Monday, February 25, 2013

Judaism on cruise control

My new grandson celebrated his 3rd month in the land of the living.  Since my calendar was free Sunday through Tuesday of Presidents’ week, I took advantage of the break and drove up to Boston to visit him, and I guess his parents and aunt and uncle too.  I drove our new car for two reasons.  First, it has a built in g.p.s I could use in case I get lost, a pretty good assumption.  Secondly, it is a hybrid and on long distant trips we can save a lot of money on gas.

Because it is the new car, Judy drives it more than I do.  Driving it though reinforced an old lesson in a new way.  When I started driving the car, it recorded that we were getting 28.something miles per gallon of gas.  I resolved to do much better.  By not speeding too much and using the cruse control for a steady speed, I was able to end my trip by raising my gas mileage to 35.1 mpg.  I loved it when I turned off the car and before the dashboard went dark, the word excellent appears congratulating me on my superior gas mileage driving.

I was able to continue driving that car around town when I returned home from Boston.  Although I tried my best to maintain my excellent rating by driving within the speed limit, city driving of stopping and starting really lowered my mpg.  To my dismay, the car went back down to 28 mpg.

All that driving made me thing about the successful transmission of a positive and knowledgeable Jewish identity.  We are most successful in raising the next generation of Jews when adult Jewish lives are on “cruise control,” meaning living a conscious Jewish lifestyle that is steady and continuous.  If parents live their Jewish lives by making it the core of their being, then their children will appreciate the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. Instead of seeing the Shabbat as a burden, they will begin to look forward to Shabbat as a day of refreshing our souls collectively and individually.  The holidays will form and fashion the Jewish soul within by providing the yin of Yom Kippur (the ultimate serious holiday) to the yang of Purim (the ultimate joyous and fun holiday).  When children see their parents studying Torah and davening, they realize how important these activities are. 

Unfortunately, too many parents live Judaism like I drive in the city, a lot of stopping and going.  They go to Purim services when the children are young but stop when they past the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Jewish education starts in Kindergarten and ends in 7th grade instead of seeing it as a life long journey of Jewish self discovery.  Our children learn some skills along the way.  They learn how to read Hebrew, chant a Haftorah, recite a blessing, and know a little bit about all things Jewish on a very elementary level. But just like the drastic drop of my mpg, much of what they have learned is forgotten.  These students too often drop out of Jewish life completely until they have children of their own.  By they time most of them have never had a consistent positive Jewish role model in their lives and so the cycle continues.

We’re about to enter the month of Nisan, the 6th month of the Jewish year.  We’re half way through the calendar and Rosh Hashana is only 6 months away. It is never too early to reflect upon our lives.  Just as I hope we all drive safely and competently, so to I pray that we turn on that Jewish cruse control for our sake and the sake of our children and grandchildren.