Today was the last Friday Shabbat experience for this year’s TBA Early Learning Center students. I looked at them sitting in the sanctuary seats that sometimes swallow up the smallest kids if they scoot back too far. In a few years, they will easily master that adult space. But for now, it’s awfully cute.
These children and many before them have achieved a certain level of Yiddishkeit. They know prayers and stories and Hebrew words. They can tell you about holidays. They can describe Jewish foods they’ve prepared together.
The sanctuary is not foreboding space. It is not terra incognita. The sanctuary welcomes them in immediately. It is their space as much as it is their parents’.
We are no longer using the tools of fear to overwhelm our children into behaving a certain way. We are removing so many of the stale and stiff obstacles that have served as barriers to finding a sense of intimacy in sacred temple space. The children are invited into the sanctuary.
As a child, I was taught to fear rabbis. In fact, if I have this memory correctly recalled, I was taught to fear all men in authority. I purposely use the term ‘fear’ and not respect. Because respect implies a sharing of the soul, the true recognition of a relationship fueled by empathy and mutuality.
If as a child you were inculcated with a certain level of fear, how did it work for you? Did it make you a better person? More sensitive? More successful?
The Judaism of our children is enriched, super-charged. And it flows with a deep abiding love of all people. There is no room to foster fear. It’s all about building bridges, not walls.
I looked at our crop of kids this morning, and I saw such enormous potential. It’s a mad world; this is certain. But today I saw reasons to keep hoping. I saw Jewish souls filled with love and confidence. What blessings!