Tag Archives: children

Of Grandchildren, Chanukah, and Christmas

As I’m sure many of you know, I haven’t been contributing to this blog spot lately. It’s not so much because I don’t have the time, but rather because some of the “fire” or inspiration for doing so has cooled off.

I have no local community of faith and no longer have a steady stream of information coming in regarding the Messianic perspective on the Bible, the Messiah, and faith to employ as a muse.

chanukah
Chanukah 2016

I had been considering writing something about Christmas and Chanukah (besides my little science fiction Chanukah story) and dreading it at the same time since, after all, it is somewhat expected, but then these issues collided with my regularly scheduled life.

A few things.

My son David is divorced with two children, my seven-year-old grandson and my almost eighteen-month-old granddaughter.

David is currently living with us to save up some dough, and his arrangement with his ex is that he gets the kids for one week and she gets them for the next.

That’s under normal circumstances.

Because she celebrates Christmas and we don’t, we’ve had them for the past week-and-a-half, and she’ll get them starting late Friday or early Saturday, and keep them for the next two weeks.

Since Christmas and the start of Chanukah both begin on December 24th this year, the grandkids will get Christmas but miss Chanukah.

My granddaughter wouldn’t care, but my grandson loves Chanukah. With this in mind, my family decided to celebrate Chanukah a week early this year so, for us, the fourth night of Chanukah begins at sundown tonight.

Another little factoid. David is dating (I personally think it’s on the rebound, but he says “no” and what do I know anyway?) and she celebrates Christmas, too.

star christmasSo last Sunday evening after my grandson lit the candles and my wife coached him through reciting the blessings, my son and his girlfriend produced a bunch of Christmas presents and gave them to my grandchildren.

I had no idea this was going to happen, and I found myself surprised, shocked, and more than a little dismayed.

I usually silently endure the Christmas season and am grateful when January rolls around so traffic goes back to normal and I don’t have to listen to Christmas music anymore. It’s not like I’ve got a case of “paganoia” about the holiday, I just find it overly commercialized and tedious.

But it invaded my home and without even the slightest warning.

At least no one dragged a Christmas tree into the house.

Which brings me to what really inspired today’s missive. Jewish actress Natalie Portman has a Christmas Tree.

This story was published as Jewish educational site Aish.com to illustrate the potential danger of Jewish assimilation into wider secular culture (or worse, directly into normative Goyishe Christianity).

They also published a parallel article, When Christmas Meets Hanukkah touting the same message.

Is it okay to mix Christmas and Chanukah together? Can you have a Chanukah menorah in your home alongside a Christmas tree? Is this acceptable intermarriage holiday practice?

Experts and authors such as Susan Katz Miller would probably say “yes,” but I’m not so sure.

It’s a foregone conclusion that my non-Jewish grandchildren will be raised with Christmas and Easter and all of that, but thanks to their Bubbe, they’ll also experience at least Chanukah and Passover and occasionally a smidgen of Sukkot.

natalie portman christmas tree
Natalie Portman, Image: Aish.com

My wife isn’t particularly observant (I wish she were more observant) and my son even less (non-existent). If he wasn’t living with us, he probably wouldn’t light the candles, and in spite of the fact that he complained about his ex-wife celebrating Christmas when he was married, he seems perfectly fine with giving his children Christmas presents for the sake of his new girlfriend.

If my family hadn’t been such a mixed bag of evolving religious practice when my own children were growing up, and if we had specifically raised them Jewish, maybe some of it would have stuck. I’d like to think so, even though there’s a crisis of assimilation into secularism attacking the upcoming Jewish generation.

All three of my kids identify as Jewish ethnically, but that’s about where it ends. I really don’t think mixing and matching is such a great idea in families (and if my son marries yet another non-Jewish wife and has more kids, it’ll just get worse). Granted, Natalie Portman can make whatever decisions she wants for her family, but if I had it to do over again, when my sons were born thirty years ago, I would have pushed my wife to join a local synagogue and start her (and my family’s) Jewish education right then and there.

That would have changed a whole lot though, so I’m conflicted. At that time, neither of us were religious, and as her non-Jewish spouse, if I had started attending shul with her and the kids, and if I had become entrenched in that lifestyle by the time we initially encountered Christianity some seven or so years later, I might not have become a believer, and then transitioned into a Judaically aware perspective thanks to first Hebrew Roots and then later Messianic Judaism.

How could I do that, and yet, for the sake of my Jewish children, how could I not?

Each of my three adult children will have to make their own path if they want to recapture what it is to be a Jew. I’ll help if they ask, but otherwise it’s totally up to them. It’s totally up to my long-suffering wife if she wants to become more observant (and she’s the product of an intermarriage as well). I’ve told her more than once that I’ll accept whatever decision she makes in that direction.

assimilationI have almost no control at all of what happens to my grandchildren. They’re not Jewish but I have this secret hope that they’ll become curious one day and want to investigate that part of their heritage (they could always convert).

The world is bleeding out Jews thanks to the hemorrhage of intermarriage and secular assimilation (except for the Orthodox, or so I’ve been told). I can’t fix it in my family, and can only watch and shake my head when I see my grandchildren rip into Christmas wrapping as the Chanukah lights burn just a few feet away.

May the Messiah come soon and in our day to return the Jewish people not only to Israel but to themselves.

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Will Our Children Have Faith?

It may seem strange to consider Judaism a missionary religion. Yet the Pharisees are described as “compass[ing] sea and land to make one proselyte.” (Matthew 23:15) Rabbinic Judaism, the product of these Pharisees, saw in Abraham and Sarah the models for those who converted non-Jews to Judaism, speaking of them as “making souls.” (Cf. Gen. 12:5)

The proselyte was viewed with special favor. Unlike the Israelites at Sinai the proselyte had come under the wings of the Divine Presence without the impetus of thunder and lightning. Conversionary activity, however, diminished as Christianity gained power and proscribed conversion to Judaism. Even so, there were notable conversions to Judaism in the medieval period.

In the modern period with the advent of “Outreach” in the Reform Jewish community, there is renewed interest in presenting Judaism as an attractive option to those outside of Judaism who might be interested.

-Leonard Kravitz and Kerry M. Olitzky
“Judaism as a Missionary Religion,” p.14
Chapter One: At Sinai Moses Received the Torah
Pirke Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics

This isn’t the only time in the first fourteen pages of this book that the authors quoted from the Apostolic Scriptures (favorably), which is something of a surprise in a (non-Messianic) Jewish publication. I’ve also read similar commentaries in the past on the historic and arguably modern interpretation of Judaism as “missionary.”

Of course, it’s well-known that the Chabad have a very active and even aggressive outreach process, but this is usually directed at non-observant or minimally observant Jews. They aren’t actively trying to convert Gentiles to Judaism although, on occasion, they will encourage non-Jews to observe the seven Noahide Laws.

I’ve been thinking about Messianic Judaism across multiple generations, especially as applied to non-Jewish members or adherents otherwise known as “Messianic Gentiles.” I’ve read a couple of blog posts over the past few days, both written by “Hebrew Roots Gentiles,” discussing the desire to pass their beliefs on to the next generation.

This is really difficult to do.

Even in modern Judaism and Christianity, there is no guarantee that your children will follow in your footsteps. Sure, it’s more likely in Orthodox Judaism for your children to continue in an Orthodox lifestyle, but in Reform Judaism, it’s not such a big step from there to becoming completely secular and even assimilated. There are also plenty of Christians whose children leave the faith. It can be truly said that God has no grandchildren. We each negotiate our own relationship with our Creator, regardless of who our parents are or what they believe and practice.

OK, that’s not exactly true for Jewish people. Even a secular and assimilated Jew is still a Jew. Jewish people are the only population to ever exist who are born into a covenant relationship with God, whether they want to be or not. I believe at the end of the age, each Jew who chose not to respond to the covenants will have to give an accounting to God.

Yes, the rest of us will too will have to give an account, but it won’t be the same since no non-Jew is born automatically having a specific set of obligations to God based on a set of covenants made thousands of years ago.

And in Messianic and Hebrew Roots communities, the problem is compounded.

A few years back I attended the First Fruits of Zion Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel in Hudson, Wisconsin. There were a number of families there, both Jewish and Gentile, who were discussing matchmaking. That is, they were concerned about who their children were going to marry.

This wasn’t idle chatter. Some of the younger generation present at the event were approaching or already at marriageable age. There were even suggestions being made as to which two young people to match up (much to the discomfort of the young people present who were being discussed).

There are just tons and tons of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues of various denominations and branches available almost everywhere on Earth. A Christian desiring to marry a Christian companion might not have any more difficult a time at finding an appropriate mate than any given atheist. For Jews it is probably the same, given access to a sufficiently large Jewish population (here in Idaho, it would definitely be more of a chore).

learning hebrewBut what about Messianic Jews and Gentiles? At least in the U.S. and Canada, there aren’t that many communities to choose a proper companion from. Do you marry a Christian and call it good? Do you marry a (non-Messianic) Jew and give up your faith in Yeshua (Jesus)?

I’ve known more than a few young adults, Jewish and Gentile, who are Messianic and who either took many years to finally find a good match or who are still waiting for him or her to come along.

Messianic Judaism is a missionary religion but with a twist. It’s main focus is or should be to spread the good news of Messiah to other Jews.

For instance, on the main page of the Tikvat Israel website, it states:

Where Jewish people and their families & friends can experience a Jewish service & community while believing Yeshua (Jesus) is Messiah.

Gentiles are hardly excluded but the outreach and call to faith is definitely directed “to the Jew first,” so to speak.

I think many “Messianic Gentiles” self-select our way of life. I’ve heard endless stories from people who used to go to church saying that what they were being taught from the pulpit just wasn’t satisfying and didn’t seem to match up with what the Bible actually says. I think we’re all attracted to a more Jewish interpretation of the scriptures for a variety of reasons. Many of us are intermarried with Jewish spouses and so are exposed to religious and cultural Judaism as a matter of course. And many “Hebrew Christians” have returned to the Torah by way of Messianic Judaism and brought their non-Jewish family members with them into the movement.

But while children don’t have much say about which church or synagogue their parents take them to, as these young people grow into adulthood, they have plenty of say over their lives.

I know in my own experience, as soon as I was old enough to tell my parents I wasn’t going to church anymore, I did, and I didn’t see the inside of a church as a worshiper for decades.

My own children went through a series of religious “encounters” starting with church, then a Hebrew Roots group, and then the local Reform/Conservative shul. They all eventually exited out of Yeshua-belief and then just about anything that resembles Jewish observance. Except for some approach to keeping Biblically (but not halachically) kosher and ethnically identifying as Jewish, they have no relationship with God as Jews.

I don’t doubt that Gentile and Jewish believers will continue to be drawn from their churches to Messianic Judaism and/or Hebrew Roots. Thus generation after generation of adults will enter these movements and learn something about some “Hebraic” method of interpreting scripture, gaining a more Jewish apprehension of the Messiah, the Gospel message, and the function of the New Covenant. But what about our children?

I don’t have a solution, but I do have a joke:

Three rabbis were talking over regular Sunday morning breakfast get-together.

Rabbi Ginsberg says, “Oy! We have such a problem with mice at our schul. The shammos set out all kinds of baited traps but them keep coming back. Do either of you learned men know how I can get rid of these vermin?”.

The second rabbi, Rabbi Cohen replied, “We have the same problem at our synagogue, we’ve spent all kinds of gelt on exterminators but the problem still persists. Any suggestions?”.

The third rabbi, Rabbi Slosberg looked at Rabbi Ginsberg and Rabbi Cohen and told the following story. “Rabbis’, we had the same problem with mice at our synagogue, we tried traps, exterminators, even prayers; nothing worked.”

three rabbis“Then one Shabbos after services were over a brilliant idea came into my mind. The next shabbos I went to the synagogue about and hour before services started. I brought big wheel of yellow cheese and placed in the center of the bima. Well, soon tens of mice appeared on the bima and headed for the cheese. While they were feasting on the cheese I Bar-mitzvahed all of them.

I never saw them in Schul again!

The reason that’s funny is because it’s tragically true. As much as you as parents try to teach your values to your children, someday, they have to make a decision as adults whether to make your values their values. Sometimes they decide “yes,” but they can also say “no” and choose their own path. The only way a person is truly drawn to God is by God.

God’s Shadow

love-in-lightsGod is your shadow at your right hand.

