Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Teves 5763 - December 11, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Emotional Input
by Chaim Walder

Only one street separates the neighborhoods of Musrara and Meah Shearim.

In the sixties, a study was made to determine the differences between these two neighborhoods, both sociologically and developmentally.

Here are the facts: both neighborhoods were categorized as deprived and poverty-stricken. Meah Shearim was considered the worse off of the two. Government departments had invested all they could in Musrara while in Meah Shearim, they were unable to claim as much as a foothold.

How did things shape up in actuality? Amongst the teenage youth (between 16 and 21), there was a 90% rate of juvenile delinquency, which slotted this neighborhood as Number One in nationwide crime.

In Meah Shearim, only one street away, the crime rate was zero. No crime whatsoever despite the fact that poverty was more pronounced and that the population refused to accept any outside (read: invasive) government help or social welfare of any kind.

The researchers sat and pondered the strange findings, trying to understand the enigma. Two neighborhoods, both deprived and low income, one road separating the two, and yet worlds apart!

Another factor was taken into consideration: Musrara had been settled in the fifties by new immigrants who, in their countries of origin, had also enjoyed a zero percent crime rate. Ten years after their immigration, their seven- and ten- year-old children had become criminals. How had this happened?

They arrived at two conclusions. One: a significant difference between Meah Shearim and Musrara was that the former was a completely insular community, wholly self contained, impervious to outside influence. This means that even if the families suffered from poverty, the children were not aware of it since they had nothing with which to compare their situation.

The Musrara children, on the other hand, through the media of sight and sound, were exposed to what other children in the world had, and what they lacked. This naturally created a sense of frustration, and the greater one's sense of frustration, the lower his self image, self esteem and sense of worth. This erodes his innate sense of justice, his conscience and scale of values. Meah Shearim children were content with their lot and never felt any frustration with regard to what they didn't know they didn't have. This very factor deserves an entire article of its own, but we proceed to the second factor.

In Meah Shearim, despite the poverty and physical deprivation, the children felt no emotional deprivation. Their parents were spiritually and emotionally fortified. Their self esteem in the eyes of their children, and in their own eyes as well, was strong and solid. Their primary goal was to raise their children to be healthy: morally and emotionally. They invested their all to this end purpose. To be sure, they made some educational errors along the way, as all parents do, but these did not mar the overall input of years of consolidated, unwavering emotional effort.

Musrara children did suffer an emotional deprivation which stemmed from a culture gap. Their integration into open Israeli society undermined the whole parental structure. Parents, who in their country of origin, had been venerated and deferred to by the younger generation, very soon become `irrelevant' in their children's eyes, outmoded and out of touch with the times. The poverty and deprivation crushed everyone's spirit because they all suffered. The parents suffered from the breakdown of their authority and esteem, and the children, from a lack of emotional support from their overwhelmed parents.


Poverty is a difficult thing and there is no point in trying to convince anyone that it is preferable to wealth. But poverty does not necessarily have to harm the emotional development of a child if the bond between parents and children, and between parents themselves, is stable, strong and warm. This is true when there is a definite, clear-cut educational policy of goals, aspirations, and strict rules of what is permitted and what is out of bounds. And when a child receives love and concern and consideration on the one hand, and is bound by definite rules on the other, the poverty may continue to be difficult but it will not affect his normal development in the least. Some go so far as to say that poverty that is accompanied by a great deal of love is a definite propellant, an incentive that causes the child to want to escape it in a positive way, to overcome this drawback. If he receives the emotional tools to enable him to do so, coupled with the impetus of poverty, he will accelerate more quickly than the rich child. This is the element referred to in the saying: Beware of the sons of the poor; from them will Torah go forth.

What we can conclude from this is good news indeed.

Granted that poverty is a difficult condition. Granted that poor people are forever preoccupied with the morrow and what it will bring, how they will marry off their children etc. Poverty is not easy to deal with, but if we break it down to its basic component, we arrive at the discovery that it revolves entirely around our continuity, that is, the fate of our children. What will become of them? And if this is our main concern, there is no apparent connection between our economic situation and the future of our children, as we have shown! We can produce children who are healthy in mind and body with an investment that does not entail a monetary expenditure and we need not go searching for the means to finance such an investment. It is inherent within us, in our hearts, intellect, hands, mouth and ears.

This investment goes by the name of Emotional Input.


Before we reach full circle to our starting point, let us look at the finish line, the point that we would wish our son to arrive at when he turns twenty.

What is our dream, our goal for him? That he emerge a youth who is G-d- fearing, a scholar, diligent and dedicated, with a fine character, good heart, emotional maturity, that he be intelligent, independent, serious, socially accepted, one who is basically of a happy nature.

Seems a tall order, no?

Not in the least. There is a recipe, a formula whereby, with Hashem's help, we can produce this from any child. We need no outside ingredients; they are all already incorporated within us.

Emotional input is, in two simple words, a caring concern towards our child. This means to vitalize the child, to give him everything that he needs in his life. To be sure, there are a great deal of things that he wants, but he certainly does not need everything that he desires. Parents must only see to it that he gets what he requires. This is not necessarily a great deal, and yet, it can be very much.

A child needs the basic assurance that he is loved. He needs to internalize this knowledge and it is not enough to tell him that in so many words when he is five years old -- and suffice with that. It must be done every day and through all kinds of ways and means. A child needs to be given, yet he needs the limits of that giving. He needs a father figure and a mother figure, that is, parental authority to guide him, even if he disagrees occasionally with what they say. A child needs, as each of us does, respect and esteem, attention and encouragement, but he also needs a guiding hand, demands made upon him and even punishment. Emotional input is what each of us is capable of giving, if we are so inclined.

Some of us feel we cannot provide that. Some people experience a barrier that prevents them from giving this input, from expressing their feelings, from talking. Some people even find it difficult to be in their children's proximity for more than a brief moment...

Of primary importance is the very knowledge and understanding of the significance of this emotional input in the forming of the child's personality and character. When we know the goal, we will find the way to reach it.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.