Each week, my Beit Midrash sends out an email advertising upcoming programs, and I generally include a note about something that's on my mind. This past week's note was on the "Women and Tefillin" conversation catalyzed by announcements about Orthodox schools Ramaz and SAR permitting female students to wear tefillin at school.
The gist of my note (full text here) was this: I don't believe women should wear tefillin, but I wonder what I would do if my daughter came to me, as a teenager, and said she intended to put on tefillin. The question is not whether she should wear tefillin, but whether I should try to stop her from wearing tefillin.
I asked the following questions, which relate to the parenting issue in different ways:
- How much emphasis should religion place upon personal meaning, and how much upon prescribed ritual?
- How do we preserve the holiness of our sacred objects?
- Where does this fit into my relationship with my daughter?
- If spirituality is "that which I find meaningful", is it still spirituality?
- How important is it that we conform, if the price is religious meaning?
- Might we gain by letting teenagers try outlying behaviour in a safe environment?
- If I raise a child who practices halachah but without a personal connection to Torah, have I fulfilled my mission or committed a crime?
I heard from a few parents who said they would prohibit their daughters from wearing tefillin, and I thought this was remarkable.
There are so many areas in which parents of high schoolers say nothing:
- Boys on school vacation oversleep and miss minyan as well as zman krias shema [the latest time for Shema], a biblical commandment, and their parents say nothing.
- Boys go to movies and see unclothed women, violating a biblical prohibition [ונשמרת מכל דבר רע, per Igros Moshe Even haEzer 1:56], and their parents say nothing.
- Boys and girls hang out together and can be seen on their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts in each other's arms, violation of a biblical prohibition as well, and their parents say nothing.
Now a girl wants to put on tefillin, and the parents wake up?
Where do we draw our lines, as parents, in deciding when to speak up regarding our children's conduct? And why?