“Daddy, I can’t find my Green Ninja” my son says to me at 7am this morning when I find him playing in the living room.
This usually means turning the house upside down looking for one tiny piece of Lego™ in a house strewn with the stuff. It means looking in a myriad of boxes filled with assorted bits and bobs of broken pieces and mixed items.
But he wasn’t lost, it turns out the Green Ninjago™ figure had left the building. And the Green Ninja is a pretty special Ninja. He’s almost impossible to buy in Israel right now.
Unfortunately my wife had already told me something about the kid that came to play with my son yesterday so I suspected the Ninja was gone. This other child had spoken about how he’d lost his Green Ninja and wanted my wife to buy him a new one.
Somewhat surprised, my wife told the child that wasn’t something you ask other mothers for. My wife particularly didn’t want our son thinking he could ask other parents for expensive gifts!
I asked my son this morning and he calmly told me he’d seen his friend put the Ninja in his pocket. When challenged the friend took it out but now it was nowhere to be seen in my son’s room.
So we already have two examples of “mens rea” or guilty mind. The child wanted this toy. Now my son tells me that his friend had asked him for the toy: in return for which he would be my son’s best friend and other unspecified benefits. However were he not to hand over the toy various boycotts and sanctions would come into effect.
My son refused to part with his precious Ninja (it had been his star Chanukah present after all).
It falls to my long suffering wife to make the dreaded call at 8am. There’s nothing like accusing another child of stealing to get the day off to a fun start.
By 8:05 we had the answer, the Green Ninja had “accidentally” travelled home in his friends pocket. It would be returned on the way to the Gan this morning.
But there is one more gotcha: my son explains that there is a normal Green Ninja and a fighting one. His is the more precious fighting Ninja. When the mother hands over the Ninja on neutral turf outside our apartments he is inspected carefully by my son. The head is correct (two faces) but the arms are the wrong colour! A switch has been made.
Both kids go into gan and parents are left to further investigate.
The correct Ninja has now been released and is enjoying his freedom.
Now I’m going to have that conversation with my son about obligations and rights: about the Jewish obligation not to steal and how my son’s right to have property is dependent on his friend following this rule. But when he sees the warning signs of someone with evil intent he has to be watchful. If someone tries to negotiate something from you and fails, the fallback of stealing it is always on the cards.
Judaism is founded on responsibilities not rights. My right to life is a by-product of my fellow citizen’s responsibility not to harm me. Same with my right to property. This is the most profound difference at the heart of the Jewish state, even if we don’t always realise it. There is no right to bear arms: there is a responsibility to protect life and that, sometimes, is best done with a firearm.
Just as I was upset with Hamas for forcing me to explain to my son why rockets were flying toward us, I’m upset his friend has forced me to explain why there are people who want to steal from us.
At least I’m grateful that my son is learning this life lesson from the righteous side. This parenting lark is not so easy.