Posted Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman
I had just picked up the kids, and we were en route to their favorite after-school snack spot when we noticed the American flag flying over the post office. "Hey," my daughter asked, "why is the flag only halfway up the pole?" Because, I answered, it's the one-year anniversary of the day Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.
But what could I say after that?
My kids are old enough to know the facts about Hurricane Sandy - and about the school shootings in Newtown, and the Boston Marathon bombing, and the mall attack in Kenya, and the thousand other terrible things reminding us that the world is not worthy of our precious children. When they were younger, I struggled with how to share such news with them (in another post, I'll offer the guidelines that have worked for our family) - but even now, when they can access and assimilate the information themselves, my kids still need me to help them understand.
Which is hard, because we may not understand these things ourselves. Confronting evil and suffering - well, that's about as tough as it gets. Judaism has grappled with this issue for thousands of years; and though our sages have come up with many responses, not a single one has emerged as the definitive answer. So when our kids ask us why things like Hurricane Sandy happen, why people set off bombs at sporting events, why adults kill schoolchildren, and we say, "I don't understand" - that's actually a pretty Jewish reply. Because we don't understand.
But our reply can't end there. Because not understanding the deeper theological significance of an event isn't an excuse for failing to confront that event. We may not be able to explain to our kids - or to ourselves - why there is evil in the world; but we can tell them this. We can tell them that even though awful things happen, the universe - and God Who created it, and humanity that fills it - are good. We can tell them that when we feel overwhelmed by the suffering of others, that's our cue to see how we can help. We can tell them that - in the amazing words of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav - while the entire world is a very narrow bridge, the essential thing is to have no fear at all.
We can teach our kids that it's okay to wonder, to question, to feel uncertainty and doubt. We can tell them that's what Jews have done for thousands of years. And maybe we can even bring comfort to them - and to ourselves - by echoing these poignant and beautiful words of our suffering, wondering Psalmist:
For the leader. A psalm of David.
How long, Eternal One?! Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I have cares in my soul, grief in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy loom over me?
Look, answer me, O Eternal One, my God!
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes exult when I stumble.
But I trust in Your faithfulness.
My heart will exult in Your deliverance.
I will sing to the Eternal One, Who has dealt bountifully with me.
A song of ascents.
I lift my eyes to the mountains - from where will my help come?
My help will come from the Eternal One, Maker of heaven and earth.
God will not allow your foot to slip; your Guardian does not slumber.
Indeed, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
The Eternal One is your Guard, your shelter at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Eternal One will guard you from all evil; God will guard your soul.
The Eternal One will guard your coming in and your going out, now and forever.
12.6.13 at 8:10 am | This Shabbat, Jews all over the world will read. . .
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11.11.13 at 4:55 pm | Tens of thousands dead. Communities destroyed.. . . (26)
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12.6.13 at 8:10 am | This Shabbat, Jews all over the world will read. . . (9)
October 25, 2013 | 9:29 am
Posted Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman
I am a rabbi, married to another rabbi, and completely committed to giving our kids a childhood built on Judaism and Jewish values.
Having said that, I must confess: I love Halloween.
When my oldest son was not yet one, we dressed him in a pumpkin costume and took him around the neighborhood on Halloween evening. He could not yet say "trick or treat," and he fell asleep on my shoulder halfway around the block, but that didn't stop me. He has experienced Halloween every year since (mostly staying awake, I am glad to report), and so have his younger brother and sister. We choose costumes, we decorate the house, we eat too much candy, we even have Halloween parties. And like most families, we have a blast.
We don't, however, celebrate Halloween just as a family. We celebrate it as a Jewish family.
I know that might sound crazy, but bear with me. While I am well aware of Halloween's origins, I reject the idea that by trick-or-treating and watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, my family is somehow partaking in a Christian or pagan festival of the dead. Halloween has morphed into a secular holiday; just as our ancestors adopted some distinctly non-Jewish customs and made them part of Jewish tradition (did you know, for example, that bagels originated in sixteenth-century Poland as a counterpart to a type of bread eaten during Lent?), so have Americans made Halloween a part of childhood.
So my kids celebrate Halloween. But they celebrate it in the context of a year of Jewish holidays: We decorate the house for Halloween, yes, but we also decorate it for Rosh Hashanah, hanging up their drawings of shofars and handmade "Shanah Tovah!" cards from years past. We invite friends over for Halloween parties, yes; but we also invite them over to eat in our sukkah or to enjoy dinner and havdalah on Saturday nights. We dress up for Halloween, but also for Purim. And in an unbelievable occurrence, my oldest son even found at a local party store - amid the bags of skeleton, ghoul, and cowboy costumes - a "High Priest of Israel" costume complete with a headpiece spelling out "Kohen Gadol," "High Priest" in Hebrew. It was even spelled correctly!
