Thursday, January 18, 2007

what being a Torah observant parent is all about

Robert Coles, professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard Medical School, after describing some of the tragic cases that have come his way caused by children raised with no moral guidence and direction, writes in The Moral Intelligence of Children, p.58

What ought to be, might be done on their behalf? I'm all in favor or trying to be of emotional help, cognitive help...But after the courses are over, and the therapeutic sessions end, there are those endless hours that await our children - and their questions ought to be ours: Where are the grown-ups in our life upon whom we can really rely, whom we can trust, whose values are believable, desirable, because they have been given us out of a moral companionship that has been experienced - a daily context for the expressed shoulds and should-nots, the injunctions that have been pressed upon us?...

The conscience does not descend upon us from on high. We learn a convincing sense of right and wrong from parents who are themselves convinced as to what ought to be said and done and under what circumstances, as to what is intolerable, not at all permissable; parents who are more than convinced, actually - parents who are persuasively at the ready to impart to their children through words and daily example what they hope to hand on to them; mothers and fathers who eagerly embrace such a duty. Without such parents, a conscience is not likely to grow up strong and certain.

Is there a more apt description of what being a Torah observant parent and fulfilling the mitzvah of 'Vshinantam l'vanecha', teaching one's children, is all about? Coles continues, p. 178:
No wonder so many Americans go eagerly, routinely, to churches and synagogues. No wonder even agnostic and atheist parents have told me (and they tell their children) that it truly matters for one to have beliefs and ideals - that we must stand in awe of this existence granted to us so fatefully, even as we probe harder and harder to gain mastery of the world around us.

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