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Spare the Rod

“Spare the rod and spoil the child,” a well-known and unfortunate aphorism based on Proverbs 13:24, was recently invoked in the debate about a proposed California law banning spanking children younger than age 3. The bill garnered so much resistance and ridicule that its sponsor, California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, just had to withdraw it. Instead, she substituted a proposal limiting more severe forms of corporal punishment for young children, but left spanking intact as an option for parents.

This is a shame.

I believe much of the opposition to the bill was based on resistance to the government legislating appropriate methods of parenting. But what of the merit based on the bill’s content?

Starting from our verse in Proverbs, Jewish law has traditionally been very accepting of mild forms of corporal punishment, especially in the service of education, while making clear that it only applies to mild force (in cases of excessive force the parent or teacher would be criminally liable for any injuries). It should also be noted that most of these legal rulings came out at a time when parents had far more control over their children than we would likely want to give them today–telling them whom to marry for instance, or what trade to take up–and so corporal punishment was broadly employed and accepted. As the 13th century rabbinic commentator Nachmanides observed, “Every man smites his son and strikes his student.”

Also broadly accepted was a husband’s “right” to use physical force against his wife, so much so that domestic abuse cases were, until fairly recently, often overlooked by law enforcement as a “private family matter.” Since then, new societal norms have arisen about the treatment of wives and children, as well as new understanding about how corporal punishment can damage young children and lead to more, rather than fewer, behavioral problems. If the rabbis’ rulings about corporal punishment were based on the common practices and assumptions of their times, then our positions should do the same.

Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment only send our children the message that problems should be “solved” through violence. They serve only as an outlet for parents’ frustration with lack of control and don’t engage the child’s behavior or its underlying causes. They can also easily slip into more serious forms of abusive behavior as each new infraction is met with a higher level of violence. This is not how we should be parenting, and just because Jewish law permits certain forms of corporal punishment doesn’t mean that they’re right. Let’s all agree that the rod–and our children–should be spared.

  • Rabbi Stern: Being Honest About Abuse
  • Rabbi Grossman: Women–Victims of the Domestic Rod


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    Tzvi

    posted March 6, 2007 at 3:41 am


    I have to agree with Rabbi Waxman on this issue. Speaking as someone from an abusive home, where mental and emotional abuse were the “norm”, and that the 5th commandmant about honoring one’s parent was regularly invoked to justify said abuse and the fact that one should accept it, I would agree that anything that limits or forces a parent to be mindful that what they do or say will have an impact on their children. I think at some level, I figured that I needed to stop the cycle of abuse and the best way to do that was to not bring Children into to world. I’m not above being a good Uncle(heck I’d rather be the favorite uncle who EVERYONE runs to), than inflict even 1 iota of what happened to me on another human being, esp one who is defenseless. May the name of my biolgical father be written on the winds, that there shall be no more children carrying his name.



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    Grethel Jane Rickman

    posted March 6, 2007 at 4:47 am


    Spanking a child under 3 years-old doesn’t line up with stages of child development. Here’s a good chart that I just found by searching the web: http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/normaldevelopment.shtml The “Social” area of the chart is what needs to be examined. A child doesn’t start resisting parents/gaurdians until around 2-3 years of age. A child of that age range can’t fully make a decision on his or her own, yet. As someone who is studying to become an Early Childhood Educator, there is no doubt in my mind that spanking is not developmentally appropriate–namely for a child under 3 years of age. Shalom!



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    Dave

    posted March 6, 2007 at 4:52 pm


    As fewer and fewer adults have children the number of ECE experts has risen. Interesting. Anyhow it doesn’t matter. As the people with lots of children start outnumbering those who support policies limiting the number of children they have (directly or indirectly) corporal punishment levels will again rise.



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    Scott

    posted March 6, 2007 at 5:59 pm


    Should we be beating our children? Of course not. But there are certain situations – i.e. running across the street without looking for traffic – where a spanking is appropriate. What we need to be on the look-out for is the increasing government encroachment in our lives. It started with the smoking laws (I’m talking about smoking in one’s car), then the cell phone laws, the civil confinement laws…due process is disappearing.



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    Scott

    posted March 6, 2007 at 6:00 pm


    As the people with lots of children start outnumbering those who support policies limiting the number of children they have Fundamentalism is on the downswing in this country. High charedi birthrates aren’t going to carry the rest of the nation.



