Rabbi Tarfon would say: …It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.
—Pirkei Avot 2:21
Being at a bit of a loss for this week’s blog post, I asked my almost-eleven-year-old son for his favorite Jewish tradition, as practiced by our family. He pondered for one short “Hmm,” then said, “I think it’s when we put a dollar in the tzedaka box every Friday.”
And suddenly I had a lot to write about: that doing good carries the immense satisfaction of righting wrongs and seeing one’s impact on the world; that giving empowers children; and more.
I mention my son’s age because developmentally, the tween years mark a break with childhood and its securities. Suddenly, family and school are not enough: kids need to know that they can effect change, true change, in the myriad injustices they see around them. Ideally, school and family become a platform for them to affect the larger world. The desire to have a personal hand in Tikkun Olam, the repair of Creation, is increasingly urgent at this age, which is why many middle schools have mandatory volunteer programs—perhaps my favorite oxymoron. And this is a good thing, because kids this age often feel very keenly the frustration of not acting, or doing not enough, which may perhaps contribute to the common adolescent conviction that parents just don’t understand. How could they, when they are content sit still in the face of much injustice?
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Tilia is the author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time, “a tense debut action-thriller that hinges on a pair of related kidnappings.”–Kirkus.
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