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Intuitive Prevention

Updated: Mar 28

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

As adults we know that prevention is always better than dealing with ramifications; not getting into a sticky situation beats getting into one and then having to figure out a way to climb out.

Children have a harder time with this, since they typically prefer instant gratification rather than to look at the long term consequences. That’s why, as responsible adults it is our job to promote prevention and make it a fundamental part of their education. We have to create a framework within which they are raised that not only tells them what is right and wrong, but also saves them from being in a situation where they are tempted to do wrong.

As the Talmudic analogy goes: “The mouse isn’t the thief, the hole is the thief.” In other words, by allowing for a situation where the mouse can crawl into a house and grab a piece of cheese, can the mouse really be blamed for giving in to the temptation? So by filling in the hole, not only is the cheese safe, but the mouse is safe from being labeled as a thief.

But prevention needs to be intuitive and logical. Sure, there will be times that the child will disagree with the measures put in place by the adult. But if the prevention is based on logic, then eventually the child will come around, and as they mature they’ll understand why it was necessary.

When the Torah describes the various offerings brought in the Temple, the usual timeframe they had to be consumed by was daybreak. So if an offering was brought on Tuesday morning, one had until daybreak on Wednesday to finish eating it. But despite this timeframe, halachah states that one must stop eating at midnight, since if one is allowed to keep eating until daybreak, there is a good chance they will lose track of time and continue eating past the deadline. So the intuitive prevention is to officially make the deadline earlier, so that when the actual deadline arrives there is no chance for a mistake.

A practical example in raising young kids is that telling a child not to play with a knife is a smart thing to do. Even if the child really, really wants it, logic dictates that a child with a knife is asking for trouble. It doesn’t mean that every time the child touches a knife they will get hurt, but the chances of there being injury are infinitely lower when the child knows that touching the knife is out of the question, even if it isn’t the touching of the knife itself that causes the injury. And eventually the child will discover the wisdom in the no-knife rule.

Another important example is preventing our children from playing violent video games and watching immoral movies. Of course, not every child who plays a violent video game turns into a serial killer, nor does every child who watches an immoral movie turn into a rapist. But keeping our children’s hearts and minds clean will definitely help keep them on the right path and prevent them from descending into the immorality that society today seems to venerate.

Just like in medicine, where preventative care will always be more productive than attempting to cure something after the fact, this is purely logical. We aren’t depriving the children of fun and excitement, instead we're channeling their childhood energy into positive activities and altruistic pursuits. Every preventative measure, from teaching them about G-d to encouraging them to be kind to others, is perfectly intuitive. And as the child gets older, this will become all the more obvious. In turn, they will raise and educate their own children with this mindset, ensuring that all of society benefits from the wisdom and intuition of divine morality.

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