Thursday, September 29, 2016
Jewish Parenting - It Takes A Kibbutz©
Rabbi David Baum
I just had my 37th birthday - I know some of you think I’m still a kid, but I feel old.
I grew up in a time with mix tapes - anyone in here remember mix tapes? You would tape a song from the radio, it wasn’t the best quality, or you would take your friends tapes - also, not the best quality.
But, you could make your own album - that was different then the past - now you were your own music producer - but it wasn’t easy. You still went to the store, you bought tapes, you interacted with others - you were part of the system.
All of that changed with Napster - music sharing
Now, you could high quality music, make your own album -
I-tunes came and added some morality - now we don’t steal music - we shouldn’t at least - but, a reality was set - you make your own album - it’s all about you.
We live in a boutique culture - everything can be suited just for you for a price - everything is individualized. As a consumer, this is great, but it has effects. Now, we have boutique homes and neighborhoods - made just for us.
American culture seems to be this quest for the individualized boutique lifestyle - Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li - If I am not for myself, who will be for me, right?
One of the things I love about Judaism is that it is a constant struggle between the individual and the community - You can pray alone, but you also need pray in a minyan - you may want to focus on one paragraph of tefillah, but there’s a Shaliach Tzibbur who keeps going along leading everyone else passed you.
Last Shabbat, we read the first paragraph of the Shema as part of Parashat Ve’etchanan:
In the first portion of Shema, taken from last week’s Torah reading, the Torah tells us:
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ׃
“You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
In our parashah, we see a similar verse which is also used in the 2nd paragraph of the Shema:
וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶם לְדַבֵּר בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ׃
“You shall teach them to your children to discuss them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise” (Deuteronomy 11:19)
So what's the difference in these commandments? It's really subtle -
“V’shinantem Levanecha” – instruct your children about them (these words). Not my children, instruct your children, you, Mr or Mrs. Goldstein.
But the second paragraph of the Shema, I see the mention of guiding your children again. This time, it is “v’limadetem otam et benechem l’daber bam…”
“Teach them to your (plural) children, using them when you sit at home and when you walk about, when you lie down and when you stand up;
Last week, we were told to teach my children, but this week, it's not just about my children. Your children – you all, not just mine, but also Mr. And Mrs. Goldsteins.
Have any of you ever ridden a bus in Israel with children? I'll never forget one trip I took. There was a 7 year old child who hit his little brother, a woman who was reading took the boy by the hand, said something to him, and kissed the boy. Then, the bus stopped, and the woman got off the bus leaving her two boys alone! I thought I was seeing things, until the next stop, when a woman whom I didn't notice went up to the boys, took them by the hand and took them off the bus.
What did I witness? A mother educating other children.
In America, we would be rolling our eyes at the kids or the mother, but we would never interfere – they aren't our kids. This isn't the case in Israel – in Israel, another parent will discipline that child as if she is that child's parent.
In other words, education and instruction is a communal responsibility.
And I think maybe they get it from this second paragraph of the Shema that, unfortunately, we say silently. Israel is a much different culture than America. America is all about getting your own land – the dream of Israel was communal land – the kibbutz.
I think it's something that is deep down inside of us – this idea of educating everyone's children, and realizing that all Jewish children are OUR children, and we are responsible for their education – whether it's in a Day School, or a synagogue school. All of us pay taxes to ensure kids have a public education, but, for some reason, we don't bring that to our synagogues and our communities. Maybe it's the jewish educator in me, but this line seems to say to us, it's our duty to educate all Jewish children.
And the reason? It's kind of selfish, but verse 21 lays it out: To the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the Lord sore to your fathers to assign to them...
If we want a future, we have to ensure our kids receive our tradition, and we have to provide for it even if they aren't our children, and even if our children grow up, and even we don't have children of our own.
Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li - If I am not for myself, who will be for me, right?
There are two views of dwellings in Judaism. One view of the Ohel, the tent, is found when Bnai Israel was in the wilderness. In this view, the midrash tells us, that when Balaam saw the tents of Jacob, what he saw was that the Children of Israel's tents faced different directions to ensure everyone's privacy. No one looked into each others tent, everyone minded their own business.
That's good for modesty, but sometimes, I think we need to see what is going on in our tents, we need to get into each other businesses a little bit. But then we see the view of Abraham's tent, open on all sides – everyone can see inside, and everyone is invited to visit.
If I'm only for myself, really, what am I?
And so, can I ask you to do one thing? If my son is hitting my other son, and I'm not around, can you help teach them the values of kindness? I know, it might make you feel uncomfortable, but I can't be with him all the time, and I need your help – so will you be my son's teacher, and I'll be yours?