Sunday, November 19, 2006

Religion Is (Not) For Kids!

Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz z"l describes his thoughts upon a visit to a movie studio in Hollywood. This can be found in his book, "The Timely and the Timeless."

We had an introduction to one of the studios to view a film production. On calling to arrange our visit, I was asked if I had any young children with me, since that particular show included some ralher unchaste scenes and would not be suitable for children. I replied, if it is not fit for children, it cannot be fit for the parents either.


Does this not illustrate one of the most curious and perverted notions of our age? Religion and morality are for juveniles; Children must be protected from smutty literature, indecent pictures, imnmoral thoughts; they must not drink or gamble. But for grown-ups all this is in order, as if they were less sensual and more immune to corruption. What sort of a world are we going to have if goodness and decency were to be the exclusive preserve of children? What kind of an example are we going to set our children if we preach virtue for them and practise vice for ourselves?

The same goes for Judaism. Many people seem to think the Torah is a children's Torah. On Pesach they conduct a Seder not for themselves, but only for the sake of the children. They expect their children to go to Hebrew classes, but Jewish learning and reading is not for them.
Judaism teaches the reverse. Of course children must be trained in the virtues of religion and decency and learning to prepare themselves for the challenges of life ahead. But legally no obligations of any kind are incumbent on them until they reach Bar Mitzvah age-I 3 years for boys and 12 years for girls.

Judaism is an adult religion, meant primarily for grown-ups. With Jewish education often ending instead of beginning in earnest with Bar Mitzvah age, is it any wonder that so many Jews have such a juvenile, primitive notion of Judaism, that their understanding of Jewish thought - stunted before their brains matured - is of nursery or elementary school level, and therefore quite incompetent to cope with the complex intellectual challenges of our times? With such a childish appreciation of Jewish values, is it surprising that the flimsiest arguments or distractions encountered on the college campus are enough to knock down their Jewish loyalties and convictions like a pack of cards before the slightest breeze?

For holiness, just as for specially "holy" prayers like Kaddish and Kedushah, we require a quorum of adults, not children.

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