I appreciate your nuanced approach to midrashim. I also struggle with the more outlandish ones, such as Osnas actually being the daughter of Shimon and Dina and finding her way to Potifar’s house, or that Yerushalayim moved to be under Yaakov when he had his dream. But my children, who attend a very “yeshivish” high school, are taught to take these literally, and do not seem to be bothered by the demands on the imagination. As a result, I keep my issues to myself, as I don’t want to put my children in the position of doubting their rebbeim and the yeshiva’s worldview. At the same time, I’m afraid that their naive approach to Torah may be a liability when they go out into the world and are faced with challenges to their faith.
Can you advise me on the best approach to take?
You sound like a wise parent. First, it’s important not to shatter your children’s image and esteem of their teachers, which is something that you’re already very mindful of. But at the same time, it’s vital that in the event that your children are receiving a two-dimensional approach to ma’amarei Chazal, more damage will result by you NOT saying anything, despite your concerns about disagreeing with their rebbeim. I remember one day several years ago, my daughter came home from school and announced that her very yeshivish teacher had told her, “It is assur for an Orthodox Jew to become a scientist, because there are too many challenges and contradictions to one’s yahdus in the sciences.” I listened attentively and my first reaction was one of restraint and calm. But then I told her, “My dear daughter, please understand that I respectfully disagree with your teacher. I personally know many very frum scientists. There are even religious scientists who devote their lives to reconciling Torah and science, and are mekadesh shem Shamayim in the process. I understand where your teacher is coming from, but please understand that there are 70 Faces to the Torah.” If you perceive that your children are receiving a naive or provincial approach to the Torah, it is your duty as a parent to make the corrections. One thing you may consider doing is first speaking to the teacher, and perhaps bringing the hanhala of the school into the discussion as well. Not to chastise the rebbe or morah, but rather to ask the hanhala to help guide teachers who may be somewhat inexperienced in dealing with these important issues.
Best wishes for hatzlacha in raising your children.