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    Tzvi

    posted March 6, 2007 at 11:07 pm


    Grethel, actually from my understanding, children at the age of 2 or so start realizing that they are seperate entities, but they lack the ability to fully vocalize their needs/wants(hence the meltdowns that mark the “terrible twos”) But otherwise, I seriously doubt that the Haredi will take over the US with high birthrates….Israel maybe, but not the USA. Simply put they would come up against the “American Spirit of Individuality”, compared to in Israel, where they are all but given welfare by the state, a state in some cases many of them de-legitimise.



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    balance

    posted March 7, 2007 at 5:05 pm


    I understand the Tzvi’s choice to stop something before it can begin. Some of us have made different decisions about how to make a change in the world. I chose to make a contribution to the other side of the scale, and add an alternative approach through my own children. A friend says “we teach what we allow” and I add “and what we practice.” Too many people I know have been hurt for their whole lives from violence in their early homes. Some make great healing steps and others continue the violence in self destruction. As a parent ever mindful of this issue of instruction and discipline versus physical expressions shared between parent and child, we can teach physical love or physical violence. I know all I learned from my own father’s rage was how to endure rage and how to perpetrate rage, never the lesson he wished about societal rules and wise choices. My own children bear witness as able to make changes in behavior when less dramatic means are employed. Their sense of safety within my love is far more motivating than their fear of my rage, or more appropriately, their state of shock at rage vented. My children make excellent choices within their developmental abilities from a constant positive recognition of their worth. Why would I rob them of that legacy by assaulting their well being with my own inadequate management skills? However, wasn’t the “rod” in the biblical sense something other than a whipping stick and something more like a code of virtue or conduct?



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    Dave

    posted March 7, 2007 at 5:13 pm


    Its not just the charedi. The state with the highest birthrate in the US? Utah (see http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0763849.html). not exactly a charedi place. Lowest? Nice secular granola Vermont. And that’s not including America’s fundamentalist Muslims, fundamentalist Catholics who obey the church on birth control, and fundy Baptists



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    Wendi

    posted March 7, 2007 at 5:54 pm


    It perplexes me that society has reached a point where they use the terms “spanking” and “beating” interchangeably. Anyone who has been through both would tell you there is a world of difference. Giving your toddler a swat on the tush (i.e. spanking) with an explanation don t do that gets the attention of the child who has yet to develop critical thinking skills. They don t have the capacity to understand potential danger – like a car hitting them as they run into the street to grab a ball. They do, however, fully comprehend that swat they received. They remember and the next time the think about running into that street they will think twice, not because I car might hit them, but because the might get another swat. Conversely, repeatedly throttling a child (i.e. beating) sends the message that you have lost your mind. It goes beyond the lesson above into causing a persistent fear that at any moment the parent could be set off and the beating will happen again. If you want to protect children, outlaw beatings NOT spankings. My two cents – whatever there worth



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    Scott

    posted March 7, 2007 at 10:24 pm


    What exactly do you stand for Dave?



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    Tzvi

    posted March 8, 2007 at 12:06 am


    Wendi, you write: >It perplexes me that society has >reached a point where they use the >terms “spanking” and “beating” >interchangeably. Anyone who has been >through both would tell you there is >a world of difference. As a Child of an abusive home I can tell you that it doesn’t matter what you call it. I have an ex who was a teacher and I can tell you that he would tell me that if he saw a parent spanking a child in the place he worked P/t, he was REQUIRED to call Social services, because he could lose his license to teach. giving a “swat” as you call it in anger has the potential for abuse. To borrow from Star wars:”Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”(yoda)…..if you strike a child, even for the right reason, in anger you will lose control. May I remind our orthodox brethren that Moses himself was deneid entry into the Promised land, for the fact that when G-d said to speak gently to the rock and it will give you water, that Moses STRUCK the rock in anger, and the Rock put forth Salt(bitter) waters, and so the place was named meribeh(bitter), for the bitter water there.



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    Grethel Jane Rickman

    posted March 8, 2007 at 3:54 am


    Furthermore, is spanking for the child or for the parent? Also, if a child is going across a busy street, that is a child guidance issue. Where is the supervision? {Thanks to one of my Early Childhood college instructors for reminding me of this!} BTW, “Don’t do that” is not enough of an explaination for a child to understand. You are teaching them to fear you instead of teaching them limits, expectations, and structure. A child needs oppurtunities–when he has reached the right developmental level–to learn how to use self-control. I recommend to anyone who reads this blog this book: http://www.campusi.com/bookFind/asp/bookFindPriceLst.asp?prodId=0738203254 The book is written by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. and Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. Shalom!



