I want to clarify the differences between protection and sheltering.
Protection is a specific move to protect your child or anyone from harmful influences for a certain period of time (or at least, that is the form that I am envisioning here) whereas sheltering is to never expose them to those influences.
The best way to demonstrate this is through an example.
When you have children, you childproof your house. You'll put outlet covers over electric outlets lest the child stick his/her fingers inside of them. You keep them away from the stove or oven. You keep an eye on them, and when you cannot, you put them inside of a swing or a playpen so that they are unable to wander around and hurt themselves. However, this protection exists for a limited amount of time, and there will come a time, when your child is older, that you will take off the outlet covers and allow him/her to cook on the stove.
Sheltering, on the other hand, is when you don't even buy the stove. You won't have a stove in the house lest the child burn himself. You somehow live without electricity, because you're so worried about the electric outlets that you won't allow your children to ever have them.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?
But this all-or-nothing attitude is exactly the way people think about institutions like the Internet, or television, movies, magazines, newspapers and the like. They feel that sheltering is the way to go, as opposed to protection. Where these same people are fully apprised of the fact that they need to eat, and hence need a stove/ oven, and must protect their children from burning himself on it, they are not similarly apprised of this fact when it comes to television and the like.
Now, you may argue with me that a television is not a necessity, while a stove, quite practically, is. And you might be right. I would suggest, however, that knowing about world events- which include September 11, Tsunamis and Amona- is important. You might state that this idea is simply justification for having a television, and that I won't end up using the television to watch the news, but rather to watch Jerry Springer. But the type of person who argues this way is being a) pessimistic b) expressing the idea that s/he has no self-control c) expresses fear above all else. Fear that somehow the television is going to influence them against their will. That the television has some kind of magic, supernatural power, to hypnotize you and strip your ideas and values away from you. For some reason, they don't feel they are in control.
It's the same idea when it comes to the Internet. There are plenty of people who use the Internet for business purposes, to stay in touch with friends, even for purposes of blogging, like we do. But there's the incredible lure and attraction of the Internet, isn't there? And parents are deathly afraid of the fact that their children are going to be sucked into it. Sure, there are some extreme examples of children meeting people in chatrooms and deciding to go meet up with them. But what is the Internet, really? It's a world filled with information. It's this information that so many people fear- once their children are exposed to other ideas, to alternate viewpoints, are they going to stay religious? You can't use a pop-up blocker or Weblocker to block that. So you shelter children, and refuse to allow them Internet access.
And what about the people who are honestly worried about their children viewing pornography and other explicit sites? Well, you protect your children from this for a long time. But the key word is protection- and there comes a time for trust. I've been following the For Better or For Worse' comics lately, and they've really demonstrated the ideas that I believe in.
This is the first really important thing to note. Children are curious. Teenagers are curious. So yes, it's probable that if you have the Internet in your house, at some point in time your child is going to see a picture of a naked woman. It may not even be intentional- there are a lot of cleverly disguised web addresses that lead to pornographic material. At some point in time, your child is going to learn about drugs, and alcohol, and all kinds of negative influences. Does that mean that your child is going to do drugs, or become addicted to pornography? No.
You taught your children to be careful. You raised them carefully, intentionally deciding when to protect them and when to trust them. And do you see what she says? You taught me to make good choices. That's the end-all and be-all, the key phrase, the one idea that makes the difference between a Protector and a Shelterer.
My parents are Protectors. They protected me from negative influences when I was young. Just because we own a TV doesn't meant that I was wined and dined on Primetime. As I already mentioned, I do watch TV shows, but I watch them now- now when I can separate people's actions from my own, when I understand that just because someone acts or speaks a certain way doesn't mean that that is the way that I have to act or speak. And as I formerly mentioned, the TV I watch, the books I read, the movies I go to- these all enhance my Judaism rather than undermining it.
How can that be? Last time I gave you an example from Gone With the Wind. Here are some more examples.
The Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Man in the Iron Mask is a brilliantly designed movie that deviates from the book by Alexandre Dumas. What is extremely interesting about it, however, is how it deviates. With a plot detail that occurs nowhere in the book by Dumas, we see the influence of the Tanakh, once again. Which story is displayed? Why the story of Bathsheba, David and Uriah.
From the IMDB writeup:
"One day on a royal party, the young and unliked king gets a crush on Christine. This young lady is the fiancé of soldier Raoul, the son of Athos. Without further ado, the king has Raoul recruited and sent to war, so that he himself can take care of her. Soon Raoul dies in combat and the king has him out of the way. "
Take a look at Samuel II, Chapter 11 and then watch this movie. You'll be astonished by the similarities, down to the very fact that the King (DiCaprio) writes a letter stating that Raoul should be sent to the forefront. Later on Christine (who has become his mistress) confronts a very confused lookalike (the Man in the Iron Mask) about his cruelty.
Another example can be seen when you consider King Ahab and King Jehosaphat's conversation (about prophets). Ahab says something very interesting in Kings I 22:
- 8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat: 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.' And Jehoshaphat said: 'Let not the king say so.'
Guess where else I had seen that before? Where a king knew that the man spoke the truth, but resented his bad news/ incessant tidings of evil? That would be- the Lord of the Rings, specifically 'The Two Towers.'
- Slowly the old man rose to his feet, leaning heavily upon a short black staff with a handle of white bone; and now the strangers saw that, bent though he was, he was still tall and must in youth have been high and proud indeed.
'I greet you,' he said, and maybe you look for welcome. But truth to tell your welcome is doubtful here, Master Gandalf. You have ever been a herald of woe. Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse. I will not deceive you: when I heard that Shadowfax had come back riderless, I rejoiced at the return of the horse, but still more at the lack of the rider; and when Eomer brought the tidings that you had gone at last to your long home, I did not mourn. But news from afar is seldom sooth. Here you come again! And with you come evils worse than before, as might be expected. Why should I welcome you, Gandalf Stormcrow? Tell me that.' Slowly he sat down again in his chair.
[Wormtongue speaks here] ...Why, indeed should we welcome you, Master Stormcrow? Laithspell I name you, Illnews; and ill news is an ill guest they say.' He laughed grimly, as he lifted his heavy lids for a moment and gazed on the strangers with dark eyes.'
JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers, Page 138-139
This entire incident is explained still more clearly if you read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
King Ahab makes a statement after Michaiahu tells him the statement that he really wants to hear- that he should go up:
- 16 And the king said unto him: 'How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?'
But when Michaiahu does tell the truth, the king is extremely angry with him and throws him in jail on a bread-and-water diet until he (the king) returns from battle.
That's very similar to what happens with Oedipus.
Oedipus is speaking to the seer Teresias and says:
Oh speak, Withhold not, I adjure thee, if thou know'st, Thy knowledge. We are all thy suppliants.
but he is enraged by what Teresias tells him, and states:
Must I endure this fellow's insolence? A murrain on thee! Get thee hence! Begone Avaunt! and never cross my threshold more.
And a full reading of the play just brings more similarities to the forefront.
And now we come to a work written by an avowed Anti-Semite, Tolstoy. You can learn Torah from an Anti-Semite? Well, you would be surprised.
Take a good look at Leviticus 26:8 and Leviticus 26:36
Leviticus 26:8 here:
ח וְרָדְפוּ מִכֶּם חֲמִשָּׁה מֵאָה, וּמֵאָה מִכֶּם רְבָבָה יִרְדֹּפוּ; וְנָפְלוּ אֹיְבֵיכֶם לִפְנֵיכֶם, לֶחָרֶב.
8 And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
and 26:36 here:
לו וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִים בָּכֶם--וְהֵבֵאתִי מֹרֶךְ בִּלְבָבָם, בְּאַרְצֹת אֹיְבֵיהֶם; וְרָדַף אֹתָם, קוֹל עָלֶה נִדָּף, וְנָסוּ מְנֻסַת-חֶרֶב וְנָפְלוּ, וְאֵין רֹדֵף.
36 And as for them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
Now for Tolstoy, specifically his masterpiece War and Peace:
- ...no one can gauge the force of a detachment. Sometimes- when there is not a coward in front to cry: "We are cut off!" and start running, but a brave, spirited man who shouts: "Hurrah!"- a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schongraben, while at other times fifty thousand will flee from eight thousand, as at Austerlitz."
And then there are the famous lines from Deuteronomy 8:17 (kochi b'etzem yadi) that Tolstoy utterly and brilliantly refutes:
- During this entire period Napoleon, who is represented to us as the leader of all that movement (just as the figurehead on the prow of a ship may seem to a savage to be the power guiding the vessel), acted like a child who, holding onto the straps inside a carriage, imagines that he is driving the vehicle.
So- to those of you who fear the influence of the secular world, to the Shelterers, to those who cannot have a stove or oven for fear that the child will burn himself- I say, you set yourselves up for disaster. By removing and refusing access to ideas you stop your children from thinking, by sheltering rather than protecting you do not allow your children the most basic coping skills, and moreover, you prevent them from seeing the beauty of their religion reflected by the secular- which is something that is vey prevalent in our world. The secular strengthens us; it does not destroy us- but so long as you shut it out and pretend it does not exist, you teach your children that it is destructive and antithetical to the Torah. You let them believe there is something that the Torah does not understand or include, something outside of God's jurisdiction. You teach them to fear, to believe they have no self-control. You teach them that all that is secular is evil.
You prevent the publication of books like Making of a Godol because it states that men you view as great and holy read books, secular books and classics- and did not ban them. That- could it be possible- they drew strength from them.
You ruin yourselves through this persistent sheltering...because you deny yourselves the beauty of our world, and the beauty of God and our religion reflected within it.
But you don't see it this way. And there is no one who can persuade you of this.
You have closed your ears. Stopped them up with wax, like Odysseus/ Ulysses did.
But wait. You don't know who Odysseus/ Ulysses is. Because he's in a book with pagan gods, and of course you would instantaneously ban that. In fact, you've even tried to ban history. I remember some of you calling the principal when I was in sixth grade, complaining that the teacher was teaching us about polytheistic religions. So the teacher had to skip that unit in history.
When is this going to end? When are you going to see that blocking everything out, pretending that works of literature, that movies, that the Internet does not exist or is an unholy seductive demon- is incorrect? When are you going to see?
I don't know.
Because you are all very good at engaging in smear campaigns against anyone who is more open-minded. As in people who don't rewrite history. Or read classic books. Or even watch movies.
And who draw strength from this. And find God in this.
No. You don't understand it. You don't even give it a chance.
And you never will...