Psalms 121:5

The Baal Shem Tov taught that God acts toward individuals accordingly as they act toward other people. Thus, if people are willing to forgive those who have offended them, God will similarly overlook their misdeeds. If a person is very judgmental and reacts with anger to any offense, God will be equally strict. The meaning of, God is your shadow, is that a person’s shadow mimics his or her every action.

At a therapy session for family members of recovering alcoholics, one woman told the group that she had experienced frustration from many years of infertility and tremendous joy when she finally conceived. Her many expectations were shattered, however, when the child was born with Down’s syndrome.

“I came to love that child dearly,” she said, “but the greatest thing that child has done for me is to make me realize that if I can love him so in spite of his imperfections, then God can love me in spite of my many imperfections.”

If we wish to know how God will relate to us, the answer is simple: exactly in the same way we relate to others. If we demand perfection from others, He will demand it of us. If we can love others even though they do not measure up to our standards and expectations, then He will love us in spite of our shortcomings.

Today I shall…

…try to relate to people in the same manner I would wish God to relate to me.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Kislev 3”
Aish.com

I just reviewed the First Fruits of Zion television program episode The Golden Rule, which illustrates that principle of “do unto others” from a first century Jewish perspective.

I’ve also been reviewing a series of blog posts written by Pastor Tim Challies recording his impressions of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, which is MacArthur’s commentary and warning about Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement.

In reading the concluding summary (yes, I read ahead), it wasn’t the information or the scriptures presented by MacArthur and company that bothered me. I didn’t feel the real argument was about whether Pentecostalism was better or Reformed theology was better. For me, the issue was whether or not God would have handled the situation the same way MacArthur did.

Who knows, maybe He would have (and you may also believe that MacArthur is God’s tool to do just that).

Then I read messages like the one I quoted from Rabbi Twerski. I guess I’m just a soft and “mushy” inspirational Christian as opposed to one who sees God as perpetually wielding a club and who is ready to bludgeon us the minute we get out of line.

God knows we’re imperfect. God knows we’re messed up. God knows that, all things being equal, we’d mess up a free lunch…which is what most of us have done with the blessings and gifts He’s provided us.

“I came to love that child dearly,” she said, “but the greatest thing that child has done for me is to make me realize that if I can love him so in spite of his imperfections, then God can love me in spite of my many imperfections.”

I know the hardcore “justice” fans on the blogosphere will say that’s no excuse for not standing up to error and proceeding forward with the sword of truth to smite everyone who has drifted from the “true” path…uh, but doing it in “love,” of course.

If all you are as a person of faith is someone who has to fix the mistakes or others, the errors in theology and doctrine (or at least those things you perceive as errors), then you’re basically a mechanic who is always using a wrench and a hammer to hunt down that funny noise the car’s engine makes periodically.

Or, like the woman Rabbi Twerski talks about, we can be like a mother of a child who will always be imperfect, but not beyond improving. We don’t beat such a child, we shouldn’t beat any child, just because they’re imperfect. We influence and promote change by loving, not condemning.

Before we relate to any other human being regardless of the experience, if we could imagine how we would want God to relate to us under similar circumstances, maybe we’d be better people of faith. If we want God’s love and forgiveness, we have to be loving and forgiving. If we are harsh and judgmental, even if we’re being technically and scripturally correct, how will God judge us? How will God treat us?

Forgive us as we forgive others.

Matthew 6:12 (God’s Word Translation)

By the standard we use to treat others…that is the standard God will use on us.

Intermarriage After Thirty Years

jewish-christian-intermarriageFirstly, I must tell you how impressed I was by your honesty and sensitivity – especially, by what you wrote at the end about not wanting to convert just for him.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

First of all, even though it is most gracious of you to agree to raise his children as Jews, there really wouldn’t be any point in it, for the children of a non-Jewish mother, (as wonderful as you may be) are not Jewish, even if the father is Jewish. This is the law of Judaism as has been handed down to us generation to generation for thousands of years.

So there is really only one of two choices.

A sincere conversion on your part, or breaking up as difficult as that may be.

From the “Ask the Rabbi” series
“Intermarriage Correspondence from a Non-Jew”
Aish.com

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a day or two, you know that I often quote from Jewish religious or philosophical sources (and often from Aish.com) to create a foundation from which I then “dovetail” and expand upon to make some sort of daily commentary. As an intermarried Christian (my wife is Jewish), I have an attraction to Jewish thought and perspective as they apply (surprisingly enough) to my faith.

