Tuesday, June 6, 2006
What to tell the Children
(Photo by Jerry Dantzic)
Guest Post From Chabakuk Elisha:
Ahhhh, yes… אקדמות. Maybe, Hirshel, you can help me out with this one:
My children came home from ישיבה, as do many, many, children before שבועות and repeated the well-known “story behind Akdamos.” I’m sure you’ve heard it before – the witchcraft performing priest, the Rabbonim in Medieval Germany who had the dream, R’ Meir’s journey beyond the mysterious Sambatyon river, the old man, R’ Dan, from Shevet Dan, the face-off between the sorcerer-priest and the miracle working mystic with super powers from places unknown, a flying pillar, fire & millstones… etc.
Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t know what to make of it. Are we really supposed to believe that this story took place as it is written? I don’t have a problem with a less dramatized version of the story possibly taking place, and I can live with a visitor from beyond Sambatyon - although I don’t believe there is a literal physical rock-spewing-river trapping the ten tribes in some kind of time capsule – but this story is especially hard to believe. Honestly, I always understood the description of Sambatyon as a metaphor (one that I can only speculate as to the meaning of), but that’s just me.
My question is, what about my kids? My oldest son immediately checks with me, “Tatty, it’s true, right? Do you believe it? Should we believe it?”
Now I’m stuck. “No, I don’t believe it took place that way; I believe it might be a parable, a metaphor.” My kids give me a look, they want to believe it. So, what should I do? Am I doing a disservice by, perhaps, weakening their emunah? Am I doing them a service by promoting honesty? Am I undermining their education as frumme yidden? I can go back-n-forth with the pros and cons here, so I figure that I can’t lose much by putting the question “out there” and seeing what comes up…