Monday, June 4, 2018

A Proverb For More Than Parents

While there is no single Biblical or Talmudic text that can be compared to any of the formal parenting advice books that abound today, there are frequent pieces of sound parenting advice that may be found throughout the Biblical canon, particularly in Mishlei, The Book of Proverbs.

Often, when one reads advice on child rearing one is struck by how simple the advice is and, yet, how significant. With the verses from Mishlei, however, the wisdom’s seeming simplicity is also rife with deeper meaning to apply elsewhere in one’s life. For instance, Proverbs 13:1: “A wise son [hears] his father’s instructions, but a scorner hears no rebuke.”

From a parenting point of view, one could understand this as referring to recognizing the appropriate time and place to rebuke one’s child. Everyone hopes that their child will be responsible and not break rules, but when they do, when a child is in the heat of the moment or the throes of rebellion, nothing a parent can say by way of chastisement will be heard.

Wisdom does not always come with age. Indeed, the appellation of “scoffer” can apply to adults as well. One who wishes to enhance their Jewish living will do so, and this is, metaphorically, the wise child who hears instructions. But what of those who deliberately disdain Jewish life? This proverb is a succinct reminder that approaching such a person with harsh words or forceful actions will not change their point of view.

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