But that doesn’t mean Judaism and I don’t butt heads more than once in a while. The Rabbi’s suggestion to the (formerly) Catholic young woman about possibly marrying her Jewish boyfriend is just one of those “head butting” occasions.

But it’s a difficult discussion. I know the dangers intermarriage and assimilation pose to Jewish continuation and particularly on the children produced in such a marriage. The journey my own children have had to negotiate has not been an easy one and although they all self-identify as Jews (and are Jews according to halachah because their mother is Jewish), they are barely, if at all, observant of the mitzvot. I can’t say that my own home is observant either, through I’d like to support and encourage my spouse to live a more traditionally religious Jewish life. I can’t though, because she is “in charge” of her Jewishness, I’m not.

But when I read the “Ask the Rabbi’s” comment regarding the setting aside of a relationship between a Jewish and non-Jewish couple, I began to see red. My wife and I have been married for over thirty years and I have no intention of disrupting our relationship for the sake of a string of advice, even though it is dedicated to Jewish survival.

Hillel the Sage was able to remain patient even when someone purposely tried to provoke him. He felt no irritation whatsoever about any matter. There was no arousal of anger at all. This is what it means to be completely free from anger.

The level of Hillel is the level we should each strive for as regards to not getting angry. Of course it is not easy. But the first step is to increase your motivation and be totally resolved to conquer anger. Then feel joy with every drop of improvement!

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #755: Being Free From Anger”
Aish.com

It can be tough enough being intermarried and interfaith without reminders of what could have gone better and how many Jews are less than thrilled about our union. It’s not particularly apparent that we’re intermarried when we’re in public together, but I sometimes get the same feelings that an interracial couple might get when they receive stares from people who disapprove of “mixing the races” (and yes, it still happens). While I understand the perspectives of the Rabbis and realize the pitfalls of intermarriage, this is still my family and she is still my wife and all this is personal, not just some theoretical or theological puzzle to solve.

The irony is that it is because I’m intermarried that I dearly cling to my current perspective on the relationship of believing Jews and Gentiles in the body of Messiah, what we mean to each other, our roles, our understanding of Torah, and who we are in God. I’ve written whole commentaries based on our marriage such as Being Married to the Girl with the Jewish Soul and Cherishing Her Yiddisher Neshamah. Being a couple isn’t just a marital status, it is part of my very identity and woven into the fabric of my being.

julie-wienerThis isn’t to say that we don’t argue or that we have a perfect marriage. We aren’t perfect. We get on each other’s nerves and we both have our “moods,” but after over three decades of living together, sleeping together, raising three children together, playing with our grandson together, eating, cleaning, fighting, traveling, and making a home together, we’re together.

Among other resources, I follow Julie Wiener’s (her photo is on the left) In the Mix blog at The Jewish Week. Although I don’t have anything like the same intermarried experience Ms. Wiener and her husband (and children) have, it sometimes helps to realize that not only are there other intermarried couples out there, but that they’re not doing so badly either. Nearly a year ago, Wiener wrote a blog post called Shiny Happy Intermarried People.

The ending of that article goes like this:

Reminds me of when my “In the Mix” column first came out six years ago and a woman wrote to complain that it was bad enough I was writing in The Jewish Week about being intermarried, but the fact that I was happy — and actually smiling in my photo — was truly offensive.

Now, as you can imagine, I took issue with Alina using The Jewish Week as an example of media writing only negative things about intermarriage. Especially because the column she links to is Jack Wertheimer’s, which was a guest column and which I, a Jewish Week editor, responded to on The Jewish Week website, on THIS BLOG, which has as its sole focus realistically depicting intermarried life.

Not that I’m offended or anything, Alina. Just intrigued.

For any of you readers, Jewish or Christian (or anyone else) who are offended that I’m intermarried, have been intermarried for thirty years, and plan to stay intermarried to the same Jewish woman for the rest of my life, I am truly sorry. When we got married, neither one of us were religious and we didn’t give a second thought to what it would all mean ten, twenty, thirty or more years down the road. Maybe we should have, but we didn’t. Who knew?

