Mar 25, 2015

A Caveat to Teachers and Parents

A child came home from school with the story about Avrohom Avinu but something went wrong in the transmission.  The child said that Avrohom was bad because he broke everything.  Somehow, in telling the preschoolers about how Avrohom had broken the idols, this child thought that if a boy breaks things and his father is upset about it, then the boy did something bad. 

To make it worse, the child had no idea what a "getchka" is.  How should he? (Getchka being the Yiddish word for idol.  The morah said that Avrohom broke all the getchkas).

Another incident:

A mother was saying goodnight to her little boy, and she said mommy loves you, daddy loves you, Hashem loves you ...

Her son said, "Hashem is bad."

The shocked mother asked: Why do you say that?

He said, "Because Yona ran away from Hashem."

And it was obvious to the child that if Yona ran away from Him, that He must have been bad.

What can parents and teachers do to make sure these misunderstandings are minimized? I suppose only by discussing things with children, getting feedback from them, will we know what's on their mind.  Other than that, we have to pray that what we say is understood properly!


  1. A book was recently published by an atheist who was raised as a Sqverrer chossid in New Square. His decline began when his child asked if Vashti really had a tail. He answered that she did but then he began to question whether he was lying to his child and if many of the Midrashim that he had accepted all of his life were not actual facts. Midrashim are "fill in the missing pieces" stories that we believe are true but if someone questions the validity of these stories, they should not be castigated or punished. They should be taught what Midrashim are.

  2. That Vashti had a tail is in the Gemara, מגילה דף יב. There are Agadta, non-legal material, in the Gemara that are not necessarily literally true. Commentators address this issue, about when to accept them as literal truth and when they are meant to be symbolic.

    If anyone questions anything about Torah or Jewish life, unless they are like the rasha of the Haggada who is not interested in an answer and is dismissive of what you have to say, they should be given a good answer. But as R' Orlofsky explains at length in an excellent lecture, you have to find out what they are really asking. It may not be immediately obvious.

  3. I think that in some communities, questions are punished rather than answered. In some families, children grow up with unanswered questions such as about divorce, miscarriage, or family members who don't get along. Sometimes the children know better than to ask because they know that they will not be given an answer and will be viewed as impudent for asking. The parents will not be pro-active and address the issue that children may have heard of Hitler, yemach shmo and the Holocaust. It will be a big shock when they finally hear about anything bad or negative. Some communities don't teach Chumash to women or girls so that they don't even know when to ask anything. They are told parsha but do not learn Chumash inside. The Hagaddah talks of the child who does not know how (or what) to ask. He is not necessarily an infant in years.