Should we allow children to choose?

Friday, 23 August, 2013 - 2:52 pm

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The worst thing you can do for your children is allow them to make their own choices.

Sounds a little extreme? Well, I needed to get your attention somehow! Let’s work through this, hear me out and please share your thoughts – I’d love to hear from you.

The modern mindset dictates that there is no inherent right and wrong. As long as you don’t hurt someone else, you’re more or less ok. But is this a valid standard? Pause for a second and think; in your heart of hearts, does it ring true?

If this morally ambiguous standard was true, why then do we feel positively about some behaviors and are repelled by others? Even children have an ingrained sense of right and wrong.

For some reason, we have become uncomfortable with the notion of clearly defined boundaries and standards. For this reason, many today are disillusioned and depressed, because in order to lead a truly meaningful life we must have clearly defined standards. In order to live a healthy life we must have a clear sense of right and wrong. And in order to raise emotionally healthy children we must be able to confidently communicate these standards.

The imperative of a clear set of moral guidelines is communicated many times in the Torah. In this week’s portion it is shared in an especially poignant and compelling manner. The Jewish people are at the border of Israel; Moses is sharing his last words of guidance before handing the reins of leadership to his dedicated disciple and successor, Joshua.

Moses instructs the Jewish people that when they enter the land, they should gather at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. They should divide the tribes into two groups of six, one group on each mountain and the tribe of Levi in the valley between. They were instructed to pronounce 12 moral guidelines of the Torah. Rashi explains that they were to face Mount Gerizim and declare that one who would fulfill these guidelines would be blessed. They would then turn to Mount Ebal and declare the ill-fated results for one who didn’t live up to these standards. (These instructions were fulfilled by Joshua, as described at the end of chapter 8 of the book of Joshua 8:30-35.)

Why the need for all the show craft? Why was it necessary to communicate the message of right and wrong in such a dramatic manner? The Torah is emphasizing here an important matter – in order for the Jewish people to be successful in the new land they were settling. In order for them to be able to establish a healthy society, they had to have a very clear understanding of right and wrong. There was no room for moral ambiguity.

This message is true today; there must be two clearly delineated paths, two mountains, if you will. Some actions are good and a blessing, while others are tantamount to curses. And there must be a clearly defined difference between the two. And while we might allow our children to choose for themselves, (i.e. we won’t force anything on them), we will clearly communicate which choices are right and which ones are wrong.

Ketivah vachatimah tovah, may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

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