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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Bunch of Topics: Purim, Rewards, Aggressive Collections, and More

Reader and frequent commentor "Anonymous Mom" asks in the comments section to last post:

I have a Purim-related question. I just found out that the learning for boys that has become en vogue in many Shuls on Purim morning is often sponsored by people financially so that they can get the merits of the learning or some other Zechus for their family. In other words, the boys are being told that if they learn for an hour in the Shul after Megillah, they will get a door prize, plus be entered for a big-ticket item such as an IPOD or expensive bike. I found this out because we asked the Shuls in our area if they could give the boys the name of a sick relative of ours to keep in mind and say Tehillim for while they are there and we were told we would have to cough up some money. Every Shul, but one had the same response. Any thoughts on this?

I'm hoping the readers might have some answers for her.

I think my readers know my feelings on rewards, especially expensive rewards. I want to add one thing. . . .not every parent wants their child to have an IPOD! I'm one of those parents. I'm from the days of Walkmans and my parents did not allow me to have a Walkman. At the time, I thought they were the most terrible parents, not allowing me to have what "everyone" else had.

I wanted to be able to listen to music of my choice in private. My parents thought the boom box (another blast from the past) placed in my own room was enough privacy. They had their preferences in music, so if I was breaking the rules, I had to listen quietly. My parents didn't like seeing kids tuned out from their own families while on vacations, etc, as they were too busy with their walkmans.

Today, I've turned into my parents and I'm sure my own children will be crying that they are the "only" ones without an IPOD (or whatever the next new thing is).

My question would be: is it appropriate for a shul or school to offer a prize that some (terrible) parents would not want their children to receive? And, while I am not a big reward type of parent, but, since the rewards culture seems to be the prevailing culture, what rewards would be motivate teenagers and still be parent approved? (A less expensive bike would be fine by me if I could appreciate the learn for an hour and potentially win a huge reward--sorry, I just can't jump on this boat. . . . 1 hour! Come on!).

Updated: Commentor Rachel asks her own question:
"Can you claim that the Torah that was learned was Lishma? Does the zchus on non Lishma learning count? I know young kids don't usually get the concept of learning Lishma, hence the concept of rewards such as candy. But if the reward is an ipod, clearly these are bigger kids who should be able to understand Lishma. (maybe we are just extending childhood by another 5 years) Anyone knows the answer to this question?"

I'd say she is onto something.

Let the comments fly.

14 comments:

rachel said...

different question; can you claim that the Torah that was learned was Lishma? Does the zchus on non Lishma learning count?
I know young kids don't usually get the concept of learning Lishma, hence the concept of rewards such as candy. But if the reward is an ipod, clearly these are bigger kids who should be able to understand Lishma. (maybe we are just extending childhood by another 5 years)
Anyone knows the answer tp this question?

Abbi said...

Money for Tehillim and prizes for 1 hr of learning? If this community thinks it's achieved success with instilling frumkeit in its children, that's pretty sad.

On iPods: I always had a walkman as a teenager, mostly because I commuted an 1.5 hours each way back and forth to school, and those rides would get mighty boring without music, which I really enjoyed at the time.

I think there's a time and place for private music listening. Just as you extol virtues of saying No down below, I think there's a way of allowing your child to have an ipod or walkman and create boundaries so it doesn't impinge on other parts of his/her life (same with TV and any other bit of technology we have in our lives today. No technology is inherently bad, there are only bad ways of using it- internet (there's porn and Torah on here), computers, radios, telephones, cellphones etc. Goes for everything.)

SephardiLady said...

Abbi-I agree with you that it is fine to say yes sometimes to a Walkman, IPOD, whatever and set appropriate limits.

But, there is a huge difference between two parents agreeing to allow their children x, y, or z, and a third party allowing such by providing them with it.

Since Purim starts tonight (yeah!) the discussion could easily be applied to drinking. My kids aren't old enough to have a full cup of wine over the seudah, but when they are, I might offer them a cup of wine with their seudah on Purim. However, we would not be fine with another parent offering our children wine (and esp. hard liquor) without bringing the issue to us.

Abbi said...

I don't think iPods and underage drinking are really not comparable; the latter is simply illegal, the former isn't.

Dealing with iPods, like dealing with most modern technology, is one of the many challenges of raising children in a mixed society. You could say it's not fair that a third party is making choices that affect your children's lives about a lot of things. Is it fair that there are billboards bombarding your children with advertising as they walk home from school? Is it fair that they put the sugary kids cereals at kiddie eye level, making supermarket shopping that much more difficult for parents?

