Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Daughter's Parashah Picture

So my daughter, age 6 1/2, comes home from her Chardal school with a parashah picture for Bereishis, depicting Adam HaRishon in Gan Eden. Now, I'm not going to start making trouble about the real meaning of the story, because the pshat level has meaning and the real meaning is not suited to a six-year-old. But what bothered me intensely was how they depicted Adam. He was wearing some kind of kapotteh (even though the picture was pre-sin), a huge kippah (even though he was not Jewish), he had a long beard (even though he's supposed to be only 20 years old) and he had long chassidishe peyos!

I don't like it. But on the other hand, I don't think that it's good from a chinnuch perspective for me to be disagreeing with her teachers or her school's education materials.

What do you think?

47 comments:

  1. I think if you get hung up on anachronisms you'll be one step closer to skepticism turning to cynicism.

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  2. I would say it's not a [just] a "problem", I think it is a p'sik reisha. :^ (-<

    :)

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  3. If you need to channel your energies, focus them on real problems, like teivah's with a pointed bottom and two giraffes. Drive me crazy.

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  4. I don't see why you can't explain to your child that, in actual fact, Adam (even on the level of p'shat) would not have had a long beard, peyos, etc. I think my 6 year old would understand that. I do not see why polite and respectful disagreement with a child's teacher/school should be problematic. On the contrary, it teaches the child to develop critical thinking skills.

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  5. Tell her Chava was Litvish.

    But really, don't mention anything directly. Tell her the parasha from other better sources, and she will pick up the correct information over time. Educationally, it's best not to use graphical depictions, or at least to keep them very general. -Michoel@Chareidio

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  6. "He was wearing some kind of kapotteh (even though the picture was pre-sin)"

    Um, would you rather him wear his pre-sin oufit?

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  7. Wait 'til Pesach and the pics of Moshe Rabbeinu with a streimel and bekeshe and the yidden looking like they came out of 19th century Poland!

    Bear in mind that the pics that your children come home with are standard. They most probably do not reflect the views of your child's teachers. It's just easier to use standard pics that to make up your own. So, by explaining the truth to her you are not necessarily disagreeing with them.

    Also, in our experience, if the children are brought up in a loving environment, they will follow their parents over their school when there is a conflict.

    Open conflict with the school is not good. However, your kids will learn your beliefs and viewpoints by what you say at the Shabbos table, etc.,

    If they mention specifically that their teacher said something else, then you'll need to explain that there are different viewpoints and that it's legit.

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  8. In my experience it's agreed that we don't question our children's education in front of them. See the following from RSRH Collected Writings VII p.119; I know you're not talking about disrespect, but I imagine this is another slippery slope:

    "... There is no person, and hence also no teacher, in whom we could not discover some shortcoming that might tempt us to make disrespectful remarks about him. But we must remember that when children hear their parents speak disrespectfully of their school and their teachers, it weakens the children's respect and devotion without which the school cannot succeed in its functions. By a thoughtless word uttered within the hearing of the child, a parent can dull the very instrument that should accomplish the spiritual education of the child." etc.

    That volume ("Jewish Education") is a particular must-read. Chodesh tov!

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  9. To be blunt, I think you need to get out more.

    This is a grade 1 picture, for crying out loud. If she's still insistent that Chavah wore a tichel when she's in grade 8 then you should consider complaining.

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  10. I don't think you need to get out more, I think you need to ask yourself, is this a hiccup, a wrinkle? Or is this school causing me aggravation as they steal my child's mind from beginning to end? And decide accordingly.

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  11. I've been complaining about pictures like this for years. To be fair, this has been common for a very long time. I’ve seen haggados from medieval Germany that depict the Jews leaving Mitzrayim in pointed yellow hats (the mandated distinctive Jewish dress of the period). I’ve also seen depiction that try to be reasonably accurate.

    Someone once told me that biblical figures are depicted in chassidishe dress to make them more relatable for the kids. I could see this. After all, the villains, like Eisav, are always depicted the way villains in Disney movies are, as visibly evil (which they probably weren’t but makes it easier for the kids to identify them). Going with this explanation, if you’re against such depictions you may be sending your kids to the wrong school. There are schools that don’t try to familiarize biblical stories with anachronistic pictures. If you really like the school, and this is your only problem, then explain to your daughter that Adam is shown this way to make him easier to relate to, but really he wouldn’t have been wearing such clothes.

    > Um, would you rather him wear his pre-sin oufit?

    Why not? As long as he is depicted from the waist up, or standing next to a tree with a strategic branch keeping him decent.

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  12. ... he had a long beard (even though he's supposed to be only 20 years old) ...

    I don't know about anybody else, but I can tell you that I personally had quite a long and bushy beard by my twentieth birthday( If you really want, I can send you a scan of my picture from my high school graduation album to support it).
    Now, if you want to say that he was newly created at the age of twenty, and could not have conceivably been created with along beard or had time to grow one so long - that is open to discussion.

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  13. I think you're a being a little silly (euphemism), sending your daughter to a Chardal school. You should always send your children to the school whose average student you would be happiest if your child came out like. It's always a naive parental mistake to send a kid to a school and be like "the school is more X than I am, but I'll supply the Y, and they'll come out Z."

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  14. I think that they (and by extension, you) are indoctrinating your child with their revisionist version of the "truth" of adam and chava. If you do not agree with this revisionist indoctrination as a proper method of education, then you have your kids in the wrong school.

    Otherwise, you have no basis to complain.

    I do not agree with those that say that this type of education is appropriate for young minds. It is a false representation of the facts.

    If you are really a rationalist jew, you have a real problem here.

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  15. Going with this explanation, if you’re against such depictions you may be sending your kids to the wrong school.

    Changing schools over this is quite a drastic reaction. I've sent 7 kids through the school system in Israel. Some went to chareidi schools and some went to chardal schools. We've had disagreements in every school but unless the issues were things we absolutely could not live with, we worked it out one way or another.

    I doubt you will ever find a school where you agree with every policy of the school or everything that every teacher says. There are bound to be conflicts. The question only is how one reacts to them vis a vis the child. In our experience most issues can be explained and as I said in my previous comment children will generally follow the parents when they are brought up in a loving calm environment. The main thing is to remain relaxed and not get into a huff particularly in front of the children.

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  16. Someone once told me that biblical figures are depicted in chassidishe dress to make them more relatable for the kids. I could see this.

    For Chassidishe kids, sure. How are they more relatable to non-Chassidishe kids? It's just an implicit claim or recognition/ admission that of today's Jews the Chassidish are the most traditional and the most authentic. Do you believe that? Is it something you want your children to believe?

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  17. Since she is not old enough to understand anything about evolution and the such I think this is the most appropriate way for little kids to be taught. However, the problem comes when children grow up and should learn about science and real history that if you put adam in a kapata then you are just trying to deny the real world. But at 6, I think this is the most appropriate way to teach.

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  18. E-man Said:
    "...However, the problem comes when children grow up and should learn about science and real history that if you put adam in a kapata then you are just trying to deny the real world. But at 6, I think this is the most appropriate way to teach."


    If the children stay in this system of education, I don't think there is really a need to contemplate their learning "science" and "real history" that would ch'v contradict the chardali view of the "real" world.

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  19. > For Chassidishe kids, sure. How are they more relatable to non-Chassidishe kids? It's just an implicit claim or recognition/ admission that of today's Jews the Chassidish are the most traditional and the most authentic. Do you believe that? Is it something you want your children to believe?

    They guy who told me this was a chassid. I wouldn’t send my kid to a school that normally used these pictures, and would complain if she came home with one. Even at the risk of being labeled a crazy parent.

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  20. We operate in a physical context and a social context. Young children get the basics of the social context long before they integrate the full information of the physical context.

    In the social context charedi society has a particular image of a tzadik. The children already understand and grasp this image. So when they're learning parsha and the person is a tzadik, he has to look like it in the contemporary social context.

    And that's what you're seeing, as strange as it is when placed up against the physical context. The rational man has a problem with this, but the social child immediately understands the picture that makes you (and me) cringe.

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  21. somewhat related:

    http://www.vosizneias.com/39954/2009/10/18/jerusalem-rav-ovadya-smacks-it-to-the-ashkenazim-again/

    i agree that it is likely that they are using materials already provided them; it does raise issues of how much of a role the educated parent should have in chinuch of the child, as opposed to abandoning all hashkafic and Torah education to the schools (regardless of their particular hashkafa).

    kt,
    josh

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  22. If it's a Chardal school (is it AY?) then Adam should be wearing a knitted black kippa, with whispy payos tucked behind his ears, and Tzitzit hanging out of his neat Chnios with Techelet.

    Seriously, I wouldn't sweat it. First of all she has you as a father to straighten here out when she's ready. Secondly, my experience, having raised 3 kids to adulthood so far, is that these nuances that we obsess over really don't matter that much.

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  23. Did you see last week's Torah Tidbits? It's very odd, particularly the sixth paragraph here:

    http://www.ou.org/torah/tt/5770/bereshit70/featuretidbit.htm

    Then again, I can't make out a lot of what he means. An odd manner of writing.

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  24. "I don't think that it's good from a chinnuch perspective for me to be disagreeing with her teachers or her school's education materials."

    That's certainly the supreme chinuch concern, not to cause conflict for the child at a young age.

    At an older age, I suppose the question is one about the "art" of chinuch and parenting; how to let your child absorb a more open-minded view while attending a Chardal/Charedi school, whose benefits one presumably appreciates.

    My father has on his bookshelf seforim of Rav Kook and Rav Solveitchik. Now, he sent me to RW/Charedi yeshivos, and so obviously knew that those views would not be supported(I should add that I never heard a bad word, though, in the RW yeshivos I went to, about the above gedolim).

    However, the very fact that the books existed on the bookshelf(even though I really never read them growing up), caused me to have a certain eclecticism
    and tolerance. Some of my siblings, on the other hand, were less interested in hashkafos and such issues, and didn't care what was or was not on the bookshelf !

    So I think if parents are satisfied with the overall hashkafa of the school, they can inject a little bit of "liberalism", perhaps by gently getting the child to think about what he was taught in ,say, extreme terms, and trying to making anything extreme, less extreme.

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  25. > He was wearing some kind of kapotteh (even though the picture was pre-sin)

    Of course! Post-sin he was wearing a kippah serugah because he actually had to work.

    Oh hang on! Another thought: was the snake offering Chavah a copy of "The Challenge of Creation"?

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  26. Strongly disagree with your statement about chinnuch. Do you want her to grow up as someone who understands that her elders and teachers aren't always correct? Or do you want her to be the sort of person who when the gedolim say that biologists are all apikursim listens carefully and then goes "bahhh."

    If you aren't willing to make the minimum point to your daughter that "well, that style of dress is only about two hundred years old. And how long ago do you think this story took place?" then don't be surprised if in 20 years you don't like what she turned out as.

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  27. I once read a book called "Prime Obsession" it's a book about mathematics-- specifically the Reimann Hypothesis.

    Seeing as how the book is aimed at beginners, the author writes that negative numbers do not have square roots. This is necessary to understand the point that he is making in his discussion. But he then says "I reserve the right to change my mind about this (square roots of negative numbers) later." i.e. later he will discuss imaginary numbers.

    I would say that you ought to tell your daughter, when you explain these things to her the pshat. But then, when she is old enough to understand that there can be a rest of the story, tell her that the rest of the story is coming when she can understand it.

    That's what I plan to teach my kids.

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  28. Here in Passaic, the one Centrist school is slowly turning Charedei, as I assume is happening likewise in many other places. On the walls are pictures of Litvishe gedolim -- but no MO-types like Rabbi YB Soliveitchik. And every d'var Torah ends with 'Gut Shabbos' instead of 'Shabbat Sholom'. And lately all bar-mitzvah boys have to wear hats and jackets. And on and on... HELP!

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  29. The truth is that the real problem is the p'sukim themselves. There we can't say "your teacher just took this from a book".

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  30. you can delete the comment about the beard, since someone else already said it.

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  31. G*3, "the villains, like Eisav, are always depicted the way villains in Disney movies are"

    I'll never forget the Israeli pesach hagadah that showed a picture of each of the four sons - the rasha was a typical Israeli chiloni, with long curly wet hair, with his shirt opened to his pupick and a necklace - of course....playing soccer!!!

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  32. Anonymous of 7:52 am:

    You have basically three options:

    1. Fight within the yeshiva to uphold centrist values, and oppose rules like requiring hats for BM boys.

    2. Vote with your feet.

    3. Acquiesce.

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  33. Patterns are what is problematic. Things that happen on occasion may be for fun.

    As for contradicting teachers....this is not really a problem if done right. What you want to maintain is the respectful relationship between student and teacher. The teacher knows very well that the picture doesn't fit the details of the story. So s/he would certainly not mind your having educational fun with your daughter. There's a game where you ask your daughter what is different between the picture and the details of the parasha. You can also participate...just let her do most the thinking. & have fun.

    Teachers do this all the time at the elementary school at which I teach. For example, Where the Wild Things Are is coming out as a movie. The primary teachers are reading the book with the students and asking what's different between the book and the movie. And the kids get excited to notice differences.

    Gary Goldwater

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  34. Perhaps you can innocently, without any fanfare, show your daughter a whole bunch of depictions of Adam. She will quickly conclude (6 year olds can be quite perceptive) that the clothing the biblical characters are depicted in is quite meaningless. I guess you might absorb that lesson, too.

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  35. I once saw books in a Haredi school that had the story of Yosef in Mitzraim. Paroah looked like the Czar, wearing a European-style crown and the two prisoners (Paroah's servants) were dressed like Russian peasants.

    Yes, it is logical that hundreds of years ago German Pesach haggadot would have the Benei Israel leaving Mitzraim dressed like then contemporary Jews BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THEY KNEW!

    Today, we all know what Paroah looked like thanks to archaeological excavations in Egypt, and this knowledge is universal today.
    For the Haredi kid in this school, the world of the Czar and Czarist Russia is just as remote as the world of ancient Egypt and they can not really relate to either of them. Then, in that case WHY NOT DRAW PAROAH AS WE KNOW HE REALLY LOOKED?

    This just seems to be ignorance l'shma.

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  36. I agree with Joshua's post - the inportant issue here is not what Adam is or is not wearing, it is that we should teach our children that you can disagree with someone's opinions while still respecting the person. Now if only that was a popular view among Charedim.....
    dp

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  37. "you can disagree with someone's opinions while still respecting the person. Now if only that was a popular view among Charedim.....
    dp"

    However, generalizing about groups in such a disrespectful way is A-OK, right? Sheesh.

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  38. I once saw a kids' bok about R' Yonatan Eibeschutz, produced by Israeli Charedim, in which the police wore Israeli police insignia.

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  39. Do you feel this is anything new? A guy I know worked as a child psychologist in a Chassidish community. On eof the reasons he left was that no one took him seriously. How should they when the coloring books show Yakov Avinu in a Streimel and Eisav with peyos behind his ears and a fedora.

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  40. And for all of those who think that this is a recent phenomena attributed to the Chareidi world, check out the Leipzig Haggadah with it's pictures of the Avos in 19th century Germany.

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  41. Is this any worse than if Adam is drawn as a clean shaven Caucasian (as were the pictures when I was young) rather than some other ethnic appearance?
    If you feel a need then tell your child that there were no cameras back then and the picture is just the illustrator's imagination.

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  42. I'm not entirely convinced that it's a deliberate attempt at revisionist history, or even that the (presumably) Chassidishe artist actually believes that Adam HaRishon dressed like chassid.

    I think it's more like what Missippi Fred MacDowell said.

    In comparison, look at Medieval and Renaissance paintings of biblical scenes. i.e., http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Bonifacio-Veronese-(pitati)/The-Finding-Of-Moses.html

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  43. On my daughter's parsha sheet last week, it asked, "How was Chava punished after eating the fruit?" The answer that was written on the sheet (from my daughter's morah) was, "she would say ouchie during childbirth."
    Her morah's eight children must've been really easy pregnancies!

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  44. there's a story about the berditchever commissioned the local silversmith to make him a menorah for chanukah, with each "ner" being a (lets say ushpizin). so the silversmith asked "how should i dress avraham avinu?" "with a kapoteh." "but he didnt wear one." "if he would come down to us today, he would wear one!" (presumably, in morroco the xxxx would say in white!"

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  45. Maybe on Pesach, it is good to depict pictures of contemporary Jews, since we approach it "as if we ourselves were taken out of Mizrayim"?

    Mark
    twitter.com/MarkSoFla

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  46. This picture is not a photograph of the school Rav's prophetic vision. Try to find, together with your child, details that are in the Good Book and not in the picture and details that are in the picture and not in the book.
    A story can leave eye and skin color etc. undetermined, a painter must make a choice. Your daughter's picture may show Adam I as a negro, but he may just as well have been yellow and chinkeyed. Surely your child is intelligent enough to understand that a picture is just a picture.

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