomena in the Universe does not mean they should surround little children.

Little children need to be surrounded by purity, holiness and Torah in its cleanest and most direct form. When they are older, and Torah has penetrated to (or rather revealed) their essence, they can learn from other things.

So, this is what my rabbi said. My question is: should the same philosophy, perhaps, be applied to chochmas chitzoinius (secular studies)? Specifically regarding children.

29 comments:

le7 said...

Haha the ladies talked about this a few shabbosim ago...

Yeah. It should.

Crawling Axe said...

Which ladies?

Crawling Axe said...

What if particular chochmas chitzoinius develops a child’s mind, which cannot be developed — in the same area and/or equally successfully — through Torah alone? (And if the opportunity to develop a child’s mind early on is missed, later it will not be quite as effective...)

le7 said...

The Milwaukee Ladies... right I dunno then. I'm a big talker but not such a fast walker...

Crawling Axe said...

How did the Milwaukee Ladies know what Rabbi P. had said?

le7 said...

We didn't. But we had a ladies' pirkei avos shiur. My friend gave it and talked about that mishnah. But at the end of it someone said "Isn't that a funny mishnah - so why was the Rebbe so particular about the only kosher animal thing?" So we discussed it without any real guidance.

Crawling Axe said...

Oh. All of you should make a field trip to here for guidance. Or to Skokie, I guess.

le7 said...

Sorry the guidance bit was a joke... (if you knew my community you'd get it - I think).

Crawling Axe said...

I am tired of deleting my own comments. Why do I get them sent from my own blog (and I didn’t even subscribe — when I subscribe automatically, I get the comments e-mailed twice).

Crawling Axe said...

Oh. Are the ladies very opinionated?

le7 said...

Yes but it was more of a joke along the lines of: once I mentioned to someone of somewhat prominence that I have a chavrusa in the morning and we've been learning and he said to me "Oh, without any guidance?" I said "yes but it's things I learned in Machon Alte."

Like give me a break. I am perfectly capable of reading hayom yom and Days In Chabad without a "licensed educator/shliach."

le7 said...

I didn't claim that we were doing amazing things... but what's better: we learn b'chavrusa or not learn at all?

Crawling Axe said...

Reading? Yes.
Learning? Hmm...

Crawling Axe said...

I agree... Just making a joke.

Well, to be honest, I have no idea how the whole learning dynamics with girls is. And in general what I think about the whole topic of girls learning... (generally and specifically).

le7 said...

Exactly. So there.

Crawling Axe said...

Another thing is: I never heard of learning Days in Chabad. Let alone b’chavrusa.

le7 said...

It wasn't learning. We we're learning hilchos brochos and about different shabbos melachos but before we started we would read hayom yom and days in chabad. It wasn't really learning but it was nice.

Crawling Axe said...

Oh, nice. I need to know more about both topics. I was wondering another day how much time must pass between lightning flashes before one says the brocha again.

le7 said...

Me too. Soooo yeah, but we stopped learning once school started for me. My 8am labs messed up our schedule. (Man I miss my fall schedule).

Crawling Axe said...

Huh? You’re taking labs now?

le7 said...

No, last fall I took labs.

Crawling Axe said...

So, the conversation was last fall?

Crawling Axe said...

Oh, I get it. I got your learning with chavrusa and Pirkei Avos conversation confused. Right...

le7 said...

No the conversation was last Spring.

Dovid said...

I think the problem is not even impure animals, because you can take kids to the zoo. The problem is images of impure animals.

And yes it should apply to secular studies.

Crawling Axe said...

Can’t you take kids to an art gallery which has paintings of unkosher animals? And it’s not just about images of impure animals, it’s also about toys that look like them.

Anyway, regarding your answer about secular studies, I repeat my question:

What if particular chochmas chitzoinius develops a child’s mind, which cannot be developed — in the same area and/or equally successfully — through Torah alone? (And if the opportunity to develop a child’s mind early on is missed, later it will not be quite as effective...)

e said...

A mother once told me--and it makes sense--that the Rebbe didn't mean that impure animals are evil and children can't look at them or know about them. In Talks and Tales, Nature's Wonderland would discuss non-kosher animals. He meant that kids shouldn't have non-kosher animals for dolls and toys, i.e. the non-kosher animal shouldn't be the kids' "friend" or security.

re: secular studies: it makes sense to teach kids Ch"ch, but what can we do, the rebbe said not to?

Crawling Axe said...

Yeah, that makes sense.

Why does it make sense, and where did the Rebbe say we shouldn't?

Wasn't he himself taught Math by the rebbetzin Chana from an early age and was actually very proficient in it all his life?

Crawling Axe said...

(Second "makes sense" refers to ch"ch comment.)