But we are who we are and while you may complain about us, I insist that you don’t dismiss us. We’re here and we’re real. There are a lot of us and what was done cannot be undone, for good or for ill. Hopefully, we’ll have a seder in our home this year. I plan on going to Easter services at my church for the first time in many years. That may seem like a strange combination or an awful contradiction but it’s not. A Christian/Jewish intermarriage may not be the ideal circumstance and you may not want to experience it yourself. Our intermarriage has its pitfalls and trapdoors, but our marriage and our family isn’t strange or bizarre or bad. It’s just our life and its just who we are.

And God is still her God and my God and what He has brought together let no one tear apart.

Oh, and our thirty-first wedding anniversary is on Wednesday, April 3rd. Deal with it.

Tetzaveh: Our Children Are Watching

The Rebbe and the ChildA rabbi was sitting next to an atheist on an airplane. Every few minutes one of the rabbi’s children or grandchildren would inquire if they could bring him something to eat or drink or if there was anything they could do for him. The atheist commented, “It’s wonderful the respect your children and grandchildren show you; mine don’t show me that respect.” The rabbi responded, “Think about it. To my children and to my grandchildren, I am one step closer in a chain of tradition to the time when God spoke to the whole Jewish people on Mt. Sinai. To your children and grandchildren — unfortunately, you are considered to be one step closer to being an ape.”

Are children more inclined to respect their parents if they think they are one step closer to being an ape or if they believe that their parents are one step closer to being created by the Almighty who heard God speak?

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Commentary on Torah Portion Tetzaveh
Aish.com

No, I’m not taking a cheap shot at atheists but I would like to wake up a few religious people about the commandment to honor parents and what it all means. According to Rabbi Packouz, the original commandment regarding parents and the related scriptures (see Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, and Leviticus 19:13) actually describe two separate commandments:

We see from these verses that there are two mitzvot (commandments): 1) To honor your parents and 2) To revere your parents. Love motivates one to do positive things; fear keeps one from transgressing the negative.

We are to love and fear (revere) our parents. This may seem more apparent when one is a child. As an adult, we may still love our parents, but we typically don’t fear them anymore. After all, can an eighty year old father or mother send their fifty-eight year old son to “time out?”

But then again, we may be missing something about the full implications of this commandment.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV)

We have a Father in Heaven who we are also commanded to love. In fact, in some ways, it’s by having a Father on earth that we can even begin to conceptualize the Father in Heaven. Of course, the analogy is far from perfect. A human Father can be flawed, selfish, distracted, drunk, abusive, overbearing, hostile, wishy-washy, the list goes on. God is perfect and therefore, all of His actions toward us are perfect.

In quoting Rabbi Packouz above, I immediately thought that the Rabbi’s children would only see their Father as closer to God if he acted in a manner consistent with that impression. It’s not like all kids of all Rabbis, Pastors, and other clergy people offer their Dad’s equal reverence. Sometimes it has little to do with the sort of job the Dad has or what the family’s religious tradition is, but children very much are affected by what their father’s actually do, and mold their opinions about him and about Dads in general based whether or not he acts consistently with his stated principles and ideals.

And sometimes how we relate to our earthly Father is how we relate to our Father in Heaven. If we haven’t learned to respect, love, revere, and honor our own Father and Mother, what sort of model do we have for respecting, loving, revering, and honoring our Father in Heaven?

But then, it can work in the opposite way, too. I’ve heard stories of people who have had horrible and abusive Dads, Dads who have sexually molested their children, brutalized them, neglected them, abandoned them. And yet some of those kids have learned to trust their Father who is perfect in Heaven in spite of the cruelty they had to endure from their Father on earth.

children-watchingI don’t think the Rabbi and the other airplane passenger had different relationships with their children because the children of the former saw him as one step closer to God while the children of the latter saw him as one step closer to the apes. I think the difference is who each person was as a Father and a man and how each one of them treated his children and most likely his wife, the children’s mother. Children are more likely to respond by what they see their parents doing rather than what their parents say or who their parents even are (a Rabbi vs. an Atheist). It’s a little scary to think that how we relate to our kids may strongly affect how they relate to God.

But how we behave as a parent and as a human being depends on who we are, what we believe, and then how we choose to act out of all of that.

