I. The Parenting of Yitzhak
Michael Jackson and Parenting in
III. Our Challenge to Parent Our Children Properly as Jews
[Excerpt from full Commentary] When anyone questions whether my nation really were slaves in Biblical Egypt and whether my people really departed from Egypt en masse, on an exodus of freedom amid miracles and wonders, with the Red Sea splitting and a national assemblage at Mount Sinai, there is reason to comment. [¶] Someday, in ten thousand years -- maybe much, much sooner -- future historians and scholars will debate whether any Jews really were killed in a WWII Holocaust. And “scholars” reviewing texts from ancient
[Excerpt from full Commentary] In October 1999, I went through the personal tragedy of a divorce. I felt personally lost, very much alone. A lady in my congregational community, Lilly Kahn-Rose, approached me one Shabbat soon after, offering to help me in some way. I responded: "Please invite me and my children for some Shabbat meals, and please help me get some Shabbat meal invitations from others in the community. I can buy cold cuts, side dishes, and challah, can recite kiddush and lead z'mirot melodies, but it is going to be so lonely and feel so minimalist in our apartment. Please help me get me some Shabbat invitations." [¶] A week later, Lilly called me and asked me for my fax number. The fax arrived soon after -- with a list of confirmed Shabbat invitations for my children and me for every Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch for the next seven months.[¶] Throughout those next seven months, I met a community of wonderful, warm, loving people who are rearing their own families, burdened by their own struggles and concerns, yet who rushed to open their homes to my children and me. During those seven months, I never once felt like a beggar from Jerusalem. Instead, we talked throughout the meals, about mitzvot and ideas, about Israel, about the movies, about the busway, about broccoli in Guatemala, about the stuff that goes on in families. [¶] It made a potentially devastating period in my life not only bearable but extraordinary. I learned much Torah, even though I have some learning. I continued evolving as a person. In fact, Linda Charlin, the hostess in one family that hosted us most frequently, along with the Kahn-Roses, asked me after one Shabbat lunch whether I would be interested in meeting a friend of hers.
[Excerpt from full Commentary] "If I had the power, I would annul the bar mitzvah ceremony as it is observed in our country because it is known that this ceremony has not brought anyone closer to the Torah and the commandments - not even the boy himself, not even for one hour. On the contrary, in many places, it actually brings [participants] to desecrate the Sabbath and to commit other transgressions. . . ." [¶] With these words, HaRav HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein, who along with HaRav HaGaon HaRav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik was one of the two preeminent Torah sages of the past half century, gave expression to the deep frustration felt by so many American Jewish spiritual leaders who have watched the institution of the "Bar Mitzvah" spiral away from its historic religious moorings. Where it once existed to introduce a Jewish boy into the obligations of religious manhood, it now serves all-too-often as the youngster's exit door from further Jewish study. . . . [¶] Instead, too many parents are satisfied merely with handing the child a tape recording of an Haftorah portion and telling the poor child to memorize chanting it with a transliterated text.[¶] The Haftorah ultimately becomes a passing comet in the Jewish child's life that, like Haley's and other such, may reasonably be expected to pass through the Western horizon for four minutes once every several years. If one looks at the right place at the right moment, one may briefly detect it: "Uh, I think that was my bar mitzvah haftorah that just passed by. Did you see it?" But if he or she steps out for a moment, or turns the wrong way, it will have passed for another year. The Haftorah Comet.[¶] In nearly ten years as a congregational rabbi and a yeshiva faculty member, I never met a single child who spoke fondly of the bar mitzvah party as a spiritually meaningful event. At best, it is remembered with a smile. More often, it is recalled with profound disdain, even contempt. . . .
