Growing Up Healthy

Dear Parents,

The current generation of parents takes their children’s physical safety very seriously. From car seats and bike helmets, to healthy diets and avoidance of questionable medications, they far outshine their parents and grandparents in this area. They are very sensitive to the possibility of unseen environmental hazards and potentially harmful exposure to chemicals and substances. This awareness can serve as a stepping stone to appreciating lurking spiritual dangers as well.

The current generation of parents takes their children’s physical safety very seriously.In the well-known incident, this week’s Parsha relates how Miriam suggests to the daughter of Pharoah that she bring a Jewish wet-nurse to take care of the Jewish baby that had been found. (Shemos 2:7) Rashi tells us that Basya, Pharoah’s daughter had tried to get Moshe to nurse from numerous Egyptian women, all to no avail. The reason Rashi gives, quoting the Gemora (Sotah 12B), was that since ultimately Moshe’s mouth would speak with the Shechina, he refused to nurse from a non-Jewish woman.

Rabbi Shlomo Yonasan Harris quotes the Lev Eliyahu who explains that since Egyptian women had undoubtedly consumed non-Kosher food, the quality of the milk they produced was tainted. It is hard to fathom what the problem was. These were non-Jewish women who were allowed to eat non-Kosher, and mother’s milk has no Halachic problem due to any connection to the food consumed by the mother. Furthermore, the milk was being consumed by a three month old without conscious awareness and certainly no religious obligation. Nevertheless, baby Moshe was born with an exquisitely attuned spiritual radar. He therefore spat out the milk. He had a sensitivity to the spiritual defect of the milk, akin to any baby’s sensitivity to spoiled milk.

[Moshe] had a sensitivity to the spiritual defect of the milk.The fact that there could be some lasting harm to Moshe from an unseen, imperceptible element in the milk, demonstrates a spiritual reality in the world. We can more readily relate to the fact that if a child was exposed to radiation, for example, which cannot be seen, heard or smelled there would nevertheless be internal damage that would eventually cause real harm. The Lev Eliyahu is showing us that Rashi is teaching about the spiritual element to reality.
This concept has far reaching implications to us and our growing children. We tend to think that very young children do not internalize what goes on around them, so there’s no concern if they see images, hear foul language, overhear negativity, disrespect and angry outbursts or are in general exposed to inappropriate experiences. The reality is quite different.

In light of this, it should come as no surprise that recent research studies have found significant, measurable impact on young children’s brains from overexposure to digital devices and screens. There is something tangibly destructive going on as a result of children’s experiences, even when they are at an age when they seem unaware of and oblivious to their surroundings.
We owe it to ourselves to become educated about these serious threats to our children’s safety. We should learn to cringe when witnessing a two-year old preoccupied with a parent’s smartphone. I recently heard of an accessory that comes with baby carriages to which a smartphone can be attached, to help keep the toddler occupied while riding in the stroller!

We must take great care to not allow anything to sully our child’s growing Neshama and developing mind.If we remain oblivious to this threat to our children’s physical, cognitive and spiritual health, we are, in effect, feeding our babies spoiled milk. Add to that the enormous potential every single Jewish child is born with and we realize what a phenomenal opportunity we have before us. We must take great care to not allow anything to sully our child’s growing Neshama and developing mind.

Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos and a fun and wholesome vacation,

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