Raising Jewish children isn’t easy. Not only is there so much to know (prayers, songs, recipes, and rituals) and so much to do (celebrating holidays, teaching our children, and learning how to *not do* on Shabbat), but we’re doing it all in the diaspora, minorities in a majority culture.
I thought I was the only one who found it hard. I thought all of the other parents out there knew how to do this stuff, how to celebrate Shabbat on Friday nights or put together a Passover craft for an entire preschool class. I assumed it was just because I was raised in a secular home; although I have spent the past 15 years catching up on my Jewish education, I don’t have the experience of being a Jewish child. I often feel like I’m starting from scratch.
Fortunately, I have a supportive, engaged husband with a strong Jewish upbringing. That helps a lot. We belong to Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, a participatory and accessible congregation. That also helps. Yet I still felt alone in my experience of not knowing enough, not doing enough, not being a good enough Jewish parent.
That changed when I participated in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens this past fall. Not only did I continue my Jewish education, but I also learned three important lessons: First, I actually know more than I ever realized; second, no matter how much you know, there is always so much more to learn, and third, I am definitely not alone in feeling inadequate when it comes to running a Jewish home and raising Jewish children. The women in our class were open and honest about their experiences, and I am so grateful for their willingness to share their own struggles and challenges.
As we approach Shavuot in just a few more weeks, I can’t help but remember what the Jews said when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai: “na’aseh v’nishma” (“we will do and we will understand”). Scholars much smarter than me have pointed to this as a guide for Jewish living; we are to perform the mitzvot first, and the knowledge and wisdom will follow.
My participation in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens helped build my confidence in my own ability to continue down the path of Jewish parenting, even if I don’t always know exactly what I am doing, or why I am doing it.
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