Over the past few weeks, we have been making the point that parents must take an active role in teaching their children Torah ideas about sexuality and modesty. This is so that the first images and concepts that fill their developing minds are appropriate ones. This is especially true because of the amount of invasive exposure they receive from secular sources and culture, and also because we can no longer afford to be na?ve about the existence of sexual predators in our midst. Though the number of predators may be small in number, an active predator molests hundreds of children in his career, and unfortunately as a community we still have a long way to go in setting up a 100 percent effective and unified system of response and prevention. As we have discussed, if children do not possess clear knowledge and age-appropriate understanding of the parts of their body and how they can be used or misused, they will find it difficult to protect themselves against those who seek to abuse them.
There are those who may feel that it is forbidden to expose children and adolescents to sexual ideas because may arouse in them a yetzer ha’ra. The Ezer Mikodesh (Rav Avraham Dovid Wahrman) raises the same issue. He questions how it could be permitted to study the many Torah topics that require in-depth involvement in sexual issues when the Torah forbids one to think sexual thoughts. After all, there are sections of Gemara that are explicit, direct and even graphic when discussing sexuality and specific details of anatomy.
“No young unmarried student should hold himself back from studying from the holy books topics that can possibly cause sexual thoughts as found in the many laws that relate to marriage and women…. As long as it is in the manner and form that it is written in the holy books there [are] no grounds for concern or fear of even a remote violation [of] the prohibitions against obscenity or causing lust…. The prohibition against thinking sexual thoughts…is not defined to include a transient thought that occurs in passing…. and, [subsequent to this transient thought,] anyone who changes his train of thought to the best of his ability has no violation whatsoever, for the holy Torah was not given to angels. [This prohibition is only referring to when] a person dwells on sexual thoughts and awakens lust in his soul with images in his imagination…. This behavior makes an impression on the person’s character to awaken in him, G-d forbid, a chance to be drawn to commit sexual immorality or a nocturnal emission…and only this kind of sexual thought is forbidden, not anything else.” (Ezer Mikodesh, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23:3.)
Presumably, then if we discuss sexuality with our children in order to prevent them from being corrupted and in order for there to be an open relationship where they can continue to receive guidance about this very important matter, we are covered by the rubric permitted by the Ezer Mikodesh.
An additional point to consider is that in order for us to be effective parents, our response to certain social and psychological issues must adapt with the times. So, that even if in earlier generations parents did not have these types of discussions with their children, given the amount of exposure our children receive in regards to sexuality, it would seem prudent to “inoculate” them with Torah ideas. Keep in mind: halachah has recognized that over centuries, even biological realities and the makeup of humans are subject to variations and change. (For example, Magen Avraham, O.H., 179:8.) Certainly then, it is a reasonable conjecture that our cultural, social, and emotional realities, are also subject to variation from generation to generation.
(To be continued)