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April 4, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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April 4, 2003

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HE ~TAGE FLORIOA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 4, 2003 PAGE 1 By Rabbi David Wolpe NEWTON, Mass (JTA)-- Even parents who tell their children that they can ask them about "anything" of- ten change the subject when children ask about God. And they do ask. "Who are God's parents?" qf God is so powerful, why based on something human, speculate, dream, imagine. and everything human can Children will grow in their change. Are we always going understanding, but only if to be the brightest in the we do not cut off conversa- class, or have that boyfriend tion by dictating the "truth" or feel our parents love? Do or by evading the issue you really want your child's 2. Tell stories. Stories en- self-esteem to be based on courage children to form your emotional constitu- concepts of character To tion? Is there no unvarying learnabout God, tell the sto- basis f or self-worth? ties of the Bible, the doesn't God stop bad things from happening?,i,Does God age."God created human be- h.ear my prayers? Theques- ings in the divine image" uOhsare legion. In essence, (Genesis 1:27). What if we they are the same questions could say "all your qualities .that parents ask, although are wonderful, but beyond m another form. But they are questions we must address. Mter all, who ~ong us is satisfied to give ur children an intellectual, but not a spiritual educa- tion? Our answers to these The Bible has a deeper ira- midrashic or teaching leg- all that you matter because you are in the image of God? There is an essence in you that is only yours - your di- vine spark. God loves you, and that love never changes." When we do that, not only have we given our questions guide our children a constant basis of Children's view of the uni- self-esteem but a .Verse. What do we wish them noncomparative basis. to believe that they are ac- If I am important because my parents love me, what idents of ancient chemms- ut~Y~ or sparks of the divine? does that teach me about nnatever one's philosophy the child whose parents do Oh these matters, we owe not love him, or who has no parents? But all are special in God's eyes. Teaching children about God is a way of giving a firm footing to their spiritual life. Below are a few guidelines for initiating a conversation Our children an honest and Searching discussion. Talking to children about God is a key component of their sense of self. Children ~re.taught that they are im- ortant but why are they ~l~Portant? Ask your chil- that can be as intimate as :~n.why they matter. I have any between parents and ,~edthousandsofchildren, children: 1. Ask. Studies IA/hy are you important ? show that almost all chil- The usual answers are I get dren by the age of 6 have ~Ood grades; I am good at some developed concept of POrts; I have a nice job/boy- God. Ask them. Do not allow b Iriehd/girlfriend, myparents your own preconceptions to 0re me." All these answers determine the range of their SPelltrouble, because are all curiosity - let them think, 'Get Connected' brings Women together The Jewish Federation's IG~ C nnected Program al- ,s mothers and daughters share a fun afternoon. Of Urse, women are invited their mothers as and a scenic boat ride in March. The next get together is a veg- etarian lunch on May 15 at Steak and Ale. For more information, con- tact Nancy Ludin at 407-645- 5933, ext. 239, or e-mail her at The Women met for brunch ends, incidents from your own life. Children are less adept at manipulating ab- stract concepts than they are at understanding concrete operational ideas. Along with stories, use descriptive language: Rather than "God knows everything" try to be specific: "God is the one who helps us to grow." 3. Bring God into everyday life. Tell your children that God loves them. Explain that the world is filled with evid.ence of God's concern and artistry. If the language seems alien or difficult, find ways to ease into it. "Who loves you?" Go through a list - parents, sib- lings, grandparents, and God. Remember that Juda- ism is filled with ideas of God's love, in the prayers, in cases hard questions can be Some have spoken of God the Bible. And our best addressed very early: "IfGod as far beyond us, others as known prayer, the Shema, dwells everywhere, is God in largely inside of us. The exhorts us to love God back. my pocket?" The appropri- midrash teaches that when 4. Do not be defensive at ate answer to this is to ex- God gave the Torah to Israel challenges.Thoughtfuichil- plain the difference between it was like a mirror in which dren - especially once they physical and non-physical each person saw his or her enter into adolescence - will objects. The wind is invis- own image reflected. challenge our religious ible, but physical. Love is Theologically, Godrelates ideas. That is a sign of intangible. Ask a childtoeachinauniqueway;God thoughtfulness. When we "where is love?" You cannot presents a different face to are angry or defensive we point to it, but you can feel Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and show our own insecurities, it. The same is true with God. all of their descendants. We our unease with the reli- There is no one idea ofdo not have to get it"right." gious ideaswe profess. Wel- God in Judaism. Our tradi- IdeasofGodwillalwaysvary; come the challenge-recog- tion is as rich theologically our task is to struggle, to nize that there are many as it is culturally and his- care. good reasons to doubt God's torically. The mystics speak Our aim is not answers existence or benevolence, of God with very concrete but spiritual growth. Allow Engage in a dialogue, not a imagery, talking about the yourself to be open to the diatribe, ways in which human be-directions that spiritual ex- 5. Learn good answers, ings must repair breaches ploration can take you. Once There are no definitive an- in God, and help God fix the again, as so often, through swers to difficult questions, world. The midrash or teach- teaching our children, we but there are good ones. Try ing story talks about a God learn. not to fall into the trap of whoneeds us, who goes into Rabbi David Wolpe, a giving facile answers that exile with Israel, even a God member of Sh'ma's edito- maysatisfya6-year-old, but who feels lonely. The phi- rial board, is the author of will be transparently unac- IosophersespouseaGodwhofive books, the most recent ceptable when the child is is beyond human under- of which is "Making Loss older and more sophisti- standing or description, a Matter: Creating Meaning in cