The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014
Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology
The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious
: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain
April 14, 2014
Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time
: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic
: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships
: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin
: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate
: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
April 11, 2014
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden
: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does
: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer
: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You
April 9, 2014
Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?
Samuel G. Freedman
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
April 8, 2014
Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease
Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear
April 4, 2014
A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children
Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet
Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds
Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves
April 2, 2014
Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?
Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities
It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene
Jewish World Review
Dec. 14, 2007
// 4 Teves 5768
It is not enough to identify with good if we cannot embrace it with the power of well-reasoned and strongly felt conviction
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
These days it seems the only crime worse than believing is attempting to get others to believe. We have become so tentative, so unsure of ourselves, that we think it best to raise our children with love and self-confidence, but not any single set of values; that we ought not to force our views on anyone, least of all our children.
Sadly, this moral uncertainty is also being embraced by our political leaders with little outcry
If there is one Biblical notion that all the monotheistic religions hold in
common, it is the triumph of Good over Evil.
Actually, the Bible predicts the opposite.
Don't look too hard. It is pretty much right at the beginning. There is
something profoundly disturbing about the story of Cain and Abel. It is the
Bible's first story about the encounter of the good guy and the bad guy. But
it doesn't end like it is supposed to. When the dust settles, the good guy
is dead, and the bad guy cops a plea. Is that a message for all times?
Shouldn't the guys in white triumph over their counterparts in black?
A late 16th century rabbi provides a chilling explanation. Cain, explains Rabbi
Judah Loewe of Prague, represents the person in the throes of his yetzer
Hora, his evil inclination. Abel is true to the Hebrew meaning of his name
hevel, which means emptiness, vacuousness. Even when Abel performs some good
deed, such as in bringing the offering to which G-d responds favorably, it
does not flow from some internal font of goodness. His actions even his
good actions are superficial, not an expression of his essential self.
(Seth, the brother yet to be born, represents the actualization of yetzer
Tov, the inclination to good; his descendants would inherit the new world
after the Flood.)
Put simply, Cain represents strong-willed evil, while Abel represents wimpy,
irresolute good. When they clash, it is not even a close match. Sure-footed
evil will forever triumph over good that stumbles and falters. One of the
first messages of the Bible is that it is not enough to identify with good,
if we cannot embrace it with the power of well-reasoned and strongly felt
This is a sobering conclusion in a world in which we are often derided for
holding firm to personally held values. One of the few certainties that
have survived to our day was eloquently stated by Oliver Wendel Holmes,
often seen as a champion of moral relativism: "Certitude is not the test of
certainty." We have come to mistrust any claim to have discovered a
Perhaps the only crime worse than believing, in many circles, is attempting
to get others to believe. We have become so tentative, so unsure of
ourselves, that we think it best to raise our children with love and
self-confidence, but not any single set of values. We ought not to force
our views on anyone, least of all our children. Let them choose their values
when they grow up.
This is tragic. At worst, we will produce amoral offspring. At best, they
will often become a generation of Abels, incapable of standing up to the
Cains that will certainly share their world.
At the Dartmouth presidential debate in late September, the candidates were asked what they thought about a Lexington,
Mass. teacher who read a story to second graders about a prince who married a
prince, i.e. about same-sex marriage. Senator Edwards supported the notion:
Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed
to all ... to all of those possibilities because I don't want to impose my
view. Nobody made me G-d. I don't get to decide on behalf of my family or my
children, as my wife, Elizabeth, who's spoken her own mind on this issue. I
don't get to impose on them what it is that I believe is right.
Despite Suha Arafat's absence from the room, Hillary made no attempt to
protest, to distance herself from the remark. Neither, for that matter, did
any of the other candidates. The point was subtle enough that perhaps the
rest of them should probably not be blamed. May G-d save us, however, from
the moral vision of John Edwards.
One does not have to be G-d to forcefully teach children the difference
between right and wrong, and a set of strongly-held values. It does,
however, usually help to believe in G-d, and several of the Democratic
candidates have been going out of their way to stress their belief.
Believing in G-d, among other things, allows parents to view their task as
fulfilling a Divine mission, not just providing gametes and game boys.
Believing in G-d allows often forces believers to embrace some values as
better, not just different.
Part of the challenge of parenting is to be clear enough in one's own values
to be able to impart them to the next generation. The values that make a
difference the ones that require sacrifice and effort compete with many
counter-values. They are not so likely to survive if they are either unclear
and conflicted, or "imposed" (to use Senator Edwards' word) by force and
coercion. The trick is to understand them well enough to be able to
demonstrate their value to children. This involves different lessons
appropriate to children at different ages, and protecting them against
exposure to harmful experiences and examples. If children come into their
world with a tabula rasa, it does not stay empty very long. If we will not
inscribe something of value on it, it does not stay blank. Many other pens
wait to furiously scribble their dark messages.
Put more simply, there is a world of difference between education and
imposition. But letting children chose from competing systems like sampling
the dishes at a smorgasbord is a dereliction of parental duty. It will also
spell the end of America.
Until the end of days, there will be no shortage of evil, much of it focused
and determined. Good doesn't have a fighting chance if values are picked
like choosing between different rolls of wallpaper. Good needs to be
conveyed with passion and conviction. The parenting ethic of John Edwards
will likely lead to a country not very sure of what it stands for, or where
it is going.
Cain, unfortunately, is alive and well. Abel just won't make the cut. The
story of the struggle between the two brothers is crucial at the dawn of
humanity, because it underscores the need for G-d's guidance the rest of
the Bible. Having benefited from that guidance, we can find the mandate and
the confidence necessary to be parents unashamed of making choices for our
children. That doesn't make us G-d, it makes us G-d's partners.
Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
JWR contributor Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein holds the Irmas Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
© 2007, http://www.JewishWorldReview.com