Gather together and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of days.

Genesis 49:1

Prior to his death, the Patriarch Jacob wished to disclose to his children the future of the Jewish nation. We know only too well what those prophecies were, and Jacob knew that revealing the enormous suffering that the Jews were destined to experience would be devastating to his children. The only way they could hear these things was if they “gathered together” and, by virtue of their unity, could share their strengths.

What was true for our ancestors holds true for us. Our strength and our ability to withstand the repeated onslaughts that mark our history lie in our joining together.

Jacob knew this lesson well. The Torah tells us that “Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25). Jacob discovered that he was vulnerable only when he remained alone.

Some people feel that they must be completely independent. They see reliance on someone else, be it others or God, as an indication of weakness. This destructive pride emanates from an unhealthy ego. [There is sometimes an] apparent paradox that a humble person is one who is actually aware of his strengths, and that feelings of inadequacy give rise to egocentricity and false pride.

Not only are we all mutually interdependent, the Torah further states that when we join together, our strengths are not only additive, but increase exponentially (Rashi, Leviticus 26:8). Together, we can overcome formidable challenges.

Today I shall…

…try to join with others in strengthening Judaism and in resisting those forces that threaten spirituality.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Adar 9”
Aish.com

Part of the Rabbi’s “success” as a father in the original quote was his perception of himself as a Rabbi and as a Jewish man. Without his sense of spirituality and his identity as a Jew who is connected to all other Jews, both in the present, and back across history, how he would behave as a Father and how his children would respond to him might be very different. It might also be very different how his children would choose (or if they would choose) to respond to God.

If you’re a parent, teaching your children about the commandments related to honoring and revering you as parents (which extends also to how they should respond to their grandparents) is a very good thing, but you may be having a much greater impact on your kids than you might imagine. In forging a relationship with your children, teaching them what God expects of parents and children, you are also teaching them what they should expect from God and how to respond to Him as a Father.

family-praying-picnicAs a Christian and a parent, you have a specific identity and source to draw from to define yourself and to define the relationship you have with your children based on what you know of God from His Spirit and from the Bible. While the Rabbi’s children were born Jewish (assuming they had a Jewish mother, and I think this is likely), a Christian’s children aren’t “born Christian.” A Christian doesn’t inherit his or her relationship with God the way a Jew does. Although Jewish children can, Heaven forbid, choose to reject their relationship with God and with Judaism, children born of Christian parents are one more step removed because every Christian must choose their path in life, including a path of faith. It’s even more important for us as parents and grandparents to behave in accordance with our stated beliefs and our faith because unless our children actually see that, we have no hope of transmitting Christian faith to the next generation. Even Jewish parents have a tough time transmitting Jewish faith and values to the next generation, so you can imagine what challenges there are for Christian parents.

That’s why we must make sure that God is continually with us so that our children can see that holiness is our constant companion.

When someone walks the street and thinks words of Mishna or Tanya, or sits in his store with a Chumash or Tehillim – that is more valued today than it was when the streets were bright with the light of Torah. We must not go about in the street with a vacant heart. We must have some Torah memorized, to take with us into the street.

“Today’s Day”
Sunday, 9 Adar I, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

For a Christian, that means living, eating, reading, and breathing our faith, spending time in the Bible, associating with friends who are believers, and behaving in every aspect of our lives in complete consistency with what we know we should be doing as a Christian. This is also why it is vitally important for Jewish parents to perform the mitzvot, regularly daven, recite the Shema, and keep kosher.

No pressure, eh?

But what choice do we have? After all, our children are watching.

Good Shabbos.

On the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade

unborn-babyI was still an atheist and a liberal when my wife became pregnant with our twin sons (now 26 years old). That’s when I started questioning my assumptions about abortion. From the start, my wife and I started relating emotionally to our child (we didn’t know she was having twins until about twenty weeks gestation) as a personality. I started bonding and loving long, long before they were born. I just couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams ending their lives at any stage, including before birth. How could I do that?

I know that, in theory, the pro-abortion advocates are supporting “pro-choice.” That is, when a woman becomes pregnant, she can choose to go through being pregnant and give birth, or she can choose to have her unborn child medically “terminated.” But let’s look at this. My guess is that most people who are pro-choice are either parents or will be parents someday. They don’t hate children and they don’t hate people who love their own children. They see their position as one where they want to have control of when they become parents.

