Janie's News 'n Views

Jul 25, 2009

God Talk


As parents, we already know that sometimes our children are our teachers.  If only we listen.  When it comes to God and spirituality, I have learned that children are often closer to The Source than we are.  Their lives are uncluttered by the frustrations of politics, business, bill paying, and the current price of gas.

“Children are more open to ideas about God than many of us realize.” (Reform Judaism magazine, Rabbi Edythe Mencher)  Our libraries have many books to teach us and our children about God in our lives.  One of the very best writers on that subject is Rabbi Sandy Sasso Eisenberg.  Rabbi Eisenberg was a guest lecturer at a CAJE Conference (Coalition for Advancements in Jewish Education) at Duke University, and she taught us that “children already have a deep spiritual life, and the role of teachers and parents is to help give expression to what is already inside.”

As parents, we already know that sometimes our children are our teachers.  If only we listen.  When it comes to God and spirituality, I have learned that children are often closer to The Source than we are.  Their lives are uncluttered by the frustrations of politics, business, bill paying, and the current price of gas.

“Children are more open to ideas about God than many of us realize.” (Reform Judaism magazine, Rabbi Edythe Mencher)  Our libraries have many books to teach us and our children about God in our lives.  One of the very best writers on that subject is Rabbi Sandy Sasso Eisenberg.  Rabbi Eisenberg was a guest lecturer at a CAJE Conference (Coalition for Advancements in Jewish Education) at Duke University, and she taught us that “children already have a deep spiritual life, and the role of teachers and parents is to help give expression to what is already inside.”

The problem here is not with the children.  It’s about us.  As teachers and parents, we often feel awkward and uncertain talking about God.  Many of us have trouble even saying “The G Word”.  We’re not comfortable with our own definition of God and so we have difficulty discussing God with our children.

This is really OK.  Judaism supports you in your struggle with the concept of God.  Questioning The Source is a welcome part of being a Jew.

But what should we tell our kids?  As parents and educators, we’re totally comfortable telling exotic fairy tales and fantastic stories to our children.  We support and nurture the miracles performed by “The Tooth Fairy” and have made this something that is passed down from generation to generation.

So, what about God?  We don’t need to be experts on the subject in order to nurture God and Godliness in our children.  As parents we support the “prayers” and wishes for happiness, health, and prosperity in our children’s lives.  We’d all like to believe in God, but we have doubts.  And we probably didn’t have those doubts when we were five, seven, and nine years old.

Is it so hard for us to look up into the night sky and be awed by the beauty of our universe?  Albert Einstein said, “such a symphony must have a conductor.”  Indeed!

“Our own adult questions about God do not have to be resolved before introducing helpful ideas about God to our children.  We introduce our children to hopes about world peace even though we don’t know how to accomplish it.  Spiritual feelings, by their very nature, cannot be understood through rational means.  And speaking to our children of subjects about which we are uncertain does not make us hypocrites,” says Rabbi Edythe Mencher.

We teach our students that God is all around us and in us.  God is in the ocean and the flowers, the sunshine and the hurricane.  We are God’s partners in the world, and it is our responsibility as people and as Jews, to perform acts of Tikun Olam, efforts that “heal the world”.  We teach them to give Tzedakah (charitable donations) in their classrooms, raising money to give to charities, and we have community-wide Mitzvah Days every year where we go forth into the community and perform good deeds like cleaning up the beaches, providing food for the needy, and baking dog biscuits for an animal shelter.  We behave in a God-like manner, our lives enriched by the teachings of our Torah.

Is this so terrible?

Undoubtedly, our own thoughts and feelings about God have changed throughout our lives.  “So why not allow our children their God stories and hopes and dreams?” asks Rabbi Mencher.  Why not ask your child what they know about God?  You might learn something.

Let us resolve this New Year to commit to more acts of Mitzvot, Tikun Olam and Tzedakah as a family.  Let us resolve to light candles and celebrate Shabbat together as a family from time to time.  Let us resolve to bring the name of God into our lives and not shy away.  Let us resolve to continue to pray (work, wish) for peace in a troubled world.

Would this be so terrible?


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