Monday, March 28, 2005

On Kids and the Museum of Natural History

Well, my boys had no school Sunday, nor did my nephew
(who attends the same school). I decided to take the
opportunity to treat the kids (and my daughter and
nieces) to a day out at the Museum of Natural History
and the Hayden Planetarium here in New York. (Yes, I
was the guy you saw traipsing around the museum by
himself with seven kids...)

In the rotunda of the museum, where you wait on line
for tickets, there are several dinosaur skeletons on
display. While we were there, my daughter (eight) and
her cousin (nine) had an interesting conversation
which I more or less stayed out of, although I did
pipe in here-and-there. They were trying, in their
own way, to determine the factuality of the dinosaur
bones that they saw before them. They were trying to
reason how dinosaurs could have disappeared before man
if they were created on the same day. One of them
came up with the "extended day" variation on their
own. When one stated that they died in the Mabul, I
corrected her and told her that the dinosaurs were
gone well before the days of the Mabul.

I tried to stay out of the conversation as much as
possible for two reasons: (a) while it is my duty to
guide the hashkafa of my daughter, it is not my duty
to do so for my niece, and I will not "overstep" my
authority as an uncle and overrule what her parents
want taught to her (which I don't know -- we never
discussed the matter) and (b) I was very curious to
see what conclusions they would come to on their own.
The only time I got involved was when they tried to
posit something that was so counter-factual that it
would have been Jack Chick-worthy.

My kids are already at the age where they are starting
to ask questions and not blindly accept what has been
told to them - which is good and bad in it's own way.
I mourn for the loss of innocence on the matter, but,
to a much greater degree, I'm happy to see that they
are using their heads to try to reason out the truth
of the matter while keeping it in the context of
Judaism.

The Wolf

14 comments:

Ilana said...

I just wanted to commend you for your commitment to having your children think for themselves instead of spoonfeeding them things labeled prominently as "the one and only truth". If I were raised in a frum background, I think that this would be the only way I would be frum today.

BrooklynWolf said...

Thank you for your kind comment, Ilana. Of course, I always make myself available to my kids if they have questions, but I'm a big believer in having my kids figure something out for themselves whereever possible.

The Wolf.

Mis-nagid said...

"When one stated that they died in the Mabul, I corrected her and told her that the dinosaurs were gone well before the days of the Mabul."

You corrected her?! Correct would have been, "The mabul is a myth, and therefore has no bearing on the facts."

"The only time I got involved was when they tried to posit something that was so counter-factual that it would have been Jack Chick-worthy."

Like, say, the mabul?

"I'm happy to see that theyare using their heads to try to reason out the truth of the matter while keeping it in the context of Judaism."

You mean of Orthodox Judaism, a small minority position not representative of the majority of Judaism. And shouldn't you be more concerned about keeping it in the context of reality? Orthodox Judaism is fantasy and foolishness, as your kids are already noticing.

BrooklynWolf said...

There are several reasons why I did not bring that matter up:

Firstly, the topic under discussion was dinosaurs, not the mabul.

Secondly, I'm still willing to believe that a flood of sorts did occur (although certainly not a world-wide Waterworld-style one). As such, I wasn't going to throw an off-the-cuff remark such as "there was no mabul" out there.

Lastly, as I stated in my post, my niece was present and I take seriously my responsibility to not overstep my bounds and teach my sister's children things that they don't want them taught (just as I would expect my sister to respect my wishes regarding what I want taught to my children). I'm fairly certain that my sister would not have been happy to hear her daughter come back to her with "Uncle _____ said that there was no mabul!"

As to your last part, I do believe that Orthodox Judaism is not "fantasy and foolishness." I believe that it is a beneficial institution that, like many other institutions, sometimes gets carried away in it's own grandeur and reverence of certain personalities. I believe in Torah Min-HaShamayim. I believe that the mitzvos have worth. And I believe that the Torah, even if it can't be taken 100% literally, still has meaning to offer to Jews (and the rest of the world).

The Wolf

ADDeRabbi said...

My kids are already at the age where they are starting
to ask questions and not blindly accept what has been
told to them


IMHO, you've got it backwards. Kids naturally ask questions, until they're taught to stop and accept things on blind faith.

BrooklynWolf said...

No, I've got it right, I just didn't punctuate well. :)

They are at the age where they are asking questions. They are just now leaving the age where they don't take someone's answer on faith alone.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Since when do you not believe that there was a mabul?

BrooklynWolf said...

I do believe that there was a mabul. I'm not so certain, however, that there was a world-wide, cover-every-square-inch-of-the-earth, Kevin-Costner-Waterworld type flood.

The Wolf

Mis-nagid said...

I do believe that there was a mabul. I'm not so certain, however, that there was a world-wide[...]

So, what, YHWH exaggerated?

BrooklynWolf said...

Not necessarily. It's certainly possible that when it says "all the earth" it meant all the earth that was inhabited. It does not have to necessarily include Antarctica, for example.

In any event, I will grant to you that the mabul does leave some serious questions unanswered. But just because I have some serious questions does not mean that the event in question did not happen - just as questions I have about the origins of the universe (in the scientific cosmological sense) doesn't disprove the Big Bang (which I do "believe" in).

The Wolf

Beisrunner said...

There's a midrash (in one of the talmuds perhaps?) that eretz yisrael was not covered by the flood. Thus, it's not so clear from mainstream chazal that the flood was universal. I can't find the midrash right now, but see the following article for a similar argument:
http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/intparsha/bereishit/02-64noach.rtf

Anonymous said...

Its been a while since I checked in on this blog...
Doesn't the Torah state that there was a worldwide Mabul. One that covered everything...one that (l'havdil!)was Kevin Costner Waterworld like (despite the fact that Noach didn't get any awards for his role either)??
How far is Ararat from Eretz Yisrael (pardon my obvious lack of geographical knowledge); and, if it wasn't worldwide, wouldn't some things have survived?? If areas weren't destroyed and other animals survived, what is the big deal over Noach saving the animals in the Ark and being "rewarded" with the permission to eat meat after the Mabul?

BrooklynWolf said...

Those are excellent questions, anonymous. I think I'll deal with them in a separate post.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

I've addressed your questions here:

http://wolfishmusings.blogspot.com/2005/05/on-questions-and-answers.html

The Wolf