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    Grethel Jane Rickman

    posted March 8, 2007 at 4:03 am


    My comments about children is located on the previous post by Rabbi Waxman. Husband-wife issues are a touchy subject for me, and I am for protecting either spouse from abuse. This can be applied to same-sex partnerships as well. I also don’t care what type of abuse either–mental abuse can be as bad as physical abuse. I suffered from the mental kind. I’ve been divorced since 9/11/2001–well before I became a Jew. Shalom!



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    Grethel Jane Rickman

    posted March 8, 2007 at 4:05 am


    Whoops! Sorry, ya’ll. I’m tired…long day and I had a night class tonight. I’m human; what can I say? ;)



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    Al Eastman

    posted March 8, 2007 at 6:41 pm


    Out of curiosity, who among the people posting, now have or previously have raised one or more children? (I have two in their 40′s and four grandchildren.)



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    Wendi

    posted March 8, 2007 at 6:52 pm


    Tzvi: You added anger into the equation. I never mentioned it. I believe you should never strike anyone, regardless of age, (or anything including rocks) in anger. Growing up, I was spanked. I am not scarred by the experience. I harbor no fear or resentment of my parents and grandparents because of the spankings. In fact I have great respect for each one of them. Will I spank my children? If the occasion calls for it absolutely. I look around me at this newest generation and I see clearly what sparing the rod has done. ______________________________________ Grethel Jane Rickman: You mentioned: Also, if a child is going across a busy street, that is a child guidance issue. Where is the supervision? {Thanks to one of my Early Childhood college instructors for reminding me of this!} When I was 10 years old my family was on a trip to Disneyland. Back then it was common for families to bring a picnic lunch. You would go out to your car and have lunch, then walk back to the park. (In the days before the parking structure and tram to the entrance). On our way back each adult had the hand on one of the children. My cousin, a 5 year old boy at the time, was holding his mothers hand. We had all stopped near the front of the parking lot to let a vehicle pass. My cousin, who was very eager to ride Dumbo and could see the entrance to the park just ahead, ripped his had from his mother s grip and bolted right in front of the oncoming vehicle. To this day, I vividly remember seeing my cousin hit the bumper and fall to the ground as two sets of tires rolled over him as if he were a speed bump. Lack of supervision is not the answer in this case my two cents



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    Dave

    posted March 8, 2007 at 7:51 pm


    I stand for an understanding of simple arithmetic (not even advanced math) among people who think they are smart. Constantly I am amazed by people who strangely believe that the childless and the near childless will have any effect on the future, especially in comparison to the incredibly fecund. What is the biggest question that will matter for the future? Knock, knock, who’s there? With regard to corporal punishment it’ll be in the end the opinions of the fecund that count and all the current laws and organisations will mean nothing in the future (where I will be spending my time)



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    Grethel Jane Rickman

    posted March 8, 2007 at 7:53 pm


    Al, out of curiousity how many parents or grandparents here have ever studied child development? I don’t have children–thank God! Not that I don’t want children, but the thoughts having a child with my former husband scares the fire out of me! However, not having a child does not determine if one has an understanding of children or not. One of my teachers has a daughter; one doesn’t had children. Both have been Early Childhood teachers for a long, long time. Both are excellent with children; both are good at imparting knowledge to future Early Childhood teachers. Let’s comtemplate this thought a bit more. Shall we? Was Rebecca Gratz married and did she have children? Hmm??? Shalom!



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    Scott

    posted March 8, 2007 at 9:26 pm


    Constantly I am amazed by people who strangely believe that the childless and the near childless will have any effect on the future, especially in comparison to the incredibly fecund. Do you have a problem treating anyone besides yourself with respecty Dave? You know something Dave, that might be all well and good for the future. But in the present, you might want to put a lid on the arrogance, because the arrogant don’t necessarily have the best mental health. Just in case you got an “F” in “Gets along with other children” in school and needed to be reminded of that.



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    Tzvi

    posted March 9, 2007 at 2:02 am


    Al, you write: >Out of curiosity, who among the >people posting, now have or >previously have raised one or more >children? I guess you miseed out on the opening post i made, that I came from a family where abuse, both mental, emotional, and psychological was the norm, and in fact my Father justified what he did based on the 5th commandement. This was a man who almost had me running in terror from G-d, made me want to hurt myself seriously enough to be “out of my misery”. I have since found other sources that claimed that what he did was sinning in his own way, and I was blameless. I also said that I made a choice that knowing my past, and that abuse runs in families, I’d forgo having shildren, to spare others the pain I went through. I’m not above being the favorite uncle(indeed for one of my exes, I *WAS* the favorite uncle for his neice and nephew. I speak from experience of being on the wrong end of a rather strong stick, and will never fully get out from it. can you?



