Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
February 28, 2014
Children are God's most precious gift to us. With that gift comes an obligation to nurture our children so that they maintain and build upon our sacred Jewish tradition. This parental task isn't always easy, and the demands of our secular lives may often strain our abilities to fulfill our Jewish desires. However, by placing set expectations on ourselves and on our children, we can maintain our Jewish work ethic amidst the pressure.
According to rabbinic tradition our children are like arrows and "like the warrior, with arrows in their hand, we direct our arrows towards the correct target." The Hebrew root of Torah is "to shoot". The job of every Jewish parent is to make sure our children hit "God's target". Children, like arrows, are incapable of directing themselves, and we need to effectively aim them in the right direction. We do this with our words, but more importantly with our sacred actions. We teach our children at every opportunity how to hit God's target.
Children intuitively need boundaries and direction. The Book of Proverbs rightfully taught: "Train a child in the way they should go and when they are older they will not turn from their way." Sometimes parents are afraid to set the boundaries. We worry for upsetting our child; to make them feel unloved. The concern is valid, but how is the child loved if in the long term they haven't been given the direction they need?
Most parents don't expect their child to be a professional athlete or performer. But they do expect their child to be a mensch (a full moral human being) and a committed Jew. But, do the boundaries and directions we offer to our children really reflect these priorities?
Children like to play games, perform, and have fun. Judaism should be fun. However, it can't always be fun. Like our secular studies that we need to succeed in life, be well rounded, and some day professionally capable; our children also need their Jewish studies and experiential learning so as to be morally well rounded and firmly anchored in their life long active Jewish being.
We want our children to live their lives with integrity. We want them to help others with love in their hearts. This doesn't happen by accident. It takes a lot of work.
Our children can't become the "gift" we place in our secular closet. Every Jewish parent needs to work on how we can succeed to fully love our children for the long term that results in physical, mental and spiritual health. It's akin to our needing to physically exercise each day; it's not always fun, but it's always worth it.