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Hashkafa Shiur Summary
Explaining Sensitive Torah Concepts to Children

by Rav Simcha Klein

Jews and Non-Jews

>Printable Version available here<

  • Always remind children that all people1, including non-Jews2 of every race and ethnicity, need to be treated with utmost dignity3 because they possess a tzelem4 Elokim5.
  • While all of humanity possesses the quality of tzelem Elokim6, Yidden have the distinct status of being banim l’Makom7. This is a source of great pride and joy for all Yidden.
  • This deep pride should never result in us belittling others8, rather it should serve to strengthen our adherence to our additional obligations and responsibilities.
  • Being banim l’Makom means we posses loftier neshamos that have greater capacity and more opportunity to impact the world9 and be closer to Hashem10.
  • Teach children that Klal Yisroel is not an exclusive “club”, as anyone who desires to join can do so provided they accept upon themselves all of Torah and mitzvos11.
  • Since we are all banim l’Makom, we treat all Yidden as close relatives, always responsible for taking care of one another12.
  • Point out that although we treat non-Jews with cordial respect, the Torah provides us with many halochos that serve to prevent us from becoming too friendly with them13, because we need to protect our uniqueness as the Am HaNivchar.

Non-Frum Jews

  • When talking to young children about non-frum Jews, especially relatives, clarify that they are not non-Jews although they might look like them14.
  • Articulate to them that we feel sorry for them that they were not exposed in their youth like we were to the greatness and beauty of Torah and mitzvos15.
  • Reiterate to your children that all bein adom l’chaveiro obligations16 apply to non-frum Jews who have had a secular upbringing (even if they don’t believe in Hashem17), just like they do to frum Jews.
  • Explain to them the idea that anyone who was not educated early on in a frum environment is considered to be a bona fide tinok shnishbeh.
  • Remind them that even when non-frum Jews are introduced to Torah they don’t immediately lose their tinok shnishbeh status18.
  • When children witness frum from birth teenagers who who dropped out of yeshiva and became irreligious, always tell your children how much they should be pitied that they, for whatever reason, are not able to keep the Torah.
  • Reveal to them that such teenagers also might have the status of a tinok shnishbeh19.
  • Although we are obligated to have ahavas Yisroel towards non-frum jews, one must be very careful and weary about allowing children to develop meaningful relationships with secular children20, particularly cousins21.


1. Avos (perek 3, mishna 14) Chaviv adom shenivrah b’tzelem.
2. In the past (particularly in Europe), when we were constantly oppressed by non-Jewish governments and the majority of non-Jews that we came in contact with were uncouth and often times outright negative, the attitude towards non-Jews was often one of subtle ill-will. In today’s day and age it is not wise to convey this attitude to our children, since there are many decent non-Jews out there (Including the government) who deserve basic dignity in our interactions with them. Furthermore, if we don’t train our children to regard them with basic respect this can lead to great chilul Hashem in their future dealings in business and the like.
3. See Mishnas Rav Aharon (vol. 1 p. 157) for an elaboration of this point.
4. The term tzelem Elokim can be explained to children as “Hashem like qualities”. They include: 1) the ability to make moral choices or free will (see Sforno and Malbim on Beraishis 1:26), 2) the capacity for emulating Hashem’s compassionate traits (see Tomer Devorah perek 1), and 3). a superior intellect (see Rambam Yesodai HaTorah 4:8).
5. The term tzelem Elokim is very elevating and sublime and should be often used by parents in reference to people.
6. Non-Jews are also rewarded for their positive actions in the next world, see Rambam (Melochim 8:11) and Teferes Yisroel (Avos 3:14).
7. Avos (perek 3, mishna 14) Chavivin Yisroel shnikrah banim l’Mokom, see Rabeinu Yonah there.
8. Chazal tell us to make an effort to greet everyone we meet, even gentiles. See also “With Hearts Full of Love” by Rav Matisyahu Solomon Shlita.
9. See Nefesh Hachaim (shaar 1) at length on this topic.
10. Explain to children that because our neshamos are loftier they are therefore more sensitive spiritually and therefore we have unique halochos governing many aspects of our lives, such as kashrus and other similar laws.
11. In other words they undergo the Gairus process.
12. See Rambam (Matnos Anyim 10:2) that for this reason it says kol Yisroel achim.
13. Such as pas akum, chalov akum, yayin nesech, etc.
14. Teach them that what makes someone a Jew is the fact he was born a Jew, not the fact that he keeps the mitzvos.
15. Many children will raise the question: “why can’t they be told about the Torah now?” The response to that question should be that Torah is the type of thing that if you don’t know about it in your youth it is extremely difficult to learn about and adjust to later in life.
16. Such as chesed, lashon harah, onas devorim and ahavas Yisroel in general.
17. The consensus of many poskim is that the concept of tinok shnishbeh applies not only to general sinners but even to heretics who don’t believe in the 13 principles of faith (see Chazon Ish Y.D. 2:28, Igros Moshe Even Haezer vol. 1, 82:11, and Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2 siman 460 and vol. 3 siman 480) .
18. The Torah lifestyle is so far removed from the world view of a secular person that even when he hears about it he can’t really relate to it, and therefore he still retains his tinok shnishbeh status.
19. Heard from Rav Shmuel Furst Shlita of Chicago. He explained that in all probability such youngsters never received or internalized properly the basic tenets of Yiddishkeit. In today’s society, where the secular lifestyle reigns supreme and can be so seductive, someone who never understood and absorbed the basics of Yiddishkeit is tantamount to a tinok shnishbeh.
20. Such relationships can have an extremely negative effect on impressionable young children for numerous reasons.
21. Someone who has secular relatives who live in close proximity, must seek guidance as how to distance the children from their children without them being terribly insulted.