Years ago, at a tisch in Amshinov in Yerushalayim, a friend saw me drying my hands on my handkerchief. He pointed to the towel hanging by the sink and said, “S’iz gantz triken — It’s pretty dry.”
I answered, “I’m superstitious. I still believe in germ theory.”
He looked more through me than at me and said, “The first people to die in the Warsaw Ghetto were the ones who weren’t used to germs.”
David Phillip Vetter was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). The disease disabled his immune system. Any exposure to germs would kill him. He lived from 1971 to 1984 — in a totally sterile environment.
It was a time when there was still such a thing as privacy. And, respecting the family’s privacy, the media never mentioned his last name. They simply called him the “bubble boy.”
I was deeply disturbed by “DEBATE: Photos of Tragedies: An important message or an unbearable burden?” We all have a natural need to protect ourselves. Even more so, to protect our children. But do we really need to turn our children into “bubble boys” to protect them from all possible “calamities that may come into the world?”
When we wrap our children in sterile bubble pack, we run a grave risk. Of course we want them to always be b’simchah. But life — real life — is more than just simchos. And they need to be able to deal with that.
I am not a psychologist. And I am not a rabbi. However, I am a father and a grandfather. So I can speak from experience. Yes, the photo on the cover of Hamodia that week was jarring. It was meant to be. But it was far from a sensationalist gimmick. If your child is too fragile, by all means, handle with care. Put the paper away — along with your Eichah and Kinos.
We all know that at Yizkor, they give a klap in shul and call out, “Kinder arois —Children out!”
A first reaction would be that the mourning and crying is too much for children to handle. On second thought, halevai people still cried by Yizkor.
But I digress. It’s not only the children who leave. It’s anyone who still has parents. And the reasons brought down for the minhag are related to ayin hara, not to protecting the children from seeing the sorrow of their elders. No one sends children out of the shul on Tishah B’Av.
A Chassid once came to the Kotzker Rebbe, zy”a and complained bitterly, “I can’t take it anymore. Everything I hear, everything I read…. It’s just like Shlomo Hamelech says in Koheles: “Yosif daas, yosif mach’ov — the more you know, the more you suffer!”
The Kotzker answered, “Krenken zolst di; abi vissen zolst di — Suffer; as long as you know!”
Knowledge and feeling bring pain. So does learning to walk or to struggle over a Tosafos. But it’s worth it. Don’t deprive our children of learning to feel for others. It hurts, but it’s worth it.