All children grow up and hopefully mature into independent, self-sufficient and productive adults. The Torah itself advocates this process when it states that “therefore every man shall leave his father and mother” in order to marry and build one's own home and family. Growing up is often a painful process for both parents and children.
I have often advocated the idea that everyone should be borne twenty-one years old, educated and with the necessary skills to make one's way in life successfully. However, somehow Heaven has not adopted my scheme of things and thus the process of growing up remains as vital and difficult as ever. Unfortunately many a failed individual and a dysfunctional family is the product of not ever growing up. Remaining an eternal adolescent when one's hair has already turned grey is a sure recipe for personal and family failure.
The advantages of growing up are many. We no longer look for monsters hiding under our bed or are we as fearful of the vicissitudes of life as we once were. In short, growing up and becoming independent and mature creates a sense of self-confidence, self-identity, courage, innovative spirit and a broader outlook on life, and its attendant problems.
When we are children and even adolescents we are still completely dependent upon others for our sustenance and achievements. Parents, teachers, schools, yeshivot, seminaries, colleges and universities rule all our lives and shape our attitudes and behavior. We are always subject to peer pressure as well and most of the time this is very detrimental to our later life. To put it mildly, it is vitally important to be able to grow up properly.
This is not only true for individuals but it is true for nations as well. The Jewish people, for two millennia, were never allowed to grow up. The Exile robbed us of any sense of independence and of national maturity. We were always subject to the whims of inimical governments, rapacious noblemen and the vagaries of ever-changing rules, societal revolutions and temporary vogues of thought and behavior.
As such, we developed a mentality of dependence upon others. In the Exile we had no other choice but to do so. We could never stand up to anyone in a meaningful fashion and thus we were unable in return to absorb necessary criticism and change. We remained the eternal adolescent in human society, never having a chance to mature and stand on our own and achieve success without the help of others being necessary.
Even after the State of Israel was founded sixty-seven years ago, this mindset of dependence remained in place. We were dependent upon others for monetary help, military weapons and diplomatic protection. Because of the reality of this dependence, a feeling of almost despair descended upon us whenever we felt that our patrons and benefactors would perhaps desert us. We were simply afraid of being independent, of growing up in a national sense.
Those of us living in Israel now are able to sense a change in this attitude. We are beginning to stand up openly and with justice to our erstwhile friends who always profess that their intent is for our good, while their advice and policies have a history of being wrong and dangerous to us. National maturity is beginning to seep into the Jewish people living in Israel. It took us a long time to grow up but we are certainly growing up now.
There are parts of our society that still need growing up. Much of the religious community still feels itself completely dependent upon others for its survival and well-being. Whether it is the dependence upon governmental largesse, the donations of others, or the benevolence of society at large, there is a mindset in much of the religious community that it is imperative for its survival that others somehow take care of its needs and problems.
It is apparently uninterested in growing up. As such, it dooms itself to poverty, increasing family dysfunction and societal discrimination and conflict. We are no longer subject to arbitrary and prejudicial rule over our lives. A great contribution of the State of Israel to the Jewish world is that it has helped us to grow up and mature as a people and as individuals.
As mentioned above, it is painful growing up and many mistakes can be made, and usually are, on the way to some sort of successful maturation. Nevertheless, one can never agree to a program that perpetuates adolescence and dependency into later years of existence. We are in the midst of growing up as a people and as a nation. We should attempt to include all sectors of our society in this process of growing up.