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Parenting Like the Talmud Told You?

Last week’s New York Times article “So the Torah Is a Parenting Guide?” discusses the prolific use of the book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children written by a Los Angeles clinical psychologist named Wendy Mogel. Though the book received little attention when it first hit the shelves in 2001, it is now a hot teaching tool in non-Jewish settings including churches, pre-schools, camps, non-sectarian private schools and Episcopal day schools. Non-Jewish mothers and fathers are becoming what the article calls “accidental students of Judaism” as they turn to Talmudic passages for child-rearing advice; advice that instructs fathers to teach their sons how to swim and reminds mothers that children do not belong to their parents. Children are to gain independence and find paths of their own.

This phenomenon raises some interesting questions about the universality of Jewish teachings. There is something both refreshing and startling about an Episcopal minister using the Talmud to teach parents how to raise a child. But this all leads me to wonder: are these non-Jewish audiences embracing Mogel’s book because of its Jewish character or in spite of it? Might this book set a precedent for deeper explorations of parenting styles in other religious traditions? Would we, as Jewish mothers and daughters, feel comfortable using the teachings of other faiths to hone our own parenting skills? Just how instrumental is religion to parenting anyway? Is the wisdom espoused by third-century rabbis more important than the guidance of a child psychologist? Or can the two be complementary?

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More on: Children, Mothers, Bible, Talmud,
2 Comments

Didn't know about the affluent pagan women embracing Jewish theology and tenets during the Roman era. Interesting. Regarding Mogel's book, if my memory serves me well, I think the article in the Times specified that Episcopalians were embracing it most widely, though it would be interesting to see some data about the religious break-down of the book's readership.

I love "Isaac" on Madonna's new album. I think it's absolutely beautiful. But apparently, the song has caused quite a stir among the Hasidic crowd. Check this out --

Madonna's Divine Retribution

If the Moshiach never comes, it just might be Madonna's fault.

hey JN and JWA

I wonder if the wide response to the book on Talmudic parenting has something to do with Judaism being Ì¢‰âÒinÌ¢‰âÂå now Ì¢‰â‰ÛÏ witness the pop-Kabbalah and faux-mitzvah phenomena-- the way Buddhism was years ago, with the proliferation of books on Zen, Tao, motorcycles, stuffed bears, and Jewish lotuses.

Historians have suggested that during the Roman era, affluent pagan women were particularly amenable to embracing the theology and moral tenets of Judaism (ancient Madonna analogs?). Is there any research about what particular societal segments of non-Jewish America have taken to MogelÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s book?

Speaking of MadonnaÌ¢‰â‰۝what do you think of the song Ì¢‰âÒIsaacÌ¢‰âÂå on her new CD? IMHO, its hauntingly beautiful, suffused with subtle allusions to the Aqedah (the biblical Genesis 22 tale of the binding and near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham), artfully interwoven with portions of the Mizrachi tune Ì¢‰âÒim nin`aluÌ¢‰âÂå .

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Parenting Like the Talmud Told You?." 9 October 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 22, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/parentingtalmud>.

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