The correct approach to education is tricky. Is it more beneficial to expose ourselves or our children to the dangers of the real world and all that comes with it? Or the opposite, it’s better to be sheltered and censor certain types of expression, speech and behaviours, to be protected from being offended by others’ speech or behaviour. The result of being sheltered is being very thin-skinned and vulnerable when exposed to the real world.
In this week’s Parsha, Chatam Sofer suggests that the challenge of balancing sheltering with exposure to danger can be seen in a comment of Rashi about Yitzchak’s blindness.
Rashi (Bereshit 27:1) quoting the Medrash gives three reasons for Yitzchak’s blindness:
- Because Esav’s wives were worshipping idols and the smoke of their incense caused him to go blind.
- At the Akedah, the angels were crying, and their tears fell on Yitzchak, causing him to go blind.
- So that Yaakov could get the berachot.
The third reason explains why G-d caused Yitzchak’s blindness to happen. The first two reasons are the triggers, which seem diametrically opposed. One is a trigger of Kedusha (holiness), and the other is a trigger of Tumah (impurity).
Chatam Sofer, in his commentary Torat Moshe suggests that the two triggers worked together. Because Yitzchak was on such a high level, he was ultra-sensitive to Avodah Zarah (idol worship); even the smoke of idolatry was a cause for blindness/confusion.
The two triggers represent two different ways for us to become blind to the threats around us. The first is when we allow negative influences in and don’t realize how profound of an effect those influences are having on us. This is the type of blindness represented by the smoke of idolatry. The second is when we shelter ourselves from the outside world so much that we can’t see or relate to those threats.
When we over-shelter, we risk allowing ourselves or our children to be vulnerable to threats and not know how to deal with them. When we over-expose ourselves or our children to these threats, we no longer realize that they are dangerous.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay