Judy Elkin, an educator in the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens program, shares a slice of her experience teaching the Needham class this year.
We all love to tell stories. Stories of exhilaration, near calamities, acts of heroism, all of these are opportunities to reconnect to precious moments. And so we began our Ikkarim class on marriage by telling each other the story of how we met our partners. If you were to have dropped in, you would have seen men and women in small groups of 3, telling each other the stories of how they fell in love, when they “knew” he/she was “the one” and what they most appreciate about their partner. Starting in this way not only helped us jump into our first text of the evening, but also served as a reminder that our relationships are precious – something worth remembering, especially when things get tough.
So, when we encountered the first midrashic text (itself an ancient rabbinic story) about how since creating the world God’s essentially been a matchmaker, we immediately had a point of reference. The text ends like this: “You might think the arranging of marriages is an easy task. But for God it is as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea.” Whether or not you believe God really did create the world, or split the Red Sea really isn’t important here. What is important, and what the class began to wrestle with, is how Judaism understands committed relationships. Implicit in this story is an understanding that it’s not simple. It’s not a given. So we asked ourselves, is it “miraculous” when people find each other and create strong marriages? And how do we find ways to nurture our relationship for ourselves and for the sake of our kids? Because ultimately we hope our kids will one day tell someone else how they first knew that their partner was just the right person for them.
For more information about Parenting Through a Jewish Lens, a program of Hebrew College and CJP’s Commission on Jewish Life and Learning, visit www.hebrewcollege.edu/parenting or contact Elisha Gechter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-559-8733 and check us out on facebook