And even Halloween can become a little bit Jewish. How? Pumpkin bread can stand in for traditional challah on the Shabbat before Halloween. When your kids are picking out costumes, you can use Jewish values of respect and modesty to steer them away from garb that is too revealing or too over-the-top disgusting. When you're at the grocery store choosing the candy you want to hand out that year, stop in the canned food aisle and choose some nonperishables to donate to your local food bank as well - and remind your kids of Judaism's emphasis on tzedakah and caring for those in need. When you sit down to enjoy your loot, say the appropriate blessing ("Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she'hakol nihiye bidvaro, Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, by Whose word everything comes into being") before you dive in. And if your dentist is one of the many health care providers offering a "buy-back" program - where you hand in your candy in exchange for some money - consider earmarking the money for tzedakah, and letting your kids decide to which charitable organization they'd like to donate it.
One final thought as this Shabbat before Halloween approaches: Shabbat is a great time to share Jewish stories, traditions, and learning...so on this Shabbat, why not choose a topic with some spooky overtones? David Wisniewski's Caldecott Award-winning children's book Golem and Elie Wiesel and Mark Podwal's King Solomon and His Magic Ring have impeccable Jewish credentials - along with plenty of magic, mystery, and monsters worthy of any Halloween celebration.
Happy Halloween - and Shabbat Shalom!
October 23, 2013 | 8:07 pm
Posted Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman
My three kids and I made it out the door on time this morning - and, yes, I will happily accept congratulations for this not-always-the-case occurrence! The ride to school went smoothly, and one of our favorite safety-patrollers was on duty as my kids tumbled out of the car, meeting up with friends and chatting they entered the building. A completely easy, successful dropoff, and a great way for me to begin my own day.
Until I noticed that my son had left his lunch in the car.
I was only two minutes away from school, and my first meeting wasn't until nine - I could easily swing back to school and drop it off for him, right?
Well, not so much. Because my son started middle school this year, and that changes everything.
Just last year, he was still an elementary-schooler - a fifth-grader who, it was understood, would occasionally leave lunches, books, and assignments at home, and whose parents would bring them to school if at all possible. Last month, I executed that same move when he left his social studies binder in the laundry room; dutifully taking the binder to school, I left it at the front desk for him to grab before class - but when he got in the car at pickup that day, my son had some news for me:
"Thanks for bringing me the binder," he said, "but my teacher wants me to tell you that you can't do that again. He says I need to accept the consequences when I forget something instead of letting you rescue me."
I often wrestle with the line between taking care of my kids and fostering their resourcefulness, between doing nice things for them and infantilizing them, between relishing their fleeting childhoods and stifling their independence. They are, my daughter informs me, the only kids in their classes expected to make their own lunches; according to my oldest, no one else in the school has to do regular chores like take out the garbage, load and unload the dishwasher, and check if the car tires are properly inflated. They are allowed to eat (organic) mac and cheese whenever they want, provided they cook it and clean up themselves, and I have been known to let them wander the grocery store or mall instead of gluing them to me as I shop. However, I spend way too much time putting away their socks, as well as looking for books engaging enough that they'll snuggle up on the couch and ask me to read just one more chapter.
But here was a line I'd clearly missed: the line between mom and middle-schooler. And every fiber in my Jewish mother-being was urging me to turn the car around and bring my son his lunch (he'll be hungry! They'll rustle up a few crackers and sugar-added jelly, when he could be eating organic yogurt, a banana, and even some carrots!) I wondered if Jewish teaching would provide me with a rationale (an excuse?) for circumventing my son's teacher's decree..
After all, Judaism clearly states that adulthood begins at the age of thirteen for boys (only twelve for girls - but that's another conversation!) Surely at eleven, my son was still a child - a child who would benefit from his parent's ministrations, a child young enough to be "rescued" by his lunch-toting mom, right? Think of our matriarch Sarah, so intent on protecting her son Isaac that she cast Ishmael into the wilderness, and our matriarch Rebekah, who tricked her own husband in order to secure a blessing for her beloved Jacob - what would they think of me if I let some arbitrary rule stand between my son and his lunch?
Except that maybe it wasn't so arbitrary. While the significance of Bar Mitzvah - and the idea that a thirteen-year-old can be counted as an adult - may lack meaning in our day-to-day secular lives (have you seen that great Jewish haiku? "Today I am a man/Tomorrow I return/To the seventh grade"), our ancient rabbis were onto something in seeing adolescents as more than mere children. While a thirteen-year-old may not be able to vote, or drive, or even iron their own clothes without assistance, they are ready to become more autonomous, more self-reliant, more helper than helpee. They are ready to proclaim who they are, to forge an identity, to take responsibility.
Is my son is going to be ready for that in a year and a half? Probably not if I continue to bail him out, smooth his path, shield him from consequences. So (forgive me, mother Sarah), I continued on my way, stuck the lunch in the refrigerator for tomorrow, and let my son fend for himself.
