Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spare the Rod Spoil the Child, or Not?

I happened to think about a very interesting phenomenon today. We find that the Gemara (Sota 49b), while discussing the end of days and things that will occur at that time, specifically mentions "Chutzpa Yisge". Translated, it means that audacity (disrespect) will rise. While this is definitely true on a worldwide sense, it very specifically can be noticed in children.

Children are not supposed to be "chutzpadik". But today we are seeing their disrespect reach new heights. Anyone involved in Chinuch - education can testify that the disrespect shown by children today is out of hand. Parents (and especially grandparents) are often appalled at what children are behaving like. All too often they remember getting a good spanking for acting similarly.

It's really great and comforting to know that this is part and parcel of Mashiach's arrival. But what's really going on?

The most seemingly absurd part of this whole deal is the Rabbis' answers to the problem. One can almost not find a Rabbi today who condones punishment (especially physical). It's like all of a sudden, what was tried-and-true, is 'totally wrong' and 'will destroy the child'. And what's even more baffling is that their response comes at a time when chutzpah is totally out of hand!

I wonder if this has to do with us, as a nation. Maybe we too are chutzpadik. Maybe we've strayed far from Hashem (even though we may think we're close). Maybe we say to Hashem - I'll do it later, I'm busy now. Maybe we ignore certain Mitzvot and make "like we didn't hear". Maybe we "answer back" when things don't go our way. Maybe we are just the same as the children. We do happen to be living at the right time -- that is the end of times.

It appears as if Hashem in His loving-kindness is showing us that, no, He will not hit us and punish us. He will have extra love and patience for us. He will go the extra mile and give us another chance and another and another....and that's why the Rabbis (albeit unbeknown to them) are precisely directing parents to do the same to their children. After all, the world does run "Midda Keneged Midda" - measure for measure.

While Hashem is infinitely patient, there does come a time - a "ketz" - where it all must end. Whether we merit it or not, the Redemption will come. That is clear. Do we want to be that child who makes their parents bask in delight, or something else? We still have a chance. I can't say how long that will last for, but time is definitely running out.

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