We are living in perhaps the most difficult tekufah, in terms of raising children, in Jewish history.
The street is beckoning, technology is very tempting, the yetzer hara is all around us, and for young children and teenagers, there are so many obstacles to overcome.
Yet we, the parents and grandparents of our precious children and grandchildren, are compounding the problem to a great degree.
I refer here to the burgeoning problem of alcohol abuse.
In my nearly 35 years of work in the world of chinuch,
I have never seen the absolute hefkerus and total disregard for norms when it comes to alcohol.
This is particularly rampant in the Orthodox Jewish community.
As parents, we become nearly hysterical before Purim as to what will happen to our dear yingelach over this yomtov.
We call the yeshivos, we scream, we demand, we insist, we cry out for help and beg our institutions to control the consumption of alcohol by our children.
We have every right to worry and we have every right to care. Our children’s lives are at stake.
We must remember, however, the old adage: “children follow what we do, not what we tell them.”
Children will always follow the example of their parents.
I vividly remember a commercial that used to play on radio many years ago, where a deep voice would ask a number of children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The children would invariably answer: “I want to be a policeman just like daddy.” “I want to be a doctor just like daddy.” “I want to be a lawyer just like daddy.” And finally, “I want to be a fireman just like daddy.” And then the deep voice would resonate with one question addressed to all of us out there, listening to the commercial:
“Daddy, do you smoke?”
End of advertisement.
To a large degree the campaign against smoking has had a dramatic effect.
Daddys have mostly stopped smoking. And teenagers have stopped smoking. It’s not perfect but I venture to guess that when I was a teenager at least 70-90% of yeshiva bochurim were smoking. Today, if there are 10%, it’s a lot.
Why are we not worried about alcohol?
Why are we abusive when it comes to alcohol?
Why don’t we care about our wives’ feelings when it comes to alcohol?
There are so many shalom bayis issues when it comes to alcohol, yet these same people have no problem demanding of yeshivos to stop the drinking.
I want to state unequivocally that the overwhelming majority of kids who abuse alcohol grow up in homes and shuls where drinking is rampant.
There was a Kiddush recently in a shul in our area that included tables bedecked with fancy displays of the most expensive types of whiskey and bourbon. Johnny Walker Blue didn’t hold a candle to these expensive drinks. Kids were standing around watching their parents sample and drink from every conceivable type of bottle, mamesh like the seuda of Achashveirosh in his time. Unfortunately this is commonplace, all over the New York metropolitan area.
What is wrong with us?
It is time to make a very strong statement once and for all.
And please don’t start with the yeshivos. We are very minor players. We certainly have more to do when it comes to alcohol control.
I know we are trying; perhaps not enough.
But a school can only reinforce character development that a child was raised with by his parents. If you, the parent, gets drunk every Shabbos, please don’t come ask me for help with your child.
It is time to stop the total excess of alcohol. Should a baal simcha put out one bottle at a simcha so that people can make Kiddush or a l’chayim?
Perhaps. I am not in favor of Prohibition or yet another ban in our communities.
But I am begging you, the parents, to get serious on this topic.
Demand of your friends and of your batei medrashim – and then, of your yeshivos – to stop alcohol abuse once and for all.
And please, control liquor at weddings. As far as I’m concerned the flowing alcohol that we find at our chasunos are a “bor birshus harabim.”
How many more children have to die, Rachmana litzlan, or be maimed in car accidents because of drinking?
How can we allow young men to drink to their hearts’ content at shalom zachars, creating terribly uncomfortable situations?
And beer is no better. It is as terrible as expensive liquor.
I am not a person who believes in any extremes. Extremes are unhealthy.
But we are near the brink of disaster with alcohol.