Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Being "Half"

Rabbi T here had up an interesting posting about "half Jews." A comment at the time didn't seem to want to form itself, but I've been thinking about points that were raised. So, better late than never, my thoughts follow.

I'm not disagreeing with the basic premise, that children observe the adults around them, and if they see them only "half-heartedly" following the rules--or outright breaking them--then they, too, may adopt a "half" lifestyle.

However, there needs to be a clear distinction made that children are not adults, and that some of adult behavior is not necessarily wrong--being practiced by an adult with full reasoning powers and maturity to see--but would not be appropriate for a child, whose knowledge and reasoning power are not yet fully developed.

Criticising something or someone, when done by an adult, is not necessarily being "half-observant," nor is it being only "half-respectful." (What is tochechah after all?) Sometimes that public voicing is necessary to point out that "the Emperor is naked." Human beings, no matter their training or studying, are still human beings, making them imperfect and not 100% right 100% of the time. We are taught to respect our leaders, not worship them--"Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Just what picture do you think children get when leaders of different groups within Klal disagree with each other, criticize each other, declare the "other" to be wrong? When the language gets heated among rabbanim and between such groupings? When Rabbi A paskens X, Rabbi B paskens Y and Rabbi C paskens Z, all referring to the same exact thing, based on the same holy writings? When groups A to Z within frum Klal feel free to criticize and publicly denigrate each other and claim that only their way of practicing and believing is the correct way and all the others are only "half-frum"?

It is not only those who are wilfully going against our laws who are bad examples for our children, who show them that "half-observance" is okay to do. When sinah and chinah are rampant among the various frum groups of Klal, when Jews of one stripe feel free to stone and attack Jews of another stripe and rabbinic leadership does nothing, then what do you suppose our kids are being taught by example?

In short, yes, we adults need to be cognizant of the examples we are setting for our children, but that includes all adults in Klal, regardless of group belonged to, and regardless of where in the hierarchy of Klal we fall.


tesyaa said...

Good point.

leahle said...

Agreed. We only get our kids for maybe half of their time. Their teachers and principals and the rabbanim the schools teach the kids to honor/admire/listen to have the other half of the kids' time. And they don't always set a good example.

I remember when my son was a second grader and got into a yelling fight with another kid that got kind of heated up. The principal called him into the office and yelled at him for yelling. My son was a little confused and told the principal 'but you're yelling at me so why can't I yell at Chaim?' Principal's answer was to suspend him for the day for being chutzpadik. Hello!

tesyaa said...

Maybe I missed the point. I thought the post was asking why texting is considered "half" observance, while egg throwing and vituperation is considered "full" observance, as long as the egg throwing and vituperation are in the name of being "more" religious.

Miami Al said...

Because texting on Shabbat, while a questionable Halachic violation (one could absolutely make an argument that it's permitted, it's not an accepted argument, but one can make a logical argument for it), is seen as terrible because it uses something with "new technology" and sounds sexy, technology entices teenagers to violate Shabbat.

Whereas handing Aliyot to convicted criminals is seen as normal behavior, despite there being NO logical way in which one can argue that stealing is somehow permitted to an Orthodox Jew.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Thanks for the link! If I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that there are adult behaviors which are correct for adults, but which mis-lead kids. I agree with that wholeheartedly.

As a separate point, I certainly agree that hatred and denigration of others is wrong for adults and kids.