Sunday, April 24, 2011

Corporal Punishment, Four Children, Song of Songs and Sitting Bull

What do we do with the Wicked Child? Well in 19 states it’s still legal to whap him with a paddle in school (New Mexico became the 31st to ban it two weeks ago). At home, it’s legal to do it in all 50. But in many countries, including Israel, corporal punishment is no longer allowed, anywhere, anytime.

This week, with the Seder’s Four Children still fresh on our minds, my Jewish Week ethics column tackles the controversial and current issue of corporal punishment and child abuse, a topic that has been amplified all the more by the recent showing here of “Race to Nowhere.” See Hammerman on Ethics: Sparing the Rod.

We discussed this topic at services yesterday. See supplementary materials on the Four Children that I brought in, including some scholarly material exploring this famous Haggadah anecdote has changed over the years, an article comparing the Four Kids to characters from “Glee,” and a listing of articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And as long as I’m handing out materials from the weekend’s services, click here for Friday night’s handout, which included brief meditations (known in eastern traditions as gathas) from many cultures promoting mindfulness on nature. Friday’s service was one of my all-time favorites, as we celebrated Passover and Earth Day with songs and poetry inspired by the Song of Songs, that most earthy and sensual biblical mother-of-all-love ballads (which is traditionally recited on the Shabbat of Passover). Where else but TBE can you recite the poetry of Sitting Bull and Hasidic masters and sing “Dodi Li” and “Morning Has Broken,” all at the same service?

Before we leave “Song of Songs” behind us, I highly recommend this article from the Huffington Post, written by a colleague, on the need to preserve and celebrate the astonishing sensuality of our tradition in the face of what he calls “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which is pounding at us from all directions. On the one hand, we are bombarded by the lure of pixels and cling to the virtual instead of embracing the real; and on the other side, religious conservatism has, in its prurient zeal, drained texts like this of their sensuality – and in doing so, they’ve drained Judaism of its vitality (the article gives a stunning example for all you Artscroll fans).

No such danger of that happening here, though. In fact a couple got engaged last week – and they had met right here at services. At TBE, we don’t just read Song of Songs – we LIVE it!

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