What is the Purpose of Childhood

Recently I posed the “Big Question” to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. The question should not be surprising to any of you, “What is the purpose of childhood ?”

 Rabbi Steinsaltz’s View img failChildhood is when we see and experience things for the first  time, discover anew that which is already there. Children have the delight of discovery. As adults, we acquire a more organized way of learning and studying, but also lose the feel of the freshness of things. Because of that, most adults are – almost by definition – slightly dull.Creative ability is only found in those who retain a part of their childhood. The artist and the scientist both have this freshness of view. An apple falls from a tree: the child asks – why does it fall and not fly? –and such questions are the beginning of science.

Even some human emotions stem from our most child-like parts: being in love is the ability to see the “other” as someone novel whom you can have dreams about.

The child’s inner and outer ability to grow is the real source of our life.

My Response:

I spend my summers traveling to see the great work being done by scores of non-profit Jewish overnight summer camps. Camp is a uniquely child-centered environment. It is a wonderful place just because everyone, adults included, is open to the experience of wonder. In childhood, fun and learning need not be distinct activities. Camp is not just a location; it is also an invitation. It is a call to all of us to reconnect with our inner child.

As seen on the Global Day of Jewish Learning


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