Photo Credit: Jewish Press

There are number of narrative passages in the book of Bereishis that parents and teachers are understandably squeamish about teaching to young children who are still getting their first taste of Chumash. The descriptions of Lot and his daughters, Yehuda and Tamar, and Yosef with the wife of Potiphar are often skimmed through with minimal discussion – or skipped altogether.

While it is true that youngsters lack the capacity to appreciate the full meaning and implications of these episodes, I wonder if adults are sometimes guilty of projecting their own discomfort in discussing these matters onto children.


Judging by the comments and questions I have heard being raised by inquisitive children over recent years, they are more likely to be bothered by a whole other dimension of the Bereishis narratives:

“If I behaved badly would I be sent into the desert like Yishmael?”

And perhaps the most difficult story for children to process is the Akeidah:

“Daddy, if Hashem told you to kill me on a mountain would you also go to do it…?”


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Rabbi Shmuel Phillips is the author of Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah" (from which this is adapted). He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children.