When I teach, I am always quick to say that I am only knowledgeable because I am a voracious reader and I have lots to pass on.
In past times, the rabbis would never say something without giving credit to the many rabbis who came first and said it first — the beginning of copyright laws, I am sure. (And, I remind all of us that it is important to check and know the sources you are reading). A wonderful website for parents is www.ahaparenting.com.
As parents and teachers, we are always learning and as Jewish learners, we must be open to our own texts but also learn from others. This article I am sharing here is about spiritual lessons for our children.
If you have a deep faith and keep the rituals and calendar of your religious tradition, then you’ve probably given a lot of thought to your child’s spiritual development and have it all mapped out. If, on the other hand, you wonder how to put what you believe into words and aren’t sure what tradition you want to pass on to your kids, this article is for you.
All humans have a spiritual dimension. You don’t have to believe in a supreme being to teach your child the great spiritual lessons. Whatever your beliefs, you probably want your children to know that life is sacred, that nature deserves a certain reverence, that their presence in the world contributes to joy and goodness, that things have a way of working out (not always as we expect), that the greatest joy usually comes from sharing with others, and that while we don’t always get what we want, we can always choose to make the most of what we get.
Some ideas for nondenominational (and even God-optional, if that’s your preference) spirituality:
- 1. Trust — a sense that life has meaning and that the good we do in the world matters.
- 2. Love of Nature — Rachel Carson said, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
- 3. Hope — There is always something each one of us can do to make things better.
- 4. Gratitude — Modeling is the best strategy, simply noting aloud, frequently, how lucky we are to have this beautiful day, this bountiful meal, this reliable car, such a terrific teacher or neighbor, and, of course, each other.
- 5. Limit technology noise so you can hear the stillness — all of us need silence in our lives.
- 6. Take time for what really matters — try to build in enough time so that you can stop rushing your children past the wondrous moments of everyday life.
- 7. Reflection — All humans benefit from time for reflection.
- 8. Interpretation/Implementation — You are responsible for your own interpretation and implementation of your religion.
- 9. You can do hard things — Kids need to understand that most things that are worth doing are hard. That’s OK. You can do hard things.
- 10. Contribute — All of us have a need to contribute, and that’s usually where we find our greatest joy.
I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter … the castoffs of human society.
I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal. And I was angry.
“God,” I said, “this is terrible! Why don’t you do something?”
God was silent for a moment and then He spoke softly.
“I have done something,” He replied. “I created You.”
— Jim Willis
I have heard some people say, “I’m not religious but I am spiritual” and other say, “I’m not really spiritual but I am religious.” We can talk about those two terms — “religious” and “spiritual” – and each of us will have a different way of describing what each means to us. The important thing with children, and especially teens, is to talk about our beliefs, our practices and even our struggles with belief and practice. The 10 ideas above are both thinking and action – put some of them in your life today.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.