Saturday, January 4, 2014

V'Higad'ta L'Vincha: What Will We Teach Our Children?

It's a New Year.  As we sit here early in January of 2014, the blank calendar pages point to a year of opportunities ahead of us.  At the same time, we can look back on the past year and marvel at what happened- what we were pleased with, what we wish we could have done differently.

And as the secular calendar gives us this opportunity, so, too, does our reading of Torah.  This week, as we considered Parashat Bo, we read of the preparations for the Exodus.  The Israelites are told that in future generations, they will continue to reenact the experience of departing Egypt.  And when their children inquire about their past, the Israelites are told, "V'higad'ta l'vincha bayom hahu: You shall teach it to your child on that day."  The Torah also is asking us to reflect on the past and to use it to help shape the future.

So what will we teach our children?  How will we learn from our past and impart lessons that will help create the mensches of the future?  In looking back on the past year, we have several examples- some positive, some negative- from whom to learn.

Will we teach our children to embrace our sacred scripture in a way that encourages them to seek and celebrate the best in each individual, and to look out for the less fortunate in our communities, or will we let them hide behind scripture as an excuse for bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and classism?

Will we teach our children to deal compassionately with those facing the challenges of mental illness, or will we sweep it under the rug, praying that it will have no impact on our lives?

Will we teach our children to recognize that too many people are dying as a result of preventable violence, or will we continue the fetishization of guns in our culture?

Will we teach our children that women and men have equal value in our society, or will we tacitly condone the continued objectification of females in American society?

Will wze and vilify any whose opinion differs from their own?

Will we teach our children to seek peace and pursue it  or will future generations continue to engage in meaningless warfare?

Will we teach our children the art of listening, negotiation, and compromise, or will we permit them to demonize and vilify any whose opinion differs from their own?

May we learn to teach our children well, and may they be inspired to heed our lessons.

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