Ven a ganef kisht darf men zich di tsein ibertseilen.

Honoring Parents: Directions from Heaven

A healthy society starts with the trust in the Creator of the Universe and His instructions to us, which teach us how to live in peace with Him and with one another.

In America these days, there is an obvious undermining of parental authority. It is everywhere. In light of this, it is imperative that parents get a handle on what is happening, or they will find their children slipping away. After that…everything is lost. Gaining an awareness of how the mainstream culture is actively undermining this long honored ethic is crucial, in order to secure the primacy of parental authority and preempt the potential damage. If acted upon too late, it is possible the damage may not be reversible. This is for the sake of the children, and society as a whole. Without it, there is no order, and there is no future.

If one watches the various television programs and movies, and compares them with movies and TV of even 10 or 20 years ago, the shifting sands of what this culture is willing to endure fromtheir offspring is shocking. It’s become clear to me that these sources are being used to subtly re-educate us all on what are proper, fair expectations of one another, what tone one can take with one’s parents, what “rights” children have, how dense and demanding one’s parents are, how troublesome the in-laws are, what a hag the wife is, how obtuse the husband is, ad nauseum. The shift has been slow, but it is accelerating, because we’ve all become acclimatized and so there is little danger of even token resistance. We’ve also all become convinced of our need for these forms of entertainment. Even while we restrict ourselves to G and PG movies, the re-educating efforts continue…because while swearing and sexually oriented material is non-existent or very limited in these movies, the basic attitudes of independence from family or parental expectations permeate these more innocent movies as well.

I once had occasion to discuss this issue with the Chief of Police in the town where I lived. His expressed attitudes towards parental authority encapsulate current popular thinking on the relationship between parent and child. In a word…once they’re 18, they’re not yours. He told me that if my child, then 19, decided to tell him something and didn’t want me to know, then it was just too bad for me, even if he lived under my roof. This man arrogantly and loudly insisted that he would be under “no legal obligation” to tell me a thing. My response to him was “though that may be the law…it is a pile of ‘fill in the blank'” as far as I was concerned. He responded that he rather liked the idea. That was the Chief of Police of a city. He gloated. He laughed at me. He gloried in his power over me. He had more power over my child who lived in my home than I did, and he fully intended to exploit that power whenever and wherever possible. I shuddered at the thought that this man, who makes a living by sticking juvenile delinquents in jail, was probably responsible for creating a number of them. I’m not exaggerating the arrogance of this man. If anything, I’ve toned it down. For those of us who understand the Torah’s requirements of “kibbud av ve’aim“, honoring one’s father and mother, to live in a day where the “law” encourages defiance against the family — long recognized to be the basic unit of society should be, well — very worrisome. No. It should be a huge red flag for us all.

The damage being done to this concept is not only affecting the youth of this country. The erosion most likely began long before. Witness the prevalence of nursing homes caring for aged parents who could be cared for easily in the home. I’m not referring to Alzheimer’s patients who might wander off and endanger themselves, though I’ll bet in days gone by, many an undiagnosed Alzheimer’s patient was indeed cared for in the home. Go visit a nursing home sometime. It’s a booming business. Most of the time, they’re nothing but human warehouses, filled with people who’ve nothing left to do but remember better days when they mattered to someone. Now they are waiting to die. The vast majority of American families consider this the norm. Back in the day, it was a disgrace to a family if they put their old folks “away”. Thus, the current older generation has undone themselves in providing a poor role model for their own children, who will someday decide not “whether” they will go into a nursing home, but which is furthest away and cheapest. Look out!

Another problem I see is the church’s contradictory stance on the primacy of the family. The church will teach that one must honor one’s mother and father, and then, in the next moment, invite a Jewish kid to one of their bible studies behind their parents back, then through some superficial, canned prayer they will “save” the child, offer them a home away from their parent’s home, all without the parent’s knowledge. After all, the church knows their parents will be upset and try to undermine the new “convert’s” faith. They will then proceed to drive to the child’s home, in order to transport the child’s possessions to their new “family”. But because the church has this strong ethos that they are saving the child from certain damnation by doing all this, they do not see anything wrong in undermining the integrity of the Jewish family. Thus they are causing a Jewish child to violate the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, and causing untold misery and heartbreak within that family for generations to come.

