Sage is six years old. He’s a cheery fellow who has a good time wherever he goes. This past weekend he started his second year of Sunday school, where he spends about three hours at our synagogue mostly learning about Jewish holidays and the Hebrew alphabet. He’s also learned the Shabbat blessings and a couple of key prayers.
I don’t get the sense that they talk about God a lot, although of course it comes up. He’s never asked about it. Never pressed me on what it is or whether we believe in it. He never uses the term. I think the topic floats right over his head which is mostly filled with fantasies of fishing, boating, and biking.
Fine with me. I have no idea how to talk to my children about God.
Wendy Mogel, a Jewish clinical psychologist and author of the book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, suggests that parents say something like, “Just as a candle hidden from view sheds its glow all around, we can see God in God’s reflection: in the good things people do for one another, in the miracles of nature, in our ability to change and grow.”
I don’t see why those things can’t stand for themselves.
I understand that there are mysteries about life that people want explained. There is an intangible connection between human beings. Kindness, helpfulness, concern, these all strengthen that connection and that is good. Well, it feels good at least. But I don’t need to call that God. Maybe someday I will.
As for nature, it takes me two seconds to think of the “miracles” of Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti last January. Nature can be extraordinarily beautiful in ways big and small, but its forces can also be brutal and cruel. I am on this planet in awe of how we all got here, but however it happened it’s not warm and fuzzy.
Our ability to change and grow. This one holds some appeal for me. That is the nature of life, that it changes. It is impermanent, as the Buddha said.
One thing I do know is that unless I make some sense of this religion, the best I can hope for is that my kids will feel the same vague connection to Judaism that I do, based on enough time spent in Hebrew school and the enjoyment of holidays celebrated with our family. Then when they grow up, it will up to them to decide whether it matters. I fear it is not enough.