So is the Torah a parental guide?

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It should be noted, however, that for this view she did not find much direct support in traditional Jewish texts. (Ultimately, the Talmud is more about promoting Torah study than swimming lessons.) So Mogel turned to Hasidic Judaism, a movement dating back to the 18th century, which developed into rebels against the idea that only the Torah scholar could be an honest Jew. There is a Hasidic saying that Mogel quotes: “If your child is talented at being a baker, don’t ask him to be a doctor.” By definition, most children cannot be at the top of the class; value their talents in any field where you find them. “When we ignore a child’s intrinsic strengths in an effort to push them toward our notion of extraordinary accomplishment, we are undermining God’s plan,” Mogel writes.

Mogel also tries to calm the educational frenzy by emphasizing the family as the sphere of influence, arguing that the example set by parents at home matters more than stellar schools. But that’s ultimately misleading, says Judith Rich Harris, author of “The Nurture Assumption,” a compilation of evidence showing that children draw much more inspiration from their peers than from their parents. Perhaps the most important thing parents can do, Harris concludes, is send their children to school “with smart, hardworking kids” who will make them want to be smart and hardworking. Harris agrees with Mogel that organized religion is one of the most effective ways of instilling an identity that resists mainstream culture. But she says it’s because religious children educate each other. “Mogel’s children behaved like good little Jewish girls even when they were away from home because they were going to school with other children who came from similar homes,” Harris wrote. in an email message. “If her children hadn’t learned these things at home, their behavior outside the home would have been the same, as they would have picked up the culture of their classmates at school.

Mogel recognizes the importance of Harris’ contribution. But she still believes that parental influence runs deep. His second book, “The Blessing of a B Minus”, which Scribner will publish in 2008, deals with everyday ethics for parents of teenagers. One of Mogel’s favorite lessons comes from the carpool lane at school – when you cheat online, you’re signaling that you don’t care about the rules or about others. “And believe me, your kids are watching you,” she said.

“The Blessing of a Flayed Knee” emphasizes the value of religious observance, in addition to Jewish wisdom, in the education of young children. In his second book, Mogel concedes that outside of island communities, religious rituals and synagogue (or church or mosque) attendance may not work as well as a structure for family life. during adolescence. “It’s too difficult,” she says of forcing observance on unwilling older children. “You get a kind of anguished obedience that can break the bond between parent and teenager. On this one, you trust them. It’s a way to take a step back and let teens find their own way.

Mogel’s family no longer attends the synagogue regularly. But they still have Shabbat dinner frequently. One Friday in the middle of summer, I arrived at her house and Emma opened the door, blue suspenders illuminating her smile. Her father had gone on an episode of an ABC series and her sister was on a trip to East Asia. But a small group of family and friends soon arrived. The men put on kipas, and each took turns lighting a candle, passing a long match from person to person. Then Mogel gathered the four girls and women in the room. They bowed their heads and she blessed them in Hebrew with the traditional prayer for girls: “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. May God bless you and watch over you. May God make his face shine like a light on you.

The dinner menu included halibut and lamb sausage instead of the family’s traditional poached salmon. Mogel served an almond cake she made that afternoon, smashing a rose flower from a nearby vase to place it in the center. The teenagers were seated at one end of the table and the adults at the other. When Emma started describing a pair of faux leather pants to her friends, Mogel intervened. “Pleather?” she asked. It was an irresistible moment for the teens who rolled their eyes. But Emma said easily, “Yeah, mom, plastic and leather. Like those from “The School of Rock”. Susanna bought them for around $ 2. She added to reassure herself: “We just wear them at home.”

After dinner, Mogel convinced his brother-in-law to drive Emma to a party in Beverly Hills. It gave her a few hours to drink tea, call her husband, and breathe the peace of an empty house. But that night Emma needed some help – a ride home. There is a time for teenagers to swim on their own. And there is a time to recognize that they are not ready. It’s a balancing act, and that night he leaned in favor of making sure Emma got home safely. Mogel waited for his daughter to call. At 1 a.m., she got her summons, headed into the cricket-filled night, and headed to Beverly Hills.


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