I know you are already thinking about your schedules and the kids’ schedules for the coming year. And I know that these can be rather complicated. I also know that your time is limited, and so often you feel like you’re rushing from place to place. One of the things that challenges us in life is to consider the meaning of what we do, what the implications are for the things that we busy ourselves with, and the results of all of this.
Being around here, I see a lot of parents who love their children so much, want to provide the best for them, and really sacrifice for them. Most of you think a lot about how you can provide the best opportunities for your kids. What can you give them that will allow them to be most successful in their lives?
There is an aphorism: Man does not live by bread alone. Did you know that this well-known expression comes from the Torah? In fact it comes from this week’s reading. The literal meaning is obvious. We need to have more than just our hunger fulfilled to live. And the Torah refers to what that “more” is – a sense of God in our lives, responsiveness to his commandments, and appreciation for what we have and where we are.
I was thinking about how this relates to the way we raise our kids. We all want our children to feel a sense of personal comfort and belonging. We need to find ways for our kids to feel connected to something larger themselves, to develop a spiritual life, and grow to be giving and kind human beings. We want them to have a sense of appreciation for who they are, what they receive, and for life itself. We know that parenting involves more than feeding, clothing and providing comfortable surroundings. How do we indicate purpose and encourage lives of meaning?
I’d be presumptuous if I thought I could teach this in a single column. But I do think about the ways we can achieve some of this. And I offer a simple suggestion, just a beginning. Friday night services are a time for a family to be with community in prayer and song. We express gratitude. The services are only one hour long, but a commitment to this on a weekly basis can create a point of order to the passage of time. We relate to something bigger – a community, a people, and a day of holiness. If you don’t know the words, they are there in translation and transliteration. And with repetition, week after week, they become familiar.
A commitment to this may change something in you and in your family. The very act of going because “this is what we do” teaches a great deal to your children. It’s a statement of value and meaning.
I hope to see you in shul this week, or next, or throughout the year. And it’s fine if your kids make noise and come in and out…just being here is important.
We don’t live by bread alone. We need to uncover meaning and connections to something more than the material and greater then ourselves.
Rabbi David Steinhardt
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l