Last week at WOW, I was learning Nefesh Chaya with my friend Stephanie. Rav Pincus was talking about the hidden world. In the old days, seeing was believing. If you believed in something invisible you were backwards and superstitious. In modern times though, we know that most of what we call reality is hidden.
Take food, for example. Scientists have researched food and they tell us what is good for us and what isn’t. And we believe them. Though we’ve never seen a thing called a calorie, and olive oil and vegetable oil look pretty much the same, we’ve come to know that they’re not. There’s more to food then meets the eye. And though you won’t see the effects of eating wrongly right away, the effects are there and with time will show up.
Our whole modern world is based on hidden mechanisms. Cell phones, microwaves and cyberspace.
This is such a huge gift, because we can finally understand that when the Torah says to eat kosher, there’s a powerful effect that it has on us, despite that it looks like any other food. And this goes for every mitzvah, even when we don’t get it. Our neshamos are so sensitive to what we subject them to.
Which brings me to media. When I was a new mother I had a very strong position. I lived in Israel and my spiritual antenna was alert and buzzing. I realized that every minute I had with my child was an opportunity to feed their neshama. Why would I read “Little Red Riding Hood” with zero morals, when I could tell them a story of a great man or a tale from the Parsha?
I say “I had a strong position” but the truth is, that’s still my position. It’s obvious; a child is a pure clean sponge and will absorb whatever you expose them to. We’re planting seeds that will sprout with inevitibility.
The hidden effects of over exposure to Disney values will show up later in life when she’s looking for someone to ride in on a white horse and rescue her. Or when he he thinks he’s found true love because the girl is really beautiful.
What about the Torah lesson of “Who is a strong man? One who overcomes his will.” Children around the world are being taught that the man with the biggest muscles is the hero. It’s so subtle, but it has its effect. And the hidden effects are even deeper then that.
One thing I ‘m forever grateful for is that my mother didn’t let me play with Barbies. Though I’ve had people look at me very strangely at that notion. I feel blessed that I was spared hours of subliminal messages about women and their value.
But here’s the reality; I don’t live in Israel now. And my children do watch videos. They read a million and one books that, though I screen them for anything overtly inappropriate, are chock full of Western values.
So what do I do? I do the best I can. In practice this means that I’ll go to the library with them, instead of sending them. They don’t watch TV but they do have certain times when they watch videos. (And sometimes its more then that.) We’ll go to the movie site and check out why its rated what its rated. ( just that is very sobering!)
And I’ve heard from my kids that I let them on the computer much less then other parents – but I tell them they’ll thank me for it.We’re very consious that this is the life that Hashem put us in and we can’t run away from it. But we do need to be responsible about it.
Often I feel sad about it. I wish for a little bubble of holiness so that my children’s minds will be filled with only 100% pure, organic, delicious nutritious Torah values.
Last year, by the grace of Hashem, I found it. Totally by accident, I learned about a little Chabad school that opened up that was dedicated to nurturing the purity in children. Though I’m not Chabad, I was drawn to it.
My 4 year old son goes there and every day when I drop him off I literally feel like I’m giving him something that will nourish him forever. (He’s in the video wearing a striped, yellow shirt.)
When you walk in, there’s soft niggunim, (soul melodies) playing in the background and the teachers are already at the tables with parsha projects. When the children lay down to nap they listen to tapes about righteous deeds while the teachers walk around giving them back rubs. (seriously!)
The food is healthy. Everyone brings a fruit or vegetable and puts it in the basket. When snack time comes, the teacher slices them up and the children eat family style , learning to get along. So different then a Swiss Miss pudding and my own spoon.
And guess what – no commercial images anywhere in sight. They don’t say “don’t watch TV.” But they do say,” In this little bubble, we want to keep it pure. Please don’t bring your child with any t-shirt or backpack with the Incredible Hulk on it!”
I can’t tell you what this does. There’s no competition. No one does or doesn’t have Hannah Montana and no kid has Cars on their lunch bag. They just go to school, happy.
As you can imagine , there are many grateful parents. One parent entered the school in a video contest last month. Unbelievably, at last count they were in second place! So close to winning $10,000 that could keep this little holy school afloat. The contest ends in 3 days!
This is real! I think we can do it. If we all give them our vote – they may actually win! Please lets make it happen. Here’s the link mycheder.com/vote – (its a direct link and a quick vote and they’re also judged on FB likes.)
love, Rivka Malka