I tell my nine year old son that people who work hard will progress in life and have what they need. Now I have a dilemma. There is a new electronic game which costs $499 plus megabucks for each game. His cousin has one, his friends have it but we have no intention of buying him one. We don't have the money, and anyway it is not one of our priorities - there are far better things he could do with his time than play violent video games. He does everything properly, listens to us, puts in the effort at school and is now devastated that he has done it all and cannot have what he wants. How will I explain it to him?
You have in front of you a wonderful parenting opportunity. It is a chance to teach your child two vital truths: that he can't have everything, and that he can't always understand why.
The idea that kids needs to understand the rationale behind every one of their parents' decisions is ludicrous. If children were capable of understanding their parents every motive, then children could be parents themselves. It is precisely their inability to appreciate why not every whim and fancy must be fed that makes them children. The parents' job is to set boundaries, and that means sometimes the answer is just no.
When a parent lays down the law and gives a clear no, they are doing a great favor for their child. Because their child will learn an important life lesson - you don't always get what you want. Sometimes it seems unfair, sometimes it seems to be without any justification, but it happens, and it happens to everyone, and it happens throughout your life - there are things you want and you can't have.
Sadly, many children are not taught this. Their parents give them everything they want. And then when they grow older they are shocked that the rest of the world doesn't do the same. These are the adults who think that their spouse, their friends, their country and G-d should all be giving them whatever they ask for. If only they were taught as kids that you can't have it all, they would be accepting of this as adults.
Your son deserves to be rewarded for his good behaviour and hard work, but perhaps that reward need not be the one he wants. It isn't easy, but it is far better to endure the tantrum of a disappointed child for a few days than to have a spoilt child who will remain a spoilt child for a lifetime. Like King Solomon said, "Train the child in his way, so that when he is older he will not stray from it". Today he will be upset, but one day he will thank you.
I don't want my children to be small-minded or fundamentalist, so I haven't given them a Jewish education. They have been brought up without any religion; they are free to choose whatever beliefs they like. I try to live by the words of John Lennon:
Imagine there's no countries / It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for / No religion too, Imagine all the people / living life in peace...
Is there anything more important than that?
I admire your passion and idealism. You have obviously given some thought to your children's moral future, which is a credit to you. But I don't see how the philosophy you have espoused is any less closed-minded than fundamentalist religion.
You don't want to force your ideals on your children. But by denying them their spiritual heritage, you are forcing your ideals on them. They are missing the chance to explore their Jewish identities during their formative years. They didn't choose that, you did. You have decided their religion for them. They are Lennonists whether they like it or not.
And if that song is your bible, then they are being brought up in a much more closed-minded religion than Judaism.
You have only quoted one verse. But I think the last verse of the song is the most revealing. It proclaims a worldview as parochial and insular as the narrowest sect:
You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us / And the world will live as one.
So, according to Lennonism there is "you" and there is "us". You are the unenlightened ones. We have found the truth. But hopefully one day you will see the light and become one of us too. Only then can the world finally live as one. Is that open-minded?
Contrast this with Judaism's view that not everyone has to be Jewish. A non-Jew can live a perfectly fulfilling and meaningful life while remaining a non-Jew. They don't have to join us to be considered a good person. If anything can make us truly live as one, it is the recognition that we are all created by the same G-d, but we don't all have to serve Him in the same way.
We each choose a value system to live by and to teach our children. Whether you call it religion or something else makes little difference - it is a particular way of looking at the world. Can you imagine a religion that teaches its children to be proud of who they are, but that not everyone has to be like them?
My son is having his bris tomorrow. I am beside myself. I know I will go through with it, but the thought of giving my precious baby over to be circumcised is just terrifying for me. I am sure I am not the first mother to feel this way. So how do people get through it without breaking down?
Your fears are completely understandable. And at the same time, there is absolutely nothing to fear. Here are a few important facts to keep in mind.
A bris does not really hurt. It is only skin being cut, no muscle or flesh. The nerve endings are yet undeveloped, and so the baby has little sensitivity there. The knife used is so super sharp that the cut itself is not noticed by the baby.
Now if you have ever heard a baby squeal at a bris, you may find it hard to believe that he is in no pain. Well, let me tell you something.
I remember once, when my daughter was eight days old, I was changing her, and I noticed that she squealed the exact same excruciating high-pitched screech that a boy would give at his bris. I have since improved at changing babies. But I learnt that they cry from the cold when their nappy is removed, and scream when their legs are being held down.
Watch a circumcision closely and you will see that the boy starts crying as soon as he is exposed and restricted, but when the actual cut is performed he does not flinch. The friends and family gathered around are grimacing sympathetically while the baby cries; meanwhile the baby himself is just trying to say, "Can you wrap me up and get me warm already!" As soon as you do, he settles down.
All the above is a description of the facts. The fact is, a bris is no big deal for a baby. But it is a big deal for a mother, because facts don't always speak to emotions. Who can imagine the feeling of a new mother, sleep-deprived and hormonal from childbirth, giving over her sweet little baby to be circumcised? The Holy Zohar compares it to placing your child on an altar to be sacrificed. While in fact a bris is nothing like that - you get your baby back intact at the end - the feelings are similar.
This is the heroism of our Jewish mothers. For four thousand years, they have been tearfully giving their babies to be circumcised, then celebrating by eating bagels and lox. It is not always easy. But it may be a little easier for you to know that the hard bit is being the mother, not the baby. As usual.
Why is there a Chuppah at a Jewish wedding? Is it so important? What does it symbolize?
Marriage is the union of man and woman. What a silly idea!
Male and female are opposites, and the thought that they can become one is absurd. You can't take opposites and make them work together. It's impossible.
Impossible, that is, unless you do one thing: find something that encompasses both of them. An energy that can include opposites can unite opposites. And the only energy that can include opposites is divine energy. Only G-d, who is beyond any confines, can do the impossible and bring together opposites. Only G-d, the source of male and female, can unite male and female. And so only G-d can create a marriage.
The word Chuppah means an envelopment. It represents the divine presence that hovers above bride and groom to unite them. Because man and woman can only truly become one if they dedicate themselves to something bigger than the both of them. When two people unite for a common higher cause, when they share a goal that lies beyond self, then they are able to transcend the differences between them and become one.
Of course a relationship needs to have chemistry, and biology and physics too. But what will keep it together is metaphysics - shared spiritual values and a common sense of divine purpose. With G-d as a partner in the marriage, you will be standing under the Chuppah for a lifetime.
6:30pm Shabbos Service followed by Kiddush sponsored by Michelle Brenner in honour of the Yarzeit of her Father Alexander Brenner, the Yarzeit of Stella Cornelius and the recent passing of George Keen - Long Life.
9am Class on Weekly Parsha
10am -12:15pm Morning Service with Kids' program sponsored anonymously on occassion of a birthday - Mazal Tov!
Kiddush in honour of the Call-ups and upcoming weddings of Greg Weinstein and Leah Kleinlehrer, and Jesse Meguedeche and Rachel Roussos - Mazal Tov!
Mincha 7:55pm followed by Seudah Shlishis and Maariv
Shabbos ends 8:53pm
8am Shachris followed by breakfast and shiur in honour of the consecration of Mr Ewaz Barukh z"l 9:00-9:45am
Monday and Thursday
Shachris 7am followed by Chassidus The Spiritual Meaning of Animal Sacrifice- Basi Legani 5712 8am-8:45am