Jewish families are painfully aware of this. We have been suffering with it for millennia in various forms, some violent, others with a more “friendly face”. All result in the same excruciating pain, for the families and for the children or youth. Often the full measure of destruction is not realized by the wayward son or daughter until years later when their own children reach the same age.

There is a flip side to this problem that American parents are often guilty of, but rarely was this so when I was young. I have often heard of young people in their 20’s and 30’s who are struggling to pay off educational bills from student loans. When the discussion goes deeper, I find that this was not due to parents who could not assist in paying for the college or vocational school tuition of their children. No. The parents are often very well off, purchasing RV’s, going on vacations, owning large “cabins”, buying new cars every year. They could help. Certainly it’s not always true, but often it is true, that though parents could put their kids through school easily, or at least help, they refuse to do so. My theory here, this is out of some misguided “American” ideal of each man making it on his own, independent of outside help. Brave American pioneers, you know. They are quoted, “You’re eighteen now, you’re on your own.” And now their married children have to struggle in a junky apartment, with bill collectors after them, because they had to put themselves through school. Ah, but they did have the aid of the benevolent government. Hogwash. There is nothing benevolent about government entitlement programs, and how has that become the American ideal anyway?

I’ve also heard of parents who, while upper middle class or better, not starved for space or money, tell their kids when they’re eighteen, “Time to move out, you’re an adult.” I’ve heard of kids who want to live a sound financial and moral lifestyle, who want the benefit of their parent’s experience. They ask for their parent’s counsel on various issues, buying car, or a house, or in choosing a prospective marriage partner. The response is, “You’re an adult now. That’s your business, not mine.” Is this what we’ve learned from our famed psychologists? Do Americans know that the rest of the world pokes fun at our dependence on the so-called wisdom of psychologists? And they also watch as our families disintegrate around us, amazed at how we use our wealth to such ill effect.

These attitudes will only serve to break down the family structure further. I know I’m not the first one to say this, but…the way I see it America really is on a slippery slope. First our moral/family structure has been undermined. We’ve allowed it. We have no excuse. The next thing on the chopping block is our financial structure. Since our moral and family underpinnings are now weakened, we have learned not to help each other and certainly not to count on one another. So, where the family used to be the traditional safety net in times of trouble, we must depend on the government as our safety net. Both options have their down side.

Jokes abound in popular (i.e. TV and movies) about dependence on family; asking parents for loans and never hearing the end of it; the controlling, unpleasant mother-in-law; the bossy, bigoted father; the kids who never grow up and let the parents “have fun”… blah blah blah. It happens. When abuses of need or abuses of generosity occur in a family, or a congregation, they need to be addressed. There’s a down side to everything. But in the grand scheme of things, I would venture a guess; the downside to the family “social security system” is probably a lot less onerous, a lot safer, and certainly healthier for our society, than the downside of the “nanny state” social security system. Read Animal Farm & 1984 again if you don’t believe me.

When we are finally enslaved by our weakened morals and lack of family ties, which will bring impoverishment, with only the government left with any resources to “save” us…the final move will be made. We will lose our liberty.

Below are some links for study.

Rabbi Asher Meir on Torah Tidbits

Jewish Virtual Library

Limitations on Honoring Parents and Honoring Minhagim

Ahavat Israel on Honoring Parents

Innernet’s Rabbi Moshe Lieber on the Fifth Commandment

Torah.org’s Rabbi Yissocher Frand on Parshas Yisro

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Image Credits:

Another Era from: luvlymikimoto’s photostream

Nobody Like Daddy from: christopherallisonphotography.com

Where Are the Children from: LOLren’s photostream

Logical Conclusion from: Amazon Dot Com

Good Luck from: Ricardo (Kadinho) Villela’s photostream

We Have Passed 1984 from: Mushroom and Rooster’s photostream 


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