("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)

Once upon a time there was a king who had one son, his crown prince, the apple of his eye and the future of his throne.

When his son was old enough to begin his education, the king sought private home schooling for him.  As the King explained to his advisors, his son was to need a far reaching education and a need to master areas not normally covered in school. He would need to learn many languages and study many cultures in order to reign appropriately. Accordingly, regular school was out of the question.

The education minister agreed but with one caveat. “Why should the crown prince learn from professors all by himself?’ The Chief of Staff has a child who is approximately the same age, let him study with the prince and educate them both.”

The king was a bit nervous. While the Chief of Staff was an organized fellow in the government, his home life and his appearance, were a different story altogether. His children would be out and about partying all night much to the unawareness or lack of care of the minister and his wife. The king held his tongue and reminded the Education Minister of the jewel he was being entrusted with, as he educated the prince. That warning was understood by both men.

While the minister’s intentions were good as he wanted the prince to be properly socially related, the second child’s influence was heavy on the crown prince. His home life of disarray began to seep into the regular style of the crown prince and into his thinking as well. The boys would share ideas and plans for the future with one another.

One day the Education Minister was meeting with the king. The police commissioner entered the meeting and politely whispered into the king’s ear in a manner that made the minister nervous. Suddenly, the king addressed the minister; “Don’t you recall your advice to me that my son be educated with another boy?” the king asked. “Yes’ responded the minister in fear. “Well, tonight that young man was arrested for disorderly conduct” said the king.  The minister turned white and was speechless. “Don’t worry,” said the king, “my boy was arrested as an accomplice also.”

The Alshich uses this story to highlight the story of the Eigel. In fact, the Eigel was an idea carried to fruition by the hangers-on – the Eirev Rav who joined the Jews when they left Mitzrayim. It was the influence of this movement that later infiltrated the Jewish people (albeit a minority) into serving the Eigel.  The Alshich notes that from here we see the powerful, persuasive position of peer pressure even when people know better.

What about us and our own children? How do we handle neighbors and friends who seem to be trying to influence us in a detrimental manner? How can we help our children develop a positive personal self-concept to withstand the power of peer pressure?

And when and how can the same peer pressure which can be a great weapon in the hands of those trying to bring us down spiritually, be utilized to uplift us as people, as a community and a Jewish nation? How can “influence” become positive “inspiration”?

Let’s  “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting  discussion into our homes and communities.