Although speaking and writing for Jewish parents has been my line of work for over 10 years, whenever I begin with a new audience, I feel the need to turn to the One Above and offer a prayer that these words and ideas take on the special meaning that they are intended to have.
And so…May these words be received in loving-kindness and with the sweetness of babies’ laughter. May these ideas ease into the depth of our parenting hearts, with the seriousness and intensity that motivates young students in their studies. May you all be blessed with humor and joy, as well as deep strength and wisdom. And may we all parent our precious children so that they turn into beautiful gems.
‘Education’ is one of the most quintessential of Jewish goals. “My son, the doctor”, “My daughter, the lawyer”, “My nephew, the architect”, “My granddaughter, the psychiatrist”, “My grandson, the Talmud Chochem” (Torah scholar). What nice Jewish family doesn’t send their children for higher education? Whether it is to rabbinical school, or for university degrees, Jews top the statistics, per capita, for a people that pursues post-high school education at all costs. Educating one's child is seen as the pinnacle of achievements in Jewish homes, with every last penny of the family's budget having often gone towards this lofty ideal ensuring that your child's educators have the best early childhood education degrees to best impart knowledge."
Why is education so important? How is it that this ancient tradition of educating children has endured, even when all other vestiges of Jewish identity has virtually been lost in a particular family? What is the religious person trying to accomplish, and what is the non-religious person trying to gain in this process?
We are known as ‘the people of the Book’. Our collective identity as Jews is dependant on our dedication to the continuing education of every Jewish child, man and woman until their ripe old age. With learning, comes change and growth. We never stop learning, even when we are no longer bound by the confines of the traditional classroom. Religious Jews continue their education indefinitely through Torah learning, going to shiurim (courses) on halachah (Jewish law) and hashkafah (Jewish tenets), and listening to classes over the phone and through tapes. Many secular Jews are not satisfied with a Bachelor’s degree, or with a Master’s degree for that matter. They will continue to educate themselves in their field of expertise, or study another field as well as the field they work in. One could say that as a nation, we are truly obsessed, and rightfully so, with education. Who will deny the fact that many Jews are represented in the fields of work and the fields of study that require the most education?
Whether we embrace our heritage or deny it, we have been handed down a tradition that is so deeply engrained in our collective consciousness, that it would not be a wonder if it could eventually be traced to some DNA marker! Perhaps we share that marker with other peoples as well, and that future study will certainly show that.
As a people, however, we pursue the need to be seen as good, kind and wise in the eyes of the world, we pursue the “helping and healing” professions, we organize institutions and send aid to help the world fight malfunction, disease, hunger and war, we push our children to become successful in their field of study so that they can raise the world to a higher level of consciousness or success, and we encourage intelligence and education as the top priority and number one tool for being able to advance these particular goals.
Whether our intentions are not properly understood or misconstrued by observers, is not always within our control. What is in our control, however, is how much we recognize the beauty and the nobleness of that which we as a people seek to achieve, and have pursued throughout the generations. What is in our control is recognizing that our raison d’etre is, ultimately, a spiritual goal that elevates the mundane, so that dreams do come true.
As Jewish parents, our sources of wisdom stem from our very ancient teachings, the Torah and the words of our Sages, of blessed memory. Much of that which has been written and said over the Jewish millennia has also been scientifically proven to be true, from the late 20th century on, in medical and psychological studies. Gazing at and learning this blueprint of how generations of our people, consistently pursuing these lofty goals, knew what they knew, and still actively know today what their ancestors taught them, will bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.
Learning how to instill this love of caring, of giving to others and of gaining an inherent respect for human beings--including ourselves--by imbuing every single family, every individual child, every precious soul with wisdom, is within our control. Recognizing that proper education is the means to this end, let us begin by educating ourselves, so that we may properly educate our adorable children.
This Month: Believe in your own power to become a wonderful parent through education. Begin by seeing yourself as good, kind and warm. Much age-old wisdom is awaiting you: come bask yourself in the light of wisdom’s glow.
Read about Mrs.Eydl Reznik and her organization The Right Track—B'Derech HaMelech, here.