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Clear lines

Updated: Apr 4

Children can’t be held responsible for misbehaving if they aren’t informed of the rules in the first place. The only way a child will know what they should and shouldn’t do is by clearly telling them what is and what isn’t acceptable. Their young brains aren’t developed enough to be attuned to societal norms, so if they aren’t guided they will have no idea.

Adults typically have the maturity and intuition to conclude on their own what they should and shouldn’t be doing. We’ve been around long enough and our brains are for the most part fully developed, so even if we aren’t entirely informed, we are expected to utilize prior information and intuition to conclude what is and isn’t acceptable. This principle applies, among other areas, in law, where an argument of “I didn’t know it was illegal” won’t hold water in court. Adults have an obligation to determine, one way or another, what is considered proper behavior and what isn’t.

The Torah makes this clear in describing the laws of kosher, particularly which animals may be consumed by Jews and which must be avoided. In addition to not eating non-kosher food, we have an obligation to educate ourselves to “differentiate between the impure and the pure.” Besides just not eating it, we must be informed and clearly know what is kosher and what is non-kosher.

This applies to all areas of life, especially when society tends to blur the lines between permitted and forbidden. There is a movement to remove from our lexicon any reference to “forbidden” — nothing is forbidden, as long as it makes you feel good and doesn’t harm someone else. Kids today, and by extension the adults that they eventually become, can forget that there are rules that must be adhered to, even if you really want to do it. Of course, adults know that taking something that belongs to someone else without their permission is morally unacceptable, but kids might not always know that without being told so. There needs to be a clear distinction between what they may do and what they may not.

And this extends to adults too. A child raised without the clear distinction between permitted and forbidden, will inevitably be an adult who lacks that distinction as well. They may be mature enough to know stealing something outright is wrong, but in everything else — if it makes me feel good, why should I avoid it?

A world without clear lines between right and wrong is a world that allows for immorality to fester. And a world ruled by immorality is inevitably a world that will allow evil to take over. We can’t expect the world to be a kind place if we don’t know the difference between good and evil. 

Knowing what is right and what is wrong is the first step to having a world that is kinder, calmer, and brighter for all of mankind. This starts with educating our children to know the difference between right and wrong, and just as importantly — to live that way ourselves too. By providing a living example of a morally upstanding life, clearly avoiding that which is forbidden, our children will learn to emulate us and perpetuate the morals and ethics of Torah for eternity. 

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