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Should the Torah be Rated PG?

Should the Torah be Rated PG?

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Question:

I have a three-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 It seems like every story in the Torah needs to be edited for childrenthe world with a flood, the Ten Plagues visited on the Egyptians. Should the Torah be rated PG?

Answer:

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 gray areas, nuances and subtleties, and in most moral dilemmas the lines are not so clearcut. 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 Bad is bad and will be punishedas 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).

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Rudy July 24, 2015

Great explanation! Agree! Reply

William Tucson November 15, 2014

I can't think of a smooth way of working in the story of what happened to Dinah and what her brothers did about it. The whole idea of rape would be very upsetting to children and the subject of circumcision, for whatever purpose it's being used, which comes up as an integral part of the story, would give children the creeps. Reply

3rd grade teacher ny June 1, 2014

keep things simple (cont.) To Malka, Yes, there's obviously more that i tell them, I can't write my whole lesson plan here (there's 1000 character limit:-)), i tell them that there's 2 types of "marriages" (short term and long term...) -again- in a very simple and casual way. if we don't make it confusing, they don't hear it as confusing.
also i teach in a Frum school. i understand very well, that things are very different when talking about students that come from homes from a different background (that the term PG, is begging for PLEASE G-D help!!! i.e. unfiltered TV, internet etc.)
if there's someone reading this who needs help planning their lesson plan, i'll gladly share my email and we can discuss it at length. Reply

asdf May 29, 2014

The things like Lot and Moav Reply

YH May 28, 2014

And what about Kayin killing his brother Hevel, and angels coming down to consort with women on earth and Lot's incestuous relationships with his daughters, and Yaakov sneaking the brachos from Esav, and why Er and Onan died, and Dina being raped, and the brothers selling Yosef and Potifar's wife seducing Yosef, and Potifar wanting a homosexual relationship with Yosef. Not always easy explaining these stories and Rashi to children. Reply

Malka May 28, 2014

To 3rd Grade teacher To 3rd Grade teacher,

If you say that Yehuda "married" Tamar, that will be confusing now and later, when they learn the entire story, which it sounds as though you aren't telling them. Why don't you say, "he married her without a chuppa or ketuba"--which is true--"and this was forbidden for a Bas Cohen. And did you know that every neshama is called a Bas Cohen?" You still must be accurate. Reply

3rd grade teacher ny May 27, 2014

keep things simple To Rochie - Like Aron said, we adults are the ones who make things complicated. i taught the story of yehuda and tamar to my 8 year old students. just keep things simple "Yehuda asked tamar to marry her" "Yehuda married Tamar", kids don't get confused and ask questions, unless we make a confusion out of it. Reply

Rachel Los Angeles May 26, 2014

Great! just great ... love the Please G-d Reply

Tamar Tessler New York May 26, 2014

a) anonymous on hmm - some do explain that Vashti was banished, not hanged.

b) And children's secular stories and nursery rhymes? (rock a bye baby, when the wind blows the baby will fall... big bad wolf gobbling people up... wicked stepmother trying to poison the princess etc etc etc)

c) you definitely can keep the stories age appropriate, Adam and Eve is pretty straightforward, they didn't listen to Hashem; Sdom was destroyed because the people didn't share with poor people; the Egyptians were cruel to us by making us work hard without pay and hitting us (I would leave out the babies in the river at this age,,,). Reply

rochie May 26, 2014

what about the gray areas? What about gray areas like yehuda and tamar? (not that I'm reading those to my 3 year old, but what about to the 12 year olds?)
Completely agree that we adults have issues with things that children accept calmly. Reply

Anonymous May 26, 2014

Hmm Excellent point about the need to have clear morality but the concepts of death, destruction, incest, and so on just seem beyond little kids. There's a song about Purim where Vashti is "sent away". That's a euphemism for hanged.
How do we keep the stories developmentally appropriate? Reply

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