Friday, March 19, 2010

Small Epiphany

I had an epiphany last week.

I wrote about the subjugation of my will to Hashem's will as being an important part of my taking on more mitzvos. I titled the post "Because He said so..." For a long time, I have wanted to write a book titled, "Because I Said So!" about raising children. The point is that children need to know their parents' will is above their own, that they need to obey their parents without explanation, that "because I said so" is explanation enough. I always said if children learn that lesson, they are better prepared to be contributing members of society- most of us have bosses we have to listen to, we have to obey laws with which we may not agree, we have to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Turns out I only understood a portion of why that lesson is so important.

Here's my epiphany: That relationship, parent to child, is the mirror of our relationship with Hashem. Thus, how well we prepare our children for understanding that their will is not the ultimate goal, is how well we prepare them for a relationship with Hashem. When we fall down in that area of parenting, we also impair their ability to get close to G-d by following His mitzvos, because they will judge their will with respect to His the same way they judge their will with respect to ours. If we let them get away with not listening to what we say, they will look at Hashem's laws and mitzvos as up for discussion in the same way, say, bedtime is up for discussion in many households. If they can negotiate their way out of cleaning their room, they will negotiate/rationalize their way out of keeping kosher. If they are used to having a sensible explanation for whatever is asked of them, they will also want a rational explanation for all decisions in Jewish life, and it's just not there all the time.

If, instead, we can teach them to understand that as their parents we know what is best for them and they learn to follow what we ask of them simply "because," then they will be that much closer to understanding our relationships with Hashem.... and I believe that is the first step to developing a fulfilling relationship of their own.

Have a wonderful Shabbat,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Because He said so

One of the most important things I have learned as I have become more observant is the understanding that my will is not the be-all and end-all. Hashem's (Hashem= a common Hebrew word for G-d) will is the true goal. I am not very good about passing that test- choosing what Hashem wants over what I want, but little by little I think my choice box (the part of you where true, difficult decisions lie-- some things are above your choice box, some things are below) is elevating. Not eating pork used to be above my choice box, but for the past 6-8 months, I've done pretty well. Not perfect, but that's not the point. He wants me to make the effort, even when I fail sometimes. The key is to keep trying, keep moving forward, keep making the effort, keep not giving up. Sometimes it's difficult to decide the next step- it all seems so overwhelming at times, but I have to take a moment, realize that it's not an all-or-nothing deal, and that it's both the sincere attempt and the fact that I am taking steps at all that is important.

I think that's one of the biggest fundamental differences between orthodox Judaism and other branches- the belief that Hashem's will is over our will. Growing up, I always learned that we looked critically at the Torah and all its writings, to see if a particular practice or belief resonated, seemed applicable to us in the current day. If it did, we followed it, if it didn't, we didn't. Our will superseded. Without the belief that our will comes second, there's no reason to grow toward a Torah life. Why would you do such difficult and sometimes weird things? Why would you not eat milk and meat together? Why would you not wear clothes that mix linen and wool (I'm not kidding, that actually is a commandment)? It would make no sense- and as I said earlier, that is usually the deciding factor.

Such a difference to believe that Hashem's will is over your own. To believe that the Torah really does have continual lessons to teach us, to this day. It's not a dry, linear history book, rather a spiral that comes back to itself year after year, always slightly different. We are different from year to year, and what we take from the writings speaks to us where we are. When I thought I knew better, I missed a lot of those lessons. I am continually amazed how everything is contained in the Torah- it's not a history lesson to me anymore. The more I study and learn, the more is revealed to me. The more that is revealed, the more courage I have to do the things that are difficult, because I know I am doing what Hashem wants, and that will bring blessings to me and my family.