A charming twenty-something Chassidic fellow pushing a baby carriage containing a newborn child floored me with his response. “Rabbi,” he said, “My son is two months old. Just tell me what I should do so [that] he doesn’t go off the derech.” And he wasn’t kidding.
That comment reflects the deepest fear that parents have nowadays – that their adorable child might c’has v’shalom (G-d forbid) morph into an unruly teenager who veers off the path (derech is Hebrew for path) to a successful life, abandons Yiddishkeit, and falls into a sub-culture of antisocial and self-destructive behavior.Disregarding the obvious bull-shit of ”and falls into a sub-culture of antisocial and self-destructive behavior”, it is interesting to note that there is such a deep-rooted angst for one’s kids to go off the derech.
Why do you think is that?
(Interesting detail is that a haredi Rabbi is willing to acknowledge the issue in public. Is the teshivah movement not about to bring Moshiach? On the other hand, he is spearheading a ‘kiruv krovim’ outreach organization called Project Yes, so this probably serves his cause well.)
RH thinks the problem lies mainly with the way parents deal with the children.
The ten things he suggest for parents who seek to prevent their kids to get into antisocial and self-destructive behavior are (some comments in square brackets):
1. Belong to a kehila with a Rov who can guide you, and live spiritual, meaningful and inspired lives where you are true role models for your children. [Get a guru to control your family unit]OK, so these are actually 11 points :)
2. Create a happy and nurturing home environment; avoid corporal punishment and refrain from sending them to settings where it is condoned.
3. Spend quality time and nurture your relationships with your children and seek help should you find yourself exuding negative energy with them.
4. Be flexible – treat them as individuals and allow them to chart their own course in life. [This advise is obviously necessary in frum circles but mostly superfluous in secular families]
5. Protect them from abuse and molestation.
6. Live in a forbearing community where the members have good Torah values and guide your children to develop friendships with peers who have good middos and share those values.
7. Provide them with a good and broad-based education – in Judaic and general studies. [I thought the gedolim think that secular studies will cause people to go ‘off’?]
8. “Stay in the Game” – never give up on them no matter how bumpy the road educationally or socially, and professionally identify and address any learning disabilities.
9. See to it that your values and those of their schools are consistent and maintain congruence between your words and deeds.
10. See that they exercise (very) often and have varied hobbies and interests.
And … always and above all, daven to Hashem for siyata dishmaya.
Notice how the majority of these points concern issues that are not related to OTD but ensure the emotional well-being of the child, such as creating a safe environment, stimulating emotional and physical health, as well as ensuring proper education
However, IMHO, Rabbi Horowitz missed out on at least five points that may well keep people in the cozy nest of frum and heimishe yiddishkeit:
- Stop teaching kids the literal and fundamentalist understanding of the Torah and other ‘holy writings’. Every child with a half a brain will sooner or later figure out that the stories of creation, the flood, etc. are etiological at best.
- Stop this nonsense of gedolim being super heroes. They are all normal people who can be manipulated by askanim (see here).
- Stop teaching these ridiculous midrashim from The Midrash Says; kfitzas haderech and the moon being shrunk are an insult to a youth’s intelligence.
- Stop forbidding masturbation; everyone does it, will subsequently feel terribly guilty, and then start to resent Judaism.
- Start saving marriages by teaching children in puberty about sex and leaving room for pre-marital, consensual sex. Many divorces can be avoided like this.