Should Torah be Rated PG?
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
I have a 3 year old who is quite bright. I try to read to her and teach her as much as I can about stories from the Torah, but recently it's become increasingly difficult. It seems like every story in the Torah needs to be edited for children. I find myself confused all the time with what I am supposed to teach her. Adam and Eve sinning and being thrown out of the Garden of Eden, G-d destroying the world with a flood, the Ten Plagues visited on the Egyptians. Should the Torah be rated PG?
It's funny, all these stories you mention, kids have absolutely no problem with them. It's we adults who have the issues. We have become morally queasy. But our kids need moral clarity.
Adam and Eve did what they were told not to, and they were punished. The generation of the flood was corrupt and was destroyed. The Egyptians who threw Jewish babies into the Nile were punished, after ignoring one warning after another, with the horrible plagues. The message is unmistakable: evil catches up with you. You can get away with it for a while, but not forever. A three year old gets that.
Now of course the world is not all black and white, people are not all good or all evil, and not every choice is between absolute right and wrong. Life is full of grey areas, nuances and subtleties, and in most moral dilemmas the lines are not so clear-cut. But subtlety is for adults. A child needs the security of seeing things in black and white. Rules have to be plainly expressed, borders have to be sharply defined. Good is good and will be rewarded. Bad is bad and will be punished. Children struggle when things are vague and wishy-washy. They thrive on clarity.
We as parents need to be unequivocal about what is right and wrong, and the consequences of choosing the right way or the wrong way. This is the most important lesson you can teach your child. And that is the theme of the entire Torah. In a world of moral equivalence, this message needs to be communicated loud and clear.
Your child has an inner moral compass, but you need to help her cultivate it. Develop her sense of good and evil, and she will grow to be a morally healthy adult, PG (please G-d).