Sunday, January 26, 2014

al pi darko

Sometimes I wonder how many of my blog posts are called "al pi darko" which means "according to his way," which is part of a pasuk in mishlei often used to mean that we should teach children as individuals, not cookie cutter people.

Bedtime Torah is getting a bit more complicated now that Jack (age 4) is on the bandwagon and he wants Torah, too.  First I asked the boys how many mitzvos they thought there were.  Jack (predictably) guessed 4, Elazar 20.  I kept saying, "more" "more" "more" and Elazar went up to 100, 200, 300, etc.  (Then Jack had a little tantrum because he didn't get to guess and I thought about how bedtime should have been a half an hour prior but they were eating...)  They were both surprised how many mitzvos there are.

So Jack mentioned butterflies and I asked him if they were kosher and he said no.  Then Elazar said all insects aren't kosher and I reminded him about some species of grasshopper and he said, oh, yeah, and asked which ones and I said I'll have to look it up (if we even know).  Then Jack asked me if nonJews are permitted to eat kosher and I said yes.  This was a surprise to him.  (All nonJews can eat kosher, but Jews are not allowed to eat non kosher.)

Again, by the time we got to Elazar (age 6), he wasn't as fresh since he participated with Jack's.  But he was very excited to learn Torah and he cheered.  When I asked him what he wanted to learn, he yelled, "Torah about penises!" and he cracked up.  I said, "There is Torah about penises.  What do you think the Torah says about penises?" and he said, "No showing penises to other people?" (Yes, this has come up in practical life.)  I wasn't sure what to say to that.  I thought about it.  Is it actually a halachic problem to do that. What is the exact violation.  Does it fall under tznius or is it a brachos/tefila question.  So I said I'm not sure if that is exactly a mitzva, but I'm thinking about bris milah.  And we talked about how Hashem told Avraham when he was 99 to do it.  He thought it was cutting a hole so the baby can pee, so we had a very basic anatomy lesson.  I asked him who is obligated to do the mitzva, if the baby is only 8 days old when we do it and the baby doesn't do mitzvos.  He wasn't sure, but when I said the daddy, he liked that.  I added that when a boy becomes bar mitzva, if he doesn't have a bris, then it's his mitzva.

Then he said, "Now do a butt mitzva!"  I am just so happy that this type of joking around which seems so normal for boys is not becoming a power play between him and his teacher, and not being viewed as disrespectful or inappropriate.  (My personal sense is that it's not great for a student to be thinking about or talking about penises and butts during Torah time.  But let's say it happens.  And let's face it, with boys it happens.  I think how the teacher reacts to it does affect their attitude towards sexuality, bodily functions and Torah.)  I also find it an enjoyable challenge to try to think of some mitzva or Torah relating to whatever he brings up.

So I told him the mitzva about if you are camping for war, your weapon has to have a shovel on it so that you can dig a place for excrement, to keep the camp clean so that you can daven.  He asked if it is the same halacha about camping, since camping is the same situation minus the war (I deduce from this: is it an issue of that a weapon needs a shovel? Or is the mitzva to achieve the result of a clean camp?).  I said I didn't know, and he asked how come I don't know things.  I asked him why he doesn't know things.  He said he's still young.  I said so am I, and the there are more things to know than we can know in a lifetime.

Then Jack cried that I haven't taught him any mitzvos, and I said, "What do you mean? We learned about kosher tonight..." and he said, "I told you that.  I want you to tell me!" I said okay and a few minutes later he said, "I got one! How about you aren't allowed to break your finger?" and I said that's a good one, that's the mitzva that you have to take care of your body, called VeNishmartem Meod LeNafshosechem.  Then Elazar perked up and asked him if he knew that one yet--did I teach that to him?  And I said I'll teach it to him next time.

It's 9:30 and Chana and I still have to do Chumash.  She finished Shmini and tonight we are starting Acharei Mos.


  1. ack! it's not acharei mos! i forgot about tazria metzora because i've been dreading them because i think chana will hate them.

  2. "Does it fall under tznius or is it a brachos/tefila question."

    Why not both?