Rebbetzin Laia Uzvolk
Victory Park and Districts Hebrew Congregation
And teach them (words of Torah) to your children and speak of them... (Deuteronomy 6:7)
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם... (דברים ו:ז)
In looking for a poignant message for these strange times, Hashem directed me to these two stories:
“I dearly want my children to study Torah regularly!” cried a Jew.
R’ Menachem Mendel of Kotzk replied, “If your children see you studying Torah regularly, they too will study Torah regularly. If not, they will grow up to be adults who want their children to study Torah regularly, without doing it themselves!”
A Chossid once complained of his poor memory. The Chidushei HaRim advised that the cure for forgetfulness is stated in two verses in the Torah: “Do not be led astray by your heart and your eyes ….that you may remember.”1
These two anecdotes combine into a very pertinent message. We are spending intense time at home. Thus we are forced to role model 24/7. The strongest lessons we are teaching our children now are how we react to and handle situations. Honesty and integrity vs sweeping under the carpet, when to be thorough vs cutting corners. How to pick priorities and live with balance etc.
In order to give us free choice Hashem created everything in this world as “parev” with the capacity to be used for positive or the opposite. Technology is a prime example. As the Rabbis say, “Hashem sent the cure before the ailment”.2 He ensured that before lockdown we had the tools of technology which would enable us to thrive and not just survive. Online teaching, studying, shopping, communicating, relaxing… are all huge gifts. However, this powerful world has monsters lurking within, which if used incorrectly, even inadvertently, can literally destroy relationships and even lives G-d forbid.
This may sound drastic, but it is realistic. And it starts off in very innocuous, innocent ways.
Back to the stories above…role modelling and boundaries. It is imperative for ourselves, and for sure for our children, to have balance and filters. We need to set healthy parameters as to how
and where we use our devices – to “not be led astray by your heart and your eyes…” and we need to do this if we want our children to follow suit.
Practically, in order to protect us, the Torah gives us the basic mitzvah of ‘yichud’ – ‘seclusion’.3 The Torah is timeless, Hashem who eternally creates Man gives us constant modern applications of time old mitzvos. Here we are commanded to ensure that we are never secluded with anyone (or anything with many ‘anyones’ on it!) with whom we may not be intimate.
Whether we choose to apply a filter, to keep phones out of bedrooms, bathrooms and away from meals, or ensuring to balance worldly videos with Jewish media in a suitable ratio…. this Shavuot, join me and commit to strengthening our eyes, hearts and homes, in making a safer, holier virtual reality.
Whatever it is, let’s DO something we want our children to emulate!
Midrash, Lekach Tov Exodus 3:1
Shulchan Aruch E.H. 22, based on Mishnah, Kiddushin 4:12