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    Scott R.

    posted March 9, 2007 at 1:55 pm


    I’m (We’re) currently raising one child, and if we had the money and the room, we would adopt another.



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    Richard Ray Shreve, Ph.D.

    posted March 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm


    Spare the rod is the only way given you have influential control & normal children. In a long marriage I was the idealistic faithful parent with high standards & expectations for my children. My spouse was very liberal and had an attitude that most any child behaviour is OK. I waited 10 years to ask my spouse for a divorce after she broke a solemn promise to me regarding having and raising children. A lot of good it did me or the 4 children. The Italian RC Judge ruled, after hearing from my children in private: that I was restrictive in their social behaviour and expected too much in their school performance, to “give” (legal kidnapping) my children 100% to their mother WITHOUT me having any rights to even talk with my children because I was mentally abusive in my expectations. Now 17 years later, my 4 children, with lots of my money & encouragement, will have 10 college degrees. It is a sad state of affairs when any parent’s high ideals can be labeled abusive. Hopefully Animal Farm was just a novel. Shalom



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    Dave

    posted March 9, 2007 at 6:45 pm


    At least I’m not getting an F in arithmetic like so many others. Arrogance or wimpiness are irrelevant. If the numbers say something will happen, then what they say will happen.



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    Scott R.

    posted March 9, 2007 at 8:54 pm


    Dave, This is a discussion board, where people usually try to get along. I have’t seen you make a post that was not nasty, insulting, or belligerent. If you indeed are a Jew, I wish you sould stop. You’re making all the other Jews look bad.



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    Tzvi

    posted March 10, 2007 at 12:13 am


    I have to agree with Scott R. I used to like reading the posts here, as “commentary” on the comentary of the 3 rabbis(like Rashi wrote his commentarry, and Rabbenu tam wrote commentary on Rashi), but as of late I have been all bust disgusted at how people use this areas to launch attacks, personal and otherwise at each other. I started this thread in support of Rabbi Waxman’s Position. If I had known that we would degenerate into such nonsense, I might have simply kept my feelings to myself, and written private opinions in my blog. I like to think as Jews we actually can have RATIONAL discourse w/o the namecalling, but I guess that’s just fanciful dreaming.



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    David

    posted March 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm


    I haven’t called anyone names, or even denied that anyone here is not a Jew (as others have). As to rational discourse, what can be more rational than math?



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    Rabbi Hezekiah Rabinovitz

    posted March 14, 2007 at 10:31 am


    Proverbs 23:13-14 13 Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell. Since when is it ok to change what HaShem has commanded? What right do we have to say that the Law of HaShem does not apply to us today? Mishpokah, NO ONE AND I MEAN NO ONE HAS THAT RIGHT! We are jews and the LAW that we are to live by is not man made, THIS LAW IS THE LAW OF HASHEM! Yes my friends there is an absolute difference between abuse and correction, ABUSE IS IN RAGE AND ANGER, Correction is from a passionate heart of love and instruction, and last time I checked to be corrected when you are in the complete wrong, will hurt!!!!! When a child is doing somthing to bring distruction upon himself we as parents are held responsible to protect that child and show them there is a consequence for there actions! Yes somtimes a spanking is relavent, but along with that spanking must be discusion between the child and parent, so that the child understands why this action was taken……and along with that discusion must come comfort given by the parent to the child! When I hear fellow Rabbis say that a specific law does not apply to us, this disgusts me. I am a JEW and I will HEAR AND DO ALL THAT HASHEM COMMANDS ME TO DO TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY! When you say that a commandment is old and is irrelavent you are saying that HASHEM changes, Last time I checked HaShem said HE IS THE SAME YESTERDAY,TODAY, AND FOREVER………………AND HIS DEBAR (WORD)SHALL NEVER CHANGE! Stop trying to make HASHEM into what you want Him to be, And serve the HASHEM of our forefathers AVRAHAM, YISACK, AND YA’AKOV and live your life in accordance to what HASHEM has commanded in “THE TeNaK”, we are to be set apart by this LAW and we are not to learn the ways of the Goyim, our lives are to be driven by the TORAH, we are strangers in a strange land this does not mean we conform to the ways of this land, but we are to continue in the TORAH of HASHEM Shalom mishpokah May HaShem Bless you and Keep you



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    Scott R.

    posted March 18, 2007 at 5:53 am


    You sound like a Xtian. Vomit.



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