The old saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is one of my favorites.
I sometimes sit in amazement and think about how much power adults have over who their children grow to be. Whether our children decide to learn religiously all day or to become explorers of outer space, we have the ability to inspire greatness in them. Proverbs 1:8 states “Heed, my son, the discipline of your father and do not forsake the guidance of your mother”.
Adults have a huge role and bear a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to raising decent human beings. We must raise our children to be caring, smart, moral, inquisitive, successful, and hardworkingjust to name a few. Unfortunately, judging by the lack of concern and the judging of unarmed black kids during the last few months, it looks like several of our friends, and our friends parents, may have dropped the moral ball of compassion somewhere.
We are tasked with not only having to raise intelligent and competent children who are driven to succeed, but we must also raise morally attuned children who can show compassion and empathy towards their fellow human beings.
Rabbi Akiva stated that the fundamental rule of Torah is to love your neighbor as yourself. As human beings, and even more so Jews, we must treat others with the utmost respect and consideration. Samuel David Luzzatto, an Italian rabbinic scholar,believed that Torah is based on 3 foundations-the first being compassion. He wrote that the quality of compassion is the root of love, kindness and righteousness; and it alone brings us to the doing of good deeds without ulterior motives. From compassion we will gain the love for righteousness and justice. Justice.
Compassion is seeing a group of people or an individual suffering or being treated unjustly and having a desire to help. Also known as the golden rule; doing to others as you would want done to you. Pretty simple to understand. Perhaps a bit harder to put into practice, especially when you think of another group of humans as different than yourself.
In order to raise a morally intact child the parent or guardian must also have the ability to show compassion, love, understanding, and forgiveness. This is why deadly cycles repeat themselves. Why there are elementary school children who “hate” certain groups or why there are generations in a single household who all appear to not know the value using uplifting loving words to one another. Children pick up more from our words and actions by watching how we interact with the world than by listening to the rules we give. I hope for my children’s sake that the next generation is being raised to understand, and to show respect and compassion for everyone. I hope they are being taught and evenmore so, that they understand that every life matters.
Unfortunately, from the conversations happening on social media it seems as though this generation isn’t able to fully grasp the importance of compassion, understanding, or even the golden rule. Therefore their biases and prejudices will flow freely to their offspring keeping this cycle flowing uninterrupted.
For all of the Jews of color I know and have friended throughout the years, there were very few who were not disgusted by the level of racism, bias, and/or prejudice they were seeing on their newsfeed and hearing from their associates in the last few weeks. All too often, when we are not a part of a group that is being attacked we forget what it feels like to be on the receiving end. Many of our fellow Jews have used social media to express their beliefs that the young men murdered by the cops in various states deserved their fate. Many of our fellow Jews have used a level of hatefulness and racism that we thought could not have been reached by a group so knowledgeable about the atrocities of racism and hate.Yet some of that same group is doing their best to justify the killing of unarmed men.
So here we are, something so blatantly wrong and despicable is being dissected and mulled over for the tiniest thread to pull and run with. So many people are looking for the most mundane event to claim “if he hadn’t done that he would have lived”.
That is the lie that is seeping into the next generation.
They are hearing parents blame innocent children for their own untimely deaths. These kids will internalize their parent’s beliefs and attitudes.Those internalizations make it harder for that child to have compassion for others, which is the exact opposite of what we are to teach. In some cases, it is unfortunate that the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It is obvious that for generations many children all over America have been filled with hate, prejudice, racism, and lack of compassion,some overt and some covert. When we can literally watch a man who was not being combative be put into a choke hold, say he can’t breathe and die. Or we can watch a young boy shot to death for holding a toy gun. Or we can watch a man be murdered for holding a toy gun in a store where toy guns are sold. Where people cannot find enough compassion to demand justice but rather have people proclaiming their murderers should not be held accountable, there is some deep-seated hatred present.I can’t help but feel like we are sliding back into a time when no one cared or gave a second thought when they saw some strange fruit.
Emunah is an Orthodox Jew, attorney, poet, and former police officer. In her spare time she teaches high school girls English at a religious school in Israel and writes about her life as a Sephardi Jew. She currently resides in Zichron Yaakov with her husband and four children.
Header image courtesy of Pixabay.