Of course it would be easier if your culture made exactly the same choices as you would as parents. Unfortunately, that rarely occurs, which is why banning certain technologies outright (iPods, internet, computers, TV) is rarely effective, unless you live in Meah Shearim or a cave.

Abbi said...

aack, sorry, I meant to say "I think iPods and underage drinking are really not comparable"

Elitzur said...

It sounds like they're educating their children exactly as they want them to turn out... We (the shul/community) will give money for you to learn so that in the future you will give us money to learn...

tnspr569 said...

Indeed, there can be an issue with providing children with expensive tech toys. However, once children are responsible enough to own such items, parents can monitor the content and usage of these devices. Putting aside the issue of winning such items as prizes, if parents don't necessarily want their children to have such items, perhaps they should have their children save up the money needed to purchase such items, and see if the children are really willing to part with so much money.

I bought my iPod with a portion of one summer's earnings several years ago, and it's definitely different when one pays for a "big-ticket" item with one's own money, as opposed to receiving said item as a gift.

For those who really enjoy listening to music, the ability to carry one's entire music collection in one's pocket is simply incredible, and can make mundane commutes much more enjoyable. It's not shutting out the world so much as providing a soundtrack for everyday life.

Also, iPods can be used for audio shiurim, perhaps making them more appealing to parents.

Anonymous said...

But, there is a huge difference between two parents agreeing to allow their children x, y, or z, and a third party allowing such by providing them with it.

Except by sending them there, you are agreeing. No one MAKES anyone learn somewhere. If that isn't something you value, perhaps the child can have a chavruta at home?

anonymous mom said...

Thanks for addressing my question. For the record, we knew about the IPOD/big ticket raffle last Purim and were sufficiently annoyed (BTW, our boys didn't want to go and we were just fine and dandy with that). What completely floored me to the point of actually losing sleep and being mournful was finding out that they expect you to pay for the sick person's name to be mentioned. The learning can't be in the Zechus of that sick person lying in a hospital bed tonight with her distraught husband by her side--a woman who has given immeasurably to the community over the years and is suffering a chronic and serious health challenge--unless I pay for it. That was new to me and it made me loathe the entire project even more. My husband just turned to me and asked, "When will it stop?" It seems that this Purim learning thing and the way it is run is widespread in the NY area. I feel like I'm Rip Van Winkle, have fallen asleep and woken up in an entirely different Judaism.

bluke said...

It is only going to get worse as the mad scramble for money continues. I posted today The Torah world in Israel is on the verge of financial collapse, this is only going to make the fundraising more aggressive as these institutions get more desperate.

Chaim B. said...

L'olam ilmod adam she'lo lishma, she'mitoch lishma ba lishma (Pesachim 50).

My impression (judging from the programs in hour neighborhood) is that the "yeshivas mordechai hatzadik" programs are for elementary school age children who are not usually motivated to learn lishma.

Leaving the educational issue aside, given that the prizes are being sponsored anyway, what would it hurt if the programs dedicated their learning as a zechus for anyone that needs a refuah or yeshu'a? Zeh ne'hene v'zeh lo chaseir kofin m'shum midas Sdom, esp. on Purim where ko haposeht yad nosnim lo! Episodes like this make me truly disgusted with the "establishment" communal organizations.

rachel said...

"My impression (judging from the programs in hour neighborhood) is that the "yeshivas mordechai hatzadik" programs are for elementary school age children who are not usually motivated to learn lishma."

if it's catered towards elementary school kids then you don't have to give ipods. The "need" to have an ipod at that age it's created. If you don't create the expectation to have an ipod and a cellphone, and the latest xbox, those needs may not be asking for it. From the prizes described I thought the kids learning would be post bar mitzvah, even high school who should understand the concept of lishma. But elementary school kids with ipods? I'm not ecev ranting about the research that shows that constant use of headphone can cause hearing loss...

Chaim B. said...

After re-reading the post, it dawned on me that there was a crucial piece of information missing. Unless there is some reason not to publicize it, can you please update the post or comments with the hebrew name of the sick relative who needs some extra zechuyos? I have confidence that there are people reading this blog and others that will be happy to keep the name in mind while saying some extra tehillim or doing some learning - and will do so without sending a bill.

anonymous mom said...

Thank you Chaim B. I don't think I should publicize the name here right now. She is well-known in my community and while the Tefilos are needed and appreciated, her family is extremely private and I wouldn't want to cause them Tzaar by having people know that others declined to learn in Zechus of her Refuah. I may be making the wrong call, but I have to err on the side of caution here. Some people don't exercise good judgment. Thanks for your support, all of you. I hope somehow we can send more positive energy and good sense out there into the Frum community.