My boyfriend just got a new job and will be moving to my city. He says that it’s time we start living together. The idea seems to have advantages – shared expenses, and we can spend more time together. But I’m wondering if there is a downside to this as well?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Living together is a bad idea. It is a convenient way for a man to have all the “benefits” with none of the responsibilities. Then when he gets tired of you, he will move on. I've seen it dozens of times, with women who come crying to me because they have been hurt in this way. (For this and many other reasons, Judaism frowns on this arrangement.)
Even in the event you do get married, studies show that couples who lived together before marriage were more likely to get divorced early in their marriage than couples who did not live together. There is a simple reason for this. When a man and woman live together, they approach their relationship very differently than they would as a married couple. Finances, household chores, social lives, major decisions, minor decisions, resolving conflicts, give and take, and expectations about the future are all executed by two individuals who lack a basic long-term commitment.
When they get married, what usually happens is that their expectations change. The rules are now different, only the couple is now set in a previous mode of relating, and cannot handle the transition. It’s a prescription for disaster.
I recommend the book, "The Case for Marriage," which has a chapter discussing this phenomenon.
I have a child-rearing question. We found some coloring on the wall. We suspected our 4-year-old, and asked him if he did it. He denied it. We are not positive he did it, but he has a guilty look and it is very unlikely that another child did it.
What do we say to him? Do we just forget about it? Do we try to convince him to tell the truth? Do we punish him even though we are not 100% sure? What should we do?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Your question touches on fundamental concepts of child-raising that will affect your child for a lifetime, and I commend you for taking this seriously enough to write.
The bottom line? You must not punish him unless you are 100% certain he did it.
The best thing to do is to ask the child to help clean up the walls. Do not accuse or punish. Asking for his admission isn't productive since his goal is only to escape from punishment.
After the fact, you should simply say, "We love you even if you color on walls – but it's important to tell the truth." And leave it at that.
The idea here is to help the child develop an appreciation for telling the truth that will last a lifetime. Not to necessarily get him to tell the truth regarding one incident of coloring on the wall.
Don't worry – even though you may lose this "battle," you are more likely to win the war.
In other words, teaching him to tell the truth does not have to be done specifically right now over this event. The lesson can be taught in a series of follow-up stories over the next few weeks. Use the straw man technique to develop a main character who gets into a similar situation as your son – e.g. “Once upon a time there was a boy called Mikey...”
The "plot" of each story is, naturally, that the boy lied because he was afraid – and then he told the truth and everyone was so proud of him! Also, he did not get punished for what he did, because he told the truth and said he was sorry. If the "crime" in the story involved damages of some kind – e.g. coloring on the wall – you should add in the story how he cleaned it.
The next time something like this happens with your son, remind him of the boy called Mikey who told the truth, cleaned the wall, and did not get punished.
Ask him if he wants to be like Mikey.
Tell him that if he tells the truth, then he only will have to 1) wash off the wall, and 2) say he is sorry.
If he tells the truth, then make a big deal about it – e.g. let him hear you tell the grandparents on the phone how wonderful he is, etc.
All of the above holds true in the event that you are not certain if he did it.
If you are 100% certain that he did it, then do not ask him if he did it. Just state matter-of-factly that you know that he did it, ignore any denials and get straight to the point. He must:
1) Say he's sorry
2) Clean off the wall
3) Possible punishment
Of course, point out to him that item #3 – punishment – only comes when we deny it.
And finally, one word of practical advice: Any house with young children should have washable walls!
For a long time it has bothered me what the Torah means by: "God created man in His image" (Genesis 1:27). Given that human beings are finite and corporal, how are we created in God's image?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Obviously the "image of God" is dealing with the non-physical part of us - the soul. Our drive for morality and meaning, our drive to make a difference is from the soul which is in the "image of God."
But there's more to it than that. Just as God has independent choice, so too does each human being have independent moral choice. The image of God means that we have the ability to choose.
Choice is the essential issue of what makes us special? Because life only becomes meaningful due to our ability to choose. For example, the difference in being "programmed to love" and the choice to love, is precisely what makes love significant. In other words, if I have the ability to choose good or evil, the good becomes significant.
But it goes deeper still. For choice to be authentic, there have to be consequences. If every time I get in trouble, dad comes to bail me out, that's not really choice. Choice means consequences.
Sometimes God does make a miracle, but it is typically in a way that is not obvious, that enables us to retain free choice.
In the 1991 Gulf War, 39 Scud Missiles rained down on Israel and only one person was killed. It was a miracle, but God still left open at least the possibility for someone to say, "No, there was no miracle. It was a fluke of nature."
So now we can understand that "image of God" means that God created beings who have the ability to make decisions, and those decisions will create consequences that will make this being a co-partner in the development of the world.
For free choice to operate, evil has to have the possibility of existing. If every time someone chooses to do evil, God is going to interfere, then there's no moral choice. If every time the gun is pointed, the turret points backwards, after a few times you'll get the message. If you eat pork and get struck by lightning, then you're not "morally choosing," you just see it doesn't work. It simply becomes pragmatic not to do evil.
If the lives of the righteous were obviously perfect, that too would destroy the possibility of choice. Pragmatically, we'd figure it pays more to be righteous because look at the millions of dollars that come my way! That's not choice. That's not becoming God-like.
In other words, a world where a human being can create himself into a Moses, also carries the possibility of a person creating himself into a Hitler.