When my son came home from school today, he was, he told me, "super-hungry." I bet you are, I said. I noticed you left your lunch in the car.
"Yeah," he replied. "I didn't get anything to eat."
"That must have been tough," I commiserated.
"It was." He patted his stomach and picked up a magazine. "I'm going to make sure I remember my lunch tomorrow."
October 18, 2013 | 11:28 am
Posted Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman
Every Friday, I'll be offering a story, recipe, suggestion, or idea to inspire you and your family to make the coming Shabbat extra special - and for this first "Shabbat Shalom!" post, I thought I would offer a snapshot of what Shabbat looks like in my home.
My husband and I are both rabbis, and he serves a congregation - which means that Shabbat dinner is not a traditionally long, relaxed, and leisurely meal for us and our three kids. (Shabbat rest is important, of course, but so is his showing up for services on time, and with a good sermon prepared to boot!) While trying to balance a family Shabbat experience with one parent's commitment to leading a synagogue is not the most common scenario, ithe challenges it presents are actually pretty typical: With the many obligations we have, and the many demands on our time we face, is it really possible to set aside one day - or even one meal - as sacred time?
You probably won't be surprised to hear that I answer that question with a "yes." But I'm also pretty liberal in what qualifies as "sacred time" - and I urge you to think that way as well. While an extended Shabbat meal of homemade delicacies served on a beautifully-set table, consumed as participants talk about the weekly Torah portion and other topics of Jewish interest, sounds totally amazing (sign me up if you do this and are looking for a new guest!), there are many other ways that we can make Shabbat holy and special "sacred time" for ourselves and for our families. Don't be afraid to start small; instead of thinking, "I can't do Shabbat, I don't even light the candles," well, try lighting the candles! Even if one parent gets home late from work, it's well after sunset and the kids have already eaten, still bring the family together to kindle the Shabbat lights in a darkened room. It is beautiful, and you and your kids will love the sense of closeness and magic that emanates from those flames. If you don't have the time or the interest to cook a full Shabbat dinner, set aside an easy-to-make (or easy-to-carry-out) dish that the family enjoys as a Shabbat treat. And if you're already "doing" Shabbat, consider enhancing your celebration with new ritual objects created by your kids (I'll provide ideas in future posts) or deepening the mood around the Shabbat table by talking about the week's Torah portion, sharing family stories, or even singing a new Shabbat song (guiding questions and resources will come in future weeks)
With our overwhelmingly busy and secular lives, we may have a hard time remembering that a day of rest and holiness is our birthright as Jews. But it is! Claiming Shabbat and making Shabbat may feel intimidating - but we may find that one small step leads to another, and to another - and that each of those steps brings its own joy, and its own meaning, and its own reward. My Friday posts will be all about exploring and taking those steps - and about wishing you and yours "Shabbat Shalom!" - a Shabbat of peace, happiness, and abundant blessing.
October 15, 2013 | 12:14 pm
Posted Elaine Rose Glickman
Welcome to Sacred Parenting!
I’m Elaine Rose Glickman – a rabbi, an author, and a mother of three (fabulous) children –and I’m delighted to introduce my new blog. The blog takes its name from my book Sacred Parenting: Jewish Wisdom and Practical Guidance for Your Family’s Early Years, which combines insights from Jewish tradition with modern best practices to help us parent with spirituality, mindfulness, and partnership with God.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? And – I admit – a little vague. So let me offer some specifics:
- Biblical verses that guide us to set reasonable but firm boundaries, to speak gently but effectively, and to see in our precious children the very image of God
- Handy phrases to stop whining, fussing, and backtalk (really!)
- Advice for every age and stage – rooted in Jewish traditions thousands of years old, but incredibly timely for parents making their way through the 21st century
- Fun family activities that will instill Jewish values like generosity, justice, and respect for all living creatures
- Crafts, recipes, discussion topics, books, and fresh ideas to make Shabbat and Jewish holidays meaningful, joyful, and special for your family
- Guidance in talking with our children about big and difficult issues – from death and illness to war and terrorism to bullying and cruelty
- And – most of all – thoughts, ideas, stories, and experiences that have impacted me in my parenting – and that I hope will engage, intrigue, and inspire you in yours
I am proud to share that Sacred Parenting was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and that I’ve served as an advice columnist for a parenting magazine as well as a parenting authority on a syndicated television talk show. I also chair an award-winning preschool in my home state of Florida and have taught and created curricula for children of all ages –from toddlers through teens. And as a mother of three, I have seen (most of) it all – from refusing vegetables and peeing in the ball pit to sticking up for a picked-on friend and setting the table for Shabbat dinner without being asked!
I love being a parent and view parenting as a holy endeavor; and I am eager to share the joys and the challenges, the moments of wonder and the moments of, well, less than wonderfulness in Sacred Parenting. Please join me as I begin blogging this fall!
Wishing your family good health, happiness, and abundant blessing,