Follow by Email

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Are you a comic book Jew?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 48

Are comic books healthy reading for kids?  While parents and teachers have traditionally treated the genre with disdain, experts today have suggested that we are being too harsh on comics.   While creative, imaginary skill-building may be limited when reading comics, vocabulary and fine arts aptitudes are indeed furthered.   

In fact, comic books have become increasingly popular amongst many adults, particularly in the ivory tower.  Academics often feel that it is beneath their intelligence to while away their time with TV and movies, and yet they are often mentally exhausted from reading scholarly journals all day.  And so they view comic books as an acceptable alternative form of entertainment. 

Concerning the obligation of a husband to his wife, the Torah declares, “If he takes himself another wife, her flesh, her clothing, and her intimacy rights, shall he not diminish.”

Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: The juxtaposition of the words “flesh” and “clothing” teaches that one must provide clothing appropriate to her flesh, meaning that one should not give children’s clothing to an older wife, nor senior ladies’ clothing to a young wife.

It is unbecoming of an older person to dress like a teenager.  Likewise, if teens wore old people’s clothing, they would be dismissed as nerdy and slouchy.  Everyone knows that just like there are different modes of dress for different occasions, there are different ways one dresses at different ages and stages of one’s life.  The only exception, of course, is that both teenage girls and old ladies dye their hair blue (mind you, nobody in between).

Sadly, while everyone understands that you need to dress age-appropriately, many people are happy practising their Judaism in a way that is not age-appropriate.  Instead of having their Judaism mature with them, when it comes to their relationship with G-d they are stuck in the body of a bar- or bat-mitzvah boy or girl.  While they should be able to brag about how many masechtos (tractates) of Talmud they’ve learned, they’re excited if they can read a Rashi or learn a mishnah in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers).  Tragically, most Jews can’t even do that much and so they feel they’re way ahead of the pack!

Comic books may be okay for kids, they might even be okay for adults who have spent the entire day reading academic journals, but if your entire adult reading list consists of Marvel and DC, it’s time to grow up.  Likewise, in terms of your Jewish education, if you haven’t progressed beyond the level of a bar-mitzvah kid, it’s embarrassing.  Young people should look, dress, and sound like young people.  Adults should look, dress, and sound like adults.

A friend of mine, Reb Avi Bitterman, recently had a miracle occur in his lifelong commitment to learning.  A number of years ago, as his kids were entering school, he thought, ‘I should probably be doing some more serious learning myself.’  And so Avi began attending a daily Daf Yomi shiur.  The first day he attended, they were in the middle of tractate Baba Kama.  Now, most people would convince themselves that it makes good sense to wait until they complete the tractate and then pick it up with the new tractate.  Not Avi.  He decided that if he was going to do it, there was no better day to start than that very day on page twenty three.  

Next year, Avi's son becomes bar-mitzvah.  Now a Daf Yomi addict, Avi was curious to know which page coincided with the bar-mitzvah date.  Could you believe his surprise and shock when he looked it up, only to find that the schedule for that day said Baba Kama, page twenty three?!?  On exactly the day of his son’s bar-mitzvah, he will additionally be celebrating his completion of the Talmud!

Imagine, on the day when most fathers would turn to their kid and say, ‘Son, I remember when I did my haftara at my bar-mitzvah.  That was quite the achievement.  Never done one since.’  Instead, my buddy, Avi, will turn to his kid and say, ‘Son, your haftara was awesome, but this is just the beginning.  In honour of your bar-mitzvah, I’ve just finished Shas (the Talmud).  May you merit being able to tell your son the same thing at his bar-mitzvah!’

Don’t be a comic book Jew.  It’s time to get out of your teenage clothing.  You never stopped challenging yourself to grow in your career and other ambitions in life.  What happened to your spiritual growth?  May you merit dressing in the spiritual clothing of your age and being able to demonstrate to your children how to continue their spiritual growth way beyond their teens!