Monday, August 03, 2009


The First Jewish Steps
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski
The haredi district of Meah She'arim in Jerusalem is a microcosm in which the walls speak for themselves. It is a neighborhood in which each poster reflects the way the residents of that area think and live.

A few years ago, walking through the district, I read a poster that said: "The Council of Torah Sages warns you that connection to the Internet constitutes a flagrant violation of Jewish Law."

I was astonished by the tone of the poster, but I quickly understood it. In the 19th century, leaving the ghetto was to wear modern clothes or to go to the university. But today, if one who fears G-d is connected to the web in the Meah She'arim area, he will be mentally outside the ghetto even though he still lives inside it.

However, Jewish life has another facet which is as a dangerous phenomenon for our people's health as the phenomenon of the Meah She'arim posters.

Today, the greatest pride for many Jews is living outside the ghetto in all aspects of their lives: they don't give their children a Jewish education, they don't perform circumcision as they consider it a primitive practice. For many Jews, even the mention of the word "Torah" can cause a shock of astronomical dimensions.

Parashat Ekev says: You shall teach them (these My words) to your children and discuss them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire (for the night) and when you arise." (Deuteronomy 11, 19).

RaSHI, in reference to this verse, teaches us: "KesheHa-tinok Matchil Ledaver, Aviv Mesiach Imo Be-Lashon Ha-Kodesh U-Melamdo Torah, Ve-Im Lo Asa Chen, Harei Hu Ke-ilu Kovro." ("When the infant begins to talk, his father should speak to him in the Holy Tongue, and should teach him the Torah. If he does not do this, it is as though he buries him (while still alive)".

RaSHI teaches us through these harsh words that the Jewish education of a child must begin at the earliest age. Otherwise, the Jewish identity of our children will run the serious risk of being buried.

There is an old anecdote about a young couple who once visited the renowned Chafetz Chayim seeking his wise advice.

She was in the eighth month of pregnancy and wanted to know how they should act with their future son in order to root him in the Torah.

The Chafetz Chayim looked at them and said warmly: "I hope I will be able to help you, but let me tell you that you came to me eight months late…".