The received wisdom for Jewish parents is not to dilute, pollute or mix traditions. Christmas is such a joy bully, if you let any of it in the door, Chanukah will be blown out the window. But just as Republicans don't own family values, Christians haven't appropriated winter gladness and glitter.
When stuck with a rebellious child, gluttonous and thieving, the Torah has a tidy solution: Kill him. Or her.
Have you noticed more and more lately that your child is engrossed in a constant, beeping dialogue with her computer?
"The Blessing of a Broken Heart" gives the struggle a precious face and, at the same time, illustrates the power of Jewish faith, ritual and community to heal.
Two forces in our culture are at odds here -- the desire to respectfully accommodate differences, and the ease with which we claim victimhood for ourselves and for our children.
Forty days before a child is born, a voice from heaven announces: "The daughter of this person is destined for [so-and-so]." --
Babylonian Talmud, Sotah
Somewhere in America, a few high school students made a porno video, "by accident" they said, starring themselves. Whatever it was, a couple of kids were fooling around, and someone else had a camera. They showed the tape in the locker room and what followed was, of course, a big scandal. Somewhere else in America, there was an eighth-grade party, mom or dad took pictures, and when the photos came back from the lab, you could see two partygoers having oral sex near the shrubbery in the background of one of the shots. What upset the parents most was that the students weren't even trying to hide.
Here's a thought for Passover: We are Pharaohs to our children. We have made them our slaves. Their mud bricks are the books that fill 30-pound backpacks. Their mortar is four hours of homework every night. The straw we deny is sleep. Ask child therapists across the country about the headaches and self-starvation, and the girls who make shallow cuts in their wrists to "let the pressure out, to feel on the outside the pain I feel on the inside." Ask the school counselors about how teenagers use drugs and sex to try to escape. Ask the pediatricians and chiropractors about what those 30-pound loads have done to the children's posture. Ask the college admissions office about their nicknames for incoming students: "crispies," the 18-year-olds too fried from high school to function at college, and "teacups," freshmen too fragile to manage on their own without their parents, tutors and housekeepers.
We are all going crazy. That Tuesday I woke up my 10-year-old by telling her, "Terrorists flew planes into buildings in New York and Washington, D.C., this morning," carried her downstairs half-asleep and sat her in front of the television just in time to watch the north tower fall. Before bedtime I did a little show-and-tell presenting her with an old photo I had downloaded from the Web: Osama bin Laden from the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list complete with height, weight and a $5 million reward. Why did I do this? I don't know.
The beginning of the new school year radically increases the frequency of beeps, clicks, buzzes, rings and stutter dials in my home. My stack of unreturned phone calls is beginning to teeter. Reflecting on these mixed blessings, I am reminded of an incident from way back in the pre-history of July.
As fall approaches, many of us are forced to turn our thoughts to selecting a private day school for our children.
No matter how often they are warned by teachers to let their children do the science projects, many parents just can't let go.