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July 18, 1986 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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,4:6,

old learns to wash the hands
ritually, and to go to shul on
Shabbat; a five- or six-year-
old begins to read Hebrew
and English at the same time;
at seven or eight, our children
lit their own Hanukkah can-
dles; ten-year-old bravado
was to fast half a day on Yom
Kippur. And then there was
the whole matter of teaching
kashrut, of distinguishing
permissible from non-permis-
sible foods. It is a process
that began at a very early
age.
It would have seemed like
more of a burden, this extra
responsibility of transmitting
tradition to our children; yet
it actually lightened the
parenting load.
It has worked in several
ways:
As "authentic bearer of the
tradition," a parent becomes
something beyond himself or
herself. Heightened stature is
automatically conferred upon
one through whom the collec-
tive wisdom of past genera-
tions is transmitted. It isn't
so formidable or overpower-
ing that a child crumbles
beneath its weight. Rather, it
broadens, deepens, and adds
to the relationship a measure
of dignity.
Moreover, to communicate
a system of dos and don'ts re-
quires a parent to assume an
air of authority. It is all quite
matter-of-fact; it is also non-
negotiable. Explanation, pa-
tience, educational leeway—
but no negotiation regarding
ritual. Communicating Jew-

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26

Friday, July 18, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

ish values and teaching ritual
brought us closer to our
children, but it also helped us
create a parental stance of
loving authority. This was
more helpful for us, for we
began our parenting years in
a sociological climate of pal-
parenting. I believe it is
easier for children to grow up
with parents who function
primarily as parents rather
than than as pals.

It is easier
for children
to grow up
with parents
who
function
primarily as
parents
rather than
as pals.

Another positive spinoff
for children raised in the
tradition lies in the formation
of balanced self-definition,
not always easy to form. A
beloved child ought to pro-
perly feel that he or she is the
center of the universe. But a
growing awareness of the
centrality of tradition in a
Jew's life—i.e., that "there is
something else at the center

besides me"—helps trim the
egocentric edges. As is true
of most things in life, the
sense of self is a dialectical
process. What constitutes a
healthy self-definition? In
this pocket, "for me alone the
whole world was created"; in
the other pocket, "I am but
dust and ashes."
Our children did something
very special for us: they con-
nected us to our past. They
accomplished this in a steady,
even rhythm, simply by the
fact of their lives. They did it
as well in the high emotion of
peak experiences. Each of
them individually and all of
them together generated
within us an intense sensa-
tion of being part of the
Jewish people, going all the
way back through history. I
am sure that every Jewish
parent has experienced, at
one time or another, these
feelings of continuity, of
connection—emotions so
powerful that they are often
unutterable and find expres-
sion only in a tug of the heart
or the brimming of an eye.
I know not what triggers
these emotions. Indeed, their
timing is highly unpredict-
able. Why it happens at a
second-grade chumash (Bible)
ceremony more powerfully
than at a family Seder, I shall
never know. Why I found
myself in a state of Jewish
euphoria at the birth of a se-
cond child, who is no more
and no less beloved than any
of the others, will forever re-
main a mystery to me. Per-

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