12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Hijackers of the Soul    

Hijackers of the Soul

Look at all the firewalls and anti-virus protections on your computer. There, you’re well aware of the dangers. But what about the hackers and hijackers of your child’s soul?


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Our sages tell us that inciting a person to sin is worse than killing him, for a killer can only terminate a life in this world, but by inciting a person to sin, one destroys a soul in the next world too. Could it be that we incite our own children to sin? Impossible, you say; let’s see.
You wouldn’t dream of taking your child to a hospital ward that’s full of people with contagious diseases. Everyone understands that. We guard our children from the smallest and most remote physical threats. We don’t let them play in the streets. We dress them properly in winter. We make sure they brush their teeth. Yet, why don’t we lift a finger in guarding them from life-threatening spiritual dangers? Parents give their children cellphones, computers and televisions – the worst poison for the soul.
At this point, parents shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do? All the other kids have iphones, ipads, ipods,” and who knows what other names for today’s chocolate-coated poisons.
It’s time to tell ourselves the truth: if someone gives his child any device that has even the most remote chance of damaging the child’s soul, then that parent with his own two hands is inciting that child to sin. If the child goes off the path, it’s exclusively the parent’s fault.
We can’t be softies in protecting our children. Honoring parents or keeping the peace with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or inlaws no excuse for exposing a child to television and movies. Thank G-d, this is a generation of Baalei Teshuva; most of the young men in our Yeshiva have parents who still live secular lifestyles. We must honor our parents and inlaws, but that doesn’t mean exposing our children to spiritual dangers, if spiritual dangers are indeed prevalent in the parents’ or inlaws’ home. Two minutes of a movie can destroy a year of Torah learning. A scantly clad aunt or cousin can destroy your own daughter’s modesty or your son’s personal holiness. A family from Jerusalem took their children to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Paris without consulting a rabbi and spiritual guide. Their two oldest boys wanted nothing to do with Torah and Yeshiva after that. Eventually, they left observant Judaism altogether.
Another thing you have to be careful with if you have unmarried children at home is kiruv. People bring home guests for Shabbat in the name of outreach; those guests are not yet tzaddikim, and they often befriend the children of the household, putting in their heads all kinds of notions. You must carefully filter what influences your child. Guest are fine, but know who you’re bringing home. One must be much more careful about an overnight guest than with a guest for a meal only.
Kids ask, “Why can’t we visit our grandparents (or other relatives who harbor spiritual threats to our children in their homes)? We should answer them in a positive way, without saying anything derogatory about anyone. We answer them like royalty: “We are a Torah family; Hashem wants us to devote our lives to Torah, and that’s why we don’t waste time with the type of fantasies that they show on TV and movies. These are not healthy for our souls.” As a child gets older, we can further explain the dangers outside of our community and homes.
Every parent must do everything conceivable to live in a neighborhood of Torah-observant people, to send their children to the very best Torah schools, and to make sure their children have good and wholesome friends.
Think about every trip you make with your children. Think about what they’ll see, hear, and be exposed to, even if it’s a trip around the corner to the shopping center. Every parent must be firmly resolved: “My child is not a matter of neglect! I must do my utmost to guard my child’s soul!”
Don’t depend on miracles. Emuna doesn’t mean that you do nothing and throw everything in Hashem’s lap. Look at all the firewalls and anti-virus protections on your computer. There, you’re well aware of the hackers. But what about the hackers and hijackers of your child’s soul? Do you turn off your computer’s firewall and say that you’ll trust Hashem? No way! Why do you do the same with your child? Failing to protect a child means exposing him to danger, and that’s outright inciting him to sin. Sorry, but that’s the way the Heavenly Court sees things. Hashem gives us these exquisite diamonds for our safekeeping – our children’s souls – so we must do our job.
Recently, I was in France. I guarantee you that my eyes were closed except when in the synagogue and the study hall. Yet, I came home feeling filthy. Just imagine what happens to a person – especially a teenage boy – who walks around Paris with his eyes open. May Heaven help him…
If grandparents use foul language, then we must keep our children away from them. Don’t be subject to emotional blackmail when your children will pay a spiritual price. We are required to honor parents, but not at the expense of our children’s Judaism. Keep this in mind when planning family visits for the coming holidays. When in doubt, ask. Our children are priceless – we must protect them.

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