[Excerpt from full Commentary]
We did not
give up Torah and Jewish practice in
[Excerpt from full Commentary] With Rosh Hashanah on the horizon, we pause to take stock: What is a year? We do not get many of them in a lifetime. According to Moshe Rabbeinu, in Psalm 90, we typically may look to seventy – if with strength, to eighty – of them, and most of our years are about toil and pain, struggle and “what-not.” That is a year. For us, we use the calendrical marker to look ahead, partly by looking back. What did I do with last year? With one fewer left ahead of me, what will I do with next year? . . . [¶] WWhat goes on a list? One of the most beautiful answers, from a secular perspective, comes in a country song written by one of my favorite artists, Toby Keith. Playing on the expression that all busy people reiterate several times daily – “OK, it’s time for me to do the next thing on my list” – he offers this alternative to the list of priorities for the day he has set under a paperwight: Go for a walk/ say a little prayer/ Take a deep breath of mountain air/ Put on my glove and play some catch/ It's time that I make time for that. [¶] For a Jew, I would add a few more things: Put my kid in a Jewish school/ Join with my spouse and walk to shul / Buy Torah books to put on my shelf / Open them up – I owe that to myself. / Start keeping kosher and opening my home / Never let a shul visitor sit alone / Look up a friend and invite her for Shabbat / It’s time that I make time for that / Turn my hopes to G-d and pray each day / Then listen to the things my children say / Ask my child if anything hurts / Think about the text printed on his shirts / Grab him and the tefillin and pray with my son / Learn Torah with my daughter so she associates Torah with fun / Study Talmud each day for all the years I’ve missed /Start livin’ – that’s the next thing on my list. . . .
[Excerpt from full Commentary]This is the way of Jewish Prayer. The Amidah should be personalized every time we pray it. Unknown to most, the halakha expressly encourages us to add real personal prayers, in whatever language we can speak them, inserting them into the various paragraphs of the Amidah – preferably in the paragraphs most pertinent to the respective petitions. Thus, for livelihood, we insert the personal supplication into the “prayer for seasons” – M’varekh ha-Shanim. For health and recovery, we insert a personal petition into the R’fa’enu paragraph. And, if we are not certain which paragraph is appropriate for insertion, we may insert any prayer into the Sh’ma Koleinu paragraph. By inserting these personal prayers, we indeed personalize Tefilah. Every Amidah is the same – yet becomes fresh and different. How can it be boring and rote when each prayer takes on new foci? . . . .
[Excerpt from full Commentary]When I was a boy in yeshivah k’tanah, I davened with kavanah – although I cannot mean that I actually knew what I was saying. One day, someone took me aside, in Shul on Shabbat, a religious person who meant well for me, and told me that I daven too slowly. He kindly taught me how to daven faster, to keep pace with everyone else. He explained that I should move my lips, make a soft buzzing sound, and try reading the words with my eyes. Thus, I learned how to daven. . . . [¶] In most shuls, good shuls with sincere balabatim, it is hard to daven with kavanah. Let’s do some math. In my Artscroll, Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit is on page 54. The Shir shel Yom is on p. 162 ff. That’s 108 pages to cover each morning, divided by 2 = 54 pages. We do not say everything – no hotza’at ha-Torah on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. No "long tachanun" on those days either. But it is still, what, 40 pages? And add another 5-10 pages for the birkhot ha-shachar and maybe some reduced korbanot. How long does it take to read 40-50 pages of Hemingway – or even Dave Barry? [¶] The best of our people, in the sphere of tefilah, are those who come to daily minyan. They need some sleep so most minyanim start, what, 6:00 a.m., 6:30 a.m., a bit later? And they have to get to work, so they need to be out by, what, 7:30 a.m.? So there are 45 minutes to read 40-50 pages. How many of us read that quickly, merely by eyes, at that clip, even Dave Barry? That would be 53-67 pages an hour. [¶] Thus the beginnings. We do not teach people to personalize the davening, to remember their personal health miracle, their personal parnassah miracle, the miracle that literally unfolded before the eyes of a generation as He was matir millions upon millions of asurim before our eyes this past quarter century. Nor do many of us really urge people to take a minute and to pray for a relative off the derekh, to devote an extra minute to “Bareikh aleinu” and petition for a helping hand from above. [¶] I think books about davening are great, but the beginnings come with understanding that, like the “Twilight Zone” episode about the guy who mentally-thinks-himself into a painting on the wall, we need to think-ourselves into the prayer. We need to see our faces in that Siddur, our personal problems and needs in those words. That helps make it relevant to today. It is relevant, and it is sensible. It is personal. [¶] But, somehow, some way, we are fighting the time element. The convoy that goes no slower than its fastest ship. The fire truck of tefilah racing through traffic. That is a challenge. Time preys on us. Can we pray through time?