The WORD – 8/11/11. So, I get back from vacation and I want to see what’s going on in the world. What are the stories that leap off the screen at me?
Warren Jeffs – the “prophet” of the FLDS sect – has been sentenced to life plus twenty years in prison for the statutory rape of two minor girls. The Chancellor of New York’s school system is requiring that sex education be taught in all of the city’s middle and high schools. A teenage rape victim was allowed to bring a therapeutic dog to the witness stand with her when she testified against her father and now the father is appealing his conviction. The Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklynis re-thinking its policies regarding teacher background checks in light of the murder of Leiby Kletzky. And finally, a petition has started urging the Children’s Television Workshop to admit that Ernie and Bert actually are – and have been for years –a gay couple. Not surprisingly, a counter-petition has started asking CTW not to do that.
All of these stories – in one way or another – have one thing in common. They are about protecting our children. If we went through life thinking about all the risks we face on a daily basis, it would be impossible to go about the business of our lives. However, that does not mean that we should completely ignore the dangers. In particular, when it comes to the most vulnerable members of our community – whether they are our own children or someone else’s – we have an obligation to protect them.
The stories I cited above are examples of removing leaders who abuse their power; giving our children the information to make educated decisions, giving the seemingly-powerless the power to speak out against their abusers; carefully vetting the individuals with whom we entrust our children; and carefully considering the influence of the images our children see from a very early age.
In this week’s Torah portion, Moshe recalls his receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In a beautiful Midrash, there was a little haggling between God and Moshe before God finally agreed to give the Torah to the Children of Israel:
“When God was about to give the Torah to Israel, God asked them, ‘Will you accept My Torah:’ and they answered, ‘We will.” God said, “Give Me surety that you will fulfill its ordinances.’ They said, ‘Let Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be our surety.’ God answered, ‘Those are not adequate sureties.’ Then Israel said, ‘Let our prophets be our sureties.’ Again God replied, ‘Those are not adequate sureties.’ Then Israel said, ‘Let our children be our sureties.’ God said, ‘Such pledges will I indeed accept,’ (A Rabbinic Anthology p.519). “
In other words, nothing is more valuable to God and to our community than our children. In this increasingly crazy world, we must go out of our way to protect them.