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What is the Jewish view on smacking children?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller


Library » Torah » Education | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Different approaches have been used throughout the ages, depending on the culture and situation prevalent at the time. The following lines are some Torah guidelines for this sensitive subject:
King Solomon, the wisest of men, wrote in Proverbs: “One who spares his rod hates his child, but he who loves him disciplines him in his youth” (Proverbs 13:24).
The commentaries of our Jewish Sages illuminate this verse:
A parent who does not punish his/her child [when this is warranted] will in the end come to hate the child, when s/he sees the child engaging in evil activities. (Rashi)
A parent who does not physically punish the child in fact hates the child, for the child will grow up without morals. (Ralbag)
A person who does not rebuke (the rod is meant metaphorically – as rebuke, not physical punishment) his/her child is regarded as hating the child, for in the end the child will engage in evil activities and die sinful. (Metzudat David)
Why does the verse state, “one who spares his rod...?” If the intention is that one should hit a child that misbehaves it should say “one who spares his blows [or a similar term] hates the child.” Accordingly, we must say the intention is that when a parent loves a child, and would never wish to hurt him/her physically, the parent can use the threat of physical punishment to ensure that the child behaves properly; but even in such a case only where it is for the child’s benefit [but not out of anger]. (Be'er Mayim Chaim, Mishpatim 21).
It is praise that elevates the person one is trying to educate, extricates him/her from their current situation, and places them on a higher level than they were originally. Rewards encourage and strengthen the child being educated and imbues him/her with an aspiration to do more and achieve more, both in learning and behavior. [But when necessary] rebuke can be used to point out the child’s shortcomings and even punishments can be given (as long as it is from hidden love). (Principles of Education and Guidance, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn ch. 17).
In the final analysis, “a little light dispels much darkness.”

Rewards encourage and strengthen the child being educated and imbues him/her with an aspiration to do more and achieve more


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
One of the 24 books of the Bible. A collection of moral writings authored by King Solomon.