But let’s say that the first time a woman becomes pregnant, for whatever reason, she doesn’t want to have the child (financial difficulties, under-age, unmarried…) and has an abortion. In order to be able to successfully have an abortion, she cannot relate to her unborn child as a child. She has to relate to it as a “thing.” Otherwise, how could she go through with it?

So she has the abortion. A few years later, she purposefully becomes pregnant and begins bonding with her child from the first moment she discovers she’s pregnant, probably within just a few weeks of conception. How can she decide to love one child from the very beginning but totally emotionally and physically disregard the other child? The abortion industry has been very successful in selling this strange dichotomy and mindset, but to me, it is so completely alien.

What’s the difference between a precious unborn baby and a fetus (a term which is used as a synonym for “thing”)? The only difference is that the first is wanted and the second is not. No quality the unborn child possesses makes it more or less worthy of life in the mother’s eyes or in any pro-choice advocate’s eyes. More’s the pity.

I wrote the above commentary on Facebook after reading a New York Times blog post on the topic. In consulting the blog again, I ran across this comment:

We fought and (thought we had) won the war against compulsory childbearing decades ago, so that our daughters would have agency over their own bodies and the ability to make decisions about their health care without government interference. Just as we fought for our daughters’ right to apply to medical school, and law school, and to compete fairly for jobs in any number of professions. We fought for our own and our daughters’ right to own real estate, to buy and own stocks and have bank accounts and credit in their own name, to be free of groping and sexual demands on the job, or to keep a job.

These battles were won within my adult lifetime. And our daughters don’t know a time when they couldn’t not open a bank account, buy a home, attend the medical school of their choice, be a bartender or carpenter or police officer as well as a barmaid.

I think we who fought the battles got complacent, or just plain tired. Maybe the neanderthal right has done us a favor this past election season, reminding us and our daughters and granddaughters that freedom and liberty must be constantly nurtured and protected like a perfect rose.

The phrase “compulsory childbearing” in the above empassioned declaration caught my attention, as if people or organizations outside of the woman’s control were somehow forcing them to engage in sex, become pregnant, and have children against their will. I could go on and I know this is a complex subject, so I won’t say too much more. Some believers treat all this as black-and-white without seeing the anguish many women go through when facing the decision of whether or not to abort their children. A woman having an abortion isn’t a terrible or bad person, she’s someone facing a very difficult choice, and one that is not as simple and clear cut as either the pro-abortion or the pro-life movements make it out to be.

I used to work at a Suicide Prevention hotline in Berkeley in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I typically worked midnight until 8 a.m., so I spoke with many people who felt all alone in the night. Sometimes, I would end up talking to a woman who would be crying inconsolably (there were more than just a few of them) because she had just done the unthinkable sometime yesterday…killed her unborn child.

Nat'l Organization For Women Marks Roe V. Wade Anniversary At Supreme CourtThis is the side of Roe vs. Wade that the media, the abortion industry, and the “pro-choice” political advocates never talk about. What it does to a woman after the abortion is over. What is it like when you have exercised what you’ve been told are your “reproductive rights,” taken control of your own body and your own destiny, done what fifty plus years of modern feminism have told you that you must do when you are pregnant and you don’t want to be, and had an abortion? What is it like after it’s all over, the “medical procedure” was successfully performed, you’ve gone back to your home, and you have time to realize what just happened? You’re alone now. It’s the middle of the night, but you can’t sleep. You always imagined having children someday and you know someday you will. But there is one little cry in the night you’ll never hear, one voice you’ll never respond to, one baby you will never feed and comfort. There is one child you’ll never nurture, support, love, hug, kiss, cherish, and help grow and thrive.

What about him? What about her? Your baby wasn’t an “it.” Your baby was a little boy or a little girl. What would you have named him? What would you have called her?

“Happy Anniversary,” Roe vs. Wade. In forty years, how many mother’s hearts have you broken? How many babies never took their first breath because of you and because of the illusion that you’ve drawn over the eyes of all their mothers? How many? Why is this a good thing?

Why?

Addendum: The Woman Behind “Roe” and why she has dedicated her life to overturning Roe vs. Wade.