Fundamental Principles

Last week, I attended an event sponsored by a noted organization that featured a very moving and powerful original Holocaust documentary.

I came home greatly moved and inspired by what was on the screen, but very distressed by the conduct of some of the individuals present at the event, which so starkly contrasted with the message that was being conveyed.

While most of the attendees acted in a way befitting this type of gathering, the conduct exhibited by some of the girls who were present was downright disheartening.

The staff of the organization did all they could to extend a special welcome to the Holocaust survivors and other senior citizens who made the effort to come, and guided them to sit in the front rows. I was very disturbed to see that young girls — both teenagers and post-high-school age — had no compunction to plunk themselves down in chairs in front of some of these survivors, totally disregarding the obligation to show respect for the elderly.

While they made certain to stay to the very end (it was quite mesmerizing), as soon as it concluded, they rushed out, with one of them nearly knocking over an elderly survivor in her rush to the exit doors.

I have come to the conclusion that many parents, including this writer, have assumed for too long that there are some basic principles that children don’t have to be taught, but will just learn by osmosis. While words like “mentchlichkeit” and “middos tovos” are very much part of the chinuch we try to give our children and talmidos, it was broadly thought that the detailed application of these ideals was self-understood.

Well, it appears that in 2017, these concepts are no longer self-understood and, yes, parents and mechanchos must spell out the most fundamental principles, and stress them at every opportunity.

M. L.