A four-year-old ran up to a rabbi at a bris. “Rabbi, rabbi,” the boy said, “will you bless me?”
My son repeated this story at our Shabbat dinner table, surprised that a child so young would think to ask for a blessing.
But the boy is being brought up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish home, and asking for a blessing from a rabbi, even at such a young age, is a perfectly natural thing for that child to do.
Someone at the table suggested that it is as ordinary as if one of my grandchildren said, “Daddy, Daddy, can I watch Spiderman?”
Children mimic what they see and hear.
Our family dinner conversations are often inconsequential (See: Stand Up Comedy at Omega) and usually about food- Is it better to eat the skin on a sweet potato or not?
But this discussion was different.
It was important.
And it was especially significant after reading, Islamic Extremists Spreading Ideology to Children with “Terrorist Dolls.”
The article reported that 4,000 terrorist dolls were seized by Israeli custom workers before being smuggled into the West Bank.
The stuffed dolls had face-coverings called keffiyeh and the slogan, Jerusalem here we come, was printed on them.
The dolls held rocks and were meant to provoke Palestinian youth, teach hate and violence. I found this both heartbreaking and frightening.
I’ve written about how terrorists understand the importance of education (See: Teach Children and Change the World.)
In contrast, when my son was two, he had a stuffed doll he named Girl. She had blonde, curly, hair and wore a turquoise tee-shirt and matching shorts. My son took good care of Girl for many years. He fed her, hugged her and slept with her.
Just last month, I gave Girl to his son. My grandson took Girl from my arms and immediately, naturally, cradled her. He took her home, gave her a bath, washed her clothes and slept next to her that night.
“Early childhood is a very important period of life. It is when children learn enormous amounts about the everyday world. It is also the time during which young children acquire lifelong attitudes towards themselves and towards others.” -David Elkind, child psychologist.
One child learns love and trust, another— hate and violence.
I agree with Martin Luther King. "Hate is too great a burden to bear." Especially for children already carrying rocks.