|Ponevezh RoshYeshiva, R' Gershon Edelstein in his Bnei Brak home (VIN)|
God absolves sin committed by force. (That is what the transliterated Hebrew title of this post means.) Is it true that when someone sins, they should be judged as though they were being forced to sin via various inclinations and desires… and that they do not sufficiently understand what they are doing?
This rationale has been used by the far left in Orthodoxy to excuse gay sex committed by homosexuals. Which to the best of my knowledge has been completely denounced by all mainstream Orthodox Jewish leaders in both the Charedi and Centrist world. I agree that this is a rationalization by the left because of a misguided sense of compassion for gay people. Who have a very high incidence of suicide.
And yet there may be some truth to this idea after all. Which can be found in the correct approach to children that have stopped being observant – the so called OTD phenomenon.
Please do not misunderstand. I want to make it absolutely clear that I still believe that the ‘Oness Rachmana Patrei’ argument is being misapplied by the left. Even if it is for reasons of human compassion. Interpreting it that way would for all practical purposes erase from the Torah a clearly stated Halacha. But still… read on.
How serious is the OTD problem? Dead serious. There have been more than a few incidences of suicide by OTD children that were contributed to - at least in part – by parental rejection.
Unfortunately the reaction by far too many parents to a child who has gone OTD is indeed rejection. Being thrown out of the house- and into the streets is not at all uncommon. Especially in Charedi homes. Fortunately there are compassionate people in the Charedi world that have risen to the occasion. They are heroes.
Why are OTD children from Charedi homes more vulnerable to these circumstances? The answer should be obvious. When a child goes OTD there, it shows big time. Which makes it a huge embarrassment to the family. In Modern Orthodox homes it is a lot easier to keep secret.
The embarrassment to a Charedi family involves hurting the other children. Shiduchim are more difficult for them. If the community finds out a young person went OTD - the siblings will have a harder time getting married.
This kind of reaction may seem reasonable to some people. But to those of us that value human life and the dignity of man, it is completely unacceptable. What kind of parents value their families reputation at the expense of one of their children? Even when it makes their lives more difficult? I should think that any parent that sacrifices a child in that way is probably not worthy of being called a parent. Which might help explain why a child would go OTD in the first place.
What should a parent do with a child that goes OTD? Most experts on this phenomenon say that one must shower them with unconditional love and acceptance as a member of the family. But that often comes with a caveat. Which is that if the OTD child somehow disrupts the family peace with overt violations of Halacha and fails to comply with minimal rules designed to protect the other children, then it is permissible (perhaps even advisable) to throw them out of the home.
But that would be the wrong decision. Even if a rebellious OTD teenage son were to bring a girl into the house for illicit purposes, they should not reprimand him and certainly not throw them out. God forbid! They should instead shower him with warmth and kindness.
I wish I could say these are my own original thoughts. Although I am in complete agreement with them, I don’t think I would have gone so far. At least not on that last example. But the above advice is not mine. It is the advice of a ‘progressive’ Rav by the name of Gershon Edelstein.
Some in the Charedi world might be familiar with that name. It belongs to a man that many Charedim in Israel feel is the heir to the ‘throne’ formerly occupied by Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, ZTL. R’ Aharon Leib was considered the Gadol HaDor by most mainstream (non Chasidic) Charedim in Israel. R’ Edelstein is the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh. And it doesn’t surprise me that a man that so many people feel is the Gadol haDor has so much compassion for a fellow Jew – even one that has gone so far away from the path in which he was raised. A man like that deserves the title. And his advice should be heeded.
Why does R’ Edelstein feel this way? From VIN:
During (an) interview, Rabbi Edelstein said that the basic attitude to children who become non-religious should be that they are being “forced” to sin by various inclinations and desires, and that they do not sufficiently understand what they are doing.
Although the questions put to the rabbi were frequently rather leading, Rabbi Edelstein nevertheless insisted throughout that only a non-confrontational attitude of “friendship” by the parents would have any affect in preventing him or her from being further distanced from Judaism and the family.
“It is forbidden to shout at them, it’s like putting a stumbling block before the blind,” says the rabbi, meaning that by reprimanding them such children would be likely to further distance themselves from religion, and said that pressure on them “damages and hurts them.”
Asked whether or not parents should insist that a boy wear a yarmulke or a girl dress modestly, Rabbi Edelstein responded “God forbid” saying that doing so would only distance them.
Not much to add other than ‘Amen’!