In this week’s Parsha Va’etchanan, we are told to “teach the Torah to your children and children’s children.” So, what does this really mean? For me, I think about what type of role model I need to be for my daughter. She’s now 7 ½ and seems to have eyes in back of her head and the hearing of a bat. She hears and observes everything that I do. “Mommy, why did you just roll your eyes?” “What does ‘just craziness’ mean?” “Why are you huffing?” “Who are you talking about?” And the list goes on.
When she was two, my husband and I could spell out words we didn’t want her to hear. We avoided talking about R-rated subjects on the phone in her presence and didn’t engage in conversations that might taint her naïveté. We wanted her to remain a bit sheltered – we valued her innocence. We intentionally didn’t expose her to the madness of our world. TV consisted of Curious George, Caillou, the Wiggles, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Our home was filled with lots of laughter, singing, and dramatic play. She eventually sought out adventures with Dora the Explorer but, alas she (and we) eventually realized the real world can’t be approached in three easy steps and a backpack filled with magic stars and a map. Navigating the real world requires role models, teachers, friends and a whole lot of curiosity and patience. It requires lessons from the Torah. Lessons about patience, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity.
If our goal is to create and live a version of a higher vision of ourselves we must commit to learning and teaching every day. This applies to our personal lives and our congregational family life. We have plenty of formal learning opportunities at TBE but the greatest lessons of Torah are taught and learned by how each of us model our interest, engagement, and caring about each other. When we arrive at Temple, do we smile and say hello to people we don’t know, congregants and staff alike? When we observe a small child running around, do we impatiently chastise him or her, or do we gently take a hand and compliment them for their vivaciousness? When we attend a committee meeting, do we listen to our peers to better understand their point of view, or are we busy formulating our own thoughts and agendas? Do we forgive our fellow congregants and staff for past mistakes or do we hold our generosity of spirit back as ransom? When we share our feedback about worship, events, and communications, do we provide helpful criticism or do we speak in harsh words? If we notice something that needs to be addressed, do we simply complain or do we offer to help?
As our Executive Director, I am privileged to hear from many people about what they like, what they don’t like, how they think, and how they feel. I am regularly awed by the number of congregants who give me helpful input and feedback about everything related to our temple. I personally view feedback as a gift and I hope you’ll continue (or start) to share your thoughts and feelings with me. This week’s Torah portion also gives us the Shema and the V’ahavta. My lesson? To listen and give. Please know I won’t be able to address everything I hear; however, my commitment is to listen to you – to everyone – with all my heart, to give with all my soul, and to take action to protect and care for our temple with all my might. After all, I know my daughter is watching and learning from every move I make.