Thursday, August 18, 2016

“Set your Eyes on the Family (Values)”

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“There were no better days for Yisrael than the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, when the girls of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards. What did they say? Young man, lift up your eyes... Do not set your eyes on beauty, set your eyes on the family.” [Mishna, Taanit 4:8].

“What did the beautiful ones say? Set your eyes on beauty, for the only purpose of a wife is beauty. And those withpedigrees (“yichuss”), what did they say? Set your eyes on the family, for the only purpose of a woman is to have sons.” [Taanit 31a].

In order to mark the occasion of “Tu B‘Av” (the fifteenth of Av), which was yesterday (Friday) – a day known for betrothals, engagements, and weddings – we will turn our eyes on family matters, following the recommendation of the Mishna quoted above: “Set your eyes on the family.” In the Talmud, this advice is given by the women from prominent families, as opposed to the “beautiful” ones, who propose an alternative to the value of the families. They tell the men to follow the popular trend, and “set your eyes on beauty.” Careful reading of the text will show that the status of the prominent women – who are competing with the trait of external beauty – is not classic pedigree, based on the past and ancient inherited traits.The “dowry” of the prominent ones is set in the future. “The only purpose of a woman is to have sons,” implying that what is important is the continuation of the warm family line. Those with sharp eyes will notice that the text of the Mishna is in the singular, “set your eyes (einecha) on the family,” while the text in the Talmud is in the plural, “set your eyes (eineichaem) on the family.” Sharp readers will explain that the difference is between the past and the glory of the existing “family” and looking forward to the future while establishing a new family.

Family Values

The LGBT (“pride”) discussions in our surroundings knowingly (and quite possibly on purpose) undermine the basis for what is known as “family values.” We must also take note of the fact that traditional family values are also undermined by medical advances and the social trend to establish single-parent families by choice, through a “donor” for women and a surrogate mother (and possible a donor) for men. This technical-medical development, supported by the post-modern atmosphere which destroys all values from the past, which joins together with the violent LGBT ideology (“the community,” and “pride”) from the political and media point of view – has planted the equivalent of a sociological atomic bomb which has the power to crush all the known cultural values of western civilization . (And I hope that I am wrong about this...)

But let us leave high-level words behind us, together with the world of ideology, which do not deeply involve most of the people, certainly not in this “post-” era. Let us turn our gaze in the individual, a private person, and look at his needs, desires, and dreams. And we can also add his urges. In this essay I will focus on the middle aged and above, people who have left behind the agitation of youth, and who have a desire or a need for a bit of peace and quiet in their lives.

I cannot believe that in a modern family, whether single-parent or single-sex, it is possible to find family satisfaction, or to stretch out on the couch of the faltering family unit. I do not see any possibility of creating an alternative for a family at an advanced age in a single-sex framework. I have no faith in sociological studies (if there are any) which describe close ties in a single-sex family at an advanced age, and I assume that the most common option is that the members go their separate ways. I do not believe that a single-sex or a single-parent unit can develop branched-out family ties of the type that can be found in all human civilizations, starting from the time of Noach and his sons. And indeed, unfortunately, it seems to me that the post-modern family agenda does not consider at all the family connections of grandfathers and grandmothers, in all their generations, aunts and uncles and their relatives, cousins from all sides, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who might have left the family nests to fly away, without any thoughts of family ties. Everybody goes on his own independent and individualistic way. “Goodbye” to all!

I hereby call out to intellectuals, authors, and poets, to men and women of the pen and of the keyboard, to directors and producers of “positive media” –set your sights on glorifying and lifting up “family values” and the historical culture of positive and warm family life. Ignore the media, which are so strongly linked to modern trends, ignore the ghosts which prowl the social spaces of our world. Better yet, don’t ignore them – fight them with all your strength!

A Taste of Life

Let us return to the middle aged and beyond. If not for family, without a family tree in the past and in the future – what benefit does a person get in all that he or she has done under the sun? All the “post-” fashions and alternatives are meant for the elderly men and women who do not have a normative family, to help them end their lives in solitude, by choice. Even if they live in an old age home, no matter how prestigious and active it is, they do not have a real taste of life, without any relatives of their own and without a real family, which is the real essence of life.

And now we can return to the youth: Think about “family values” as your existential internet which often puts aside other challenges or values. Set your eyes on the family!

(Note: I am not referring in the above essay to men and women who have tried with all their might to find their mates in the “regular” way and have failed, or who are incapable of having children for medical or psychological reasons.)

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