Thank you for a wonderful publication. I read with interest Rabbi Heschel’s column in a recent issue (“The Greatest Lesson,” Prime Magazine, 5 Iyar 5780). I very much appreciated his perspective, and wanted to share my own.
Rabbi Heschel brings a story of the famous Rav who didn’t admonish his children for jumping on the bed when important guests came to visit their father. When asked why he didn’t admonish them, the Rav said that they will stop on their own as they get older — no adults jump like that on the bed — so it was best to ignore that which will no longer be relevant with normal maturation and the passage of time. He viewed their behavior as temporary, and knew it would pass, so he chose to just carry on with what he was doing.
In a similar way, in our home before the pandemic, there were no iPads, and the children had very minimal screen time per week. We are exceedingly grateful to their teachers and Rebbeim who are doing an unbelievable job teaching them on Zoom. While we cringe at the amount of time spent on technological devices at this time (either having filters we already installed, or devices borrowed from school that the school filtered), and the not unpredictable consequence that, yes, they are watching more than before (kosher videos, Uncle Moishy, Torah Live, etc.), we have a mantra that we have made very clear: “Gam Zeh Yaavor — This too shall pass.” As we say to our kids, “This is temporary.”
We daven b’emunah sheleimah that this is a temporary stage — with the passage of time (b’karov!), this will become a passing phase of a larger picture. Just like we sometimes have to muster the strength to say no as parents, once this is over (b’karov bimheirah) we will need to have the strength of character to simply tell our children, “That was how we did it during the pandemic. But baruch Hashem, that was temporary, and, as we said it would, it passed.”
While the kids will surely beg for more iPad time, etc., we’ll simply tell them it was a thing of the past (and very quickly give back the iPads to those who lent them to us so we could get all the kids to their zoom classes). But for now, we have chosen to just “Land the Craft,” in Rabbi Yanofsky’s words, and this is part of that picture. Baruch Hashem they have a (relatively) calm and accessible school structure, and we keep reminding them that like the children jumping on the bed, this, too, is temporary.
Besuros tovos and yeshuos to all of Klal Yisrael,
Rabbi Heschel replies:
Thank you for your letters.
As I alluded to in my article, there is a crucial difference between jumping on a bed and using a tablet. Once they reach a certain age, children on their own lose an interest in jumping on beds, and there is no longer any need to fight them on the issue. However, the precise opposite is true regarding technological devices. The temptation to use — and unfortunately to misuse — only gets stronger when children grow older. Which means that the risks of the temporary becoming permanent is high and worrisome.