The Fourth Step: The 6 Steps of Human Development

Thursday, 19 May, 2022 - 8:54 am

In my previous articles, I began to flesh out a most incredible lesson based on a cryptic mention in the Talmud as to a parent’s obligations to their children. It is literally only one line but the impact and punch behind this enigmatic sentence is powerful.

The Talmud simply states that parents must do the following, which we will discuss and clarify as we progress. They are:

1. Circumcise
2. Redeem the first-born
3. Teach Torah to your children
5. Teach them an honest living
6. Teach them how to swim

We discussed the first three of the six steps. The first was the obligation to circumcise our sons, and we clarified it to mean that as parents we are required to give our children an identity. Our children need to know who they are, where they came from, and what is unique about their ancestry. The second step was redemption, which we explained to mean that as parents we need to give our kids some breathing room so they can flourish and be their own person, and not just a shadow of their parents. The third step we clarified that as parents, we are obligated to teach our children values, and not shirk this sacred responsibility.

Another important lesson we need to inculcate in our children is the concept of marriage, or if we broaden this concept, commitment. We need to tell our kids that once we commit to do something, we need to be honorable and follow through. We need to teach them that it is unacceptable not to show up at an event without calling to apologize. Our word must be our unbreakable bond. The only reason why society evolved into the written contract instead of a simple handshake is because people were not honorable. In fact, the Torah/Bible states clearly that the spoken word is so serious that if one violates their verbal pledge, then they need to bring an atonement offering. We must not be flippant in this regard.

As someone who operates in the not-for-profit world, I can tell you that many organizations subsist on donations and may literally take a pledge to the bank as collateral for a loan, which generally banks are loath to do. Therefore, when a person makes a pledge of a specific amount and then proceeds to renege, it is wrong Biblically and the bank reprimands the organization.

I was brought up in a culture where engagements are never more than three to four months, which is ample time to make all the wedding arrangements with the hall, caterer, florist, printer and whatever else is needed to make this day extremely special for the young couple. Until I moved to Long Island, I never even heard of a year plus engagement period. The logic behind short engagements has merit and is beyond simply a good idea.
I have always been advised that when it comes to dating for marriage I need to take my time and assess whether this person is the right one for me to spend eternity with. However, once the decision has been reached, a short engagement is to follow. Once a couple gets married, they fuse into one entity. This is not true when a couple is simply engaged. They are yet to become one. Therefore, a bad argument (definition of bad is when you remember all the details a few days later) between the married couple will usually be resolved amicably because the commitment to remain one is strong. However, a bad fight between the engaged couple can lead to second thoughts, doubts, possible breakup and heartache. The difference between the two is true commitment.
Marriage is for good, or for bad, or, most likely, for a little of both. That is, marriage feels both good and bad but is supposed to last a lifetime. Of course, Judaism allows for divorce as a last ditch resort.
This is the main difference between a rabbi and a therapist. A rabbi will clearly advise you to work things out and leave divorce as a last resort, while a therapist will never give such clear guidance, as this is not moral for them to do so.

I cannot tell you how many friendships I have seen destroyed over nonsense. I am witness to how years-long friendships fall apart because of politics. Why does it have to become personal and full of vitriol? In my opinion, the correct way to deal with political disagreements is to shut up and not have them. The term agree to disagree without being disagreeable comes to mind.
While this is true, there are times when relationships have to be severed. Take marriage or business as an example. If a husband abuses his spouse, whether physically or verbally, the spouse needs to run and the marriage is over. Likewise, when one partner steals from another, all trust has been lost and without trust, there is no partnership. In my humble opinion, friendships should not be disposable unless completely untenable.
Other examples of a disposable society that I have observed is the lack of basic decency. As we have become aware and conscious of the negative consequences of disposable bags, straws and bottles, and as New York City is reintroducing the enforcement of the recyclable laws, decency has become a throwaway. We say what we want, when we want and to whom we want without a second thought and consequence. This lack of commitment to be a decent human being before all else has proven to be the fall of many a civilization.
The Mishna says it best, “Derech eretz kodmah L’Torah,” which means civility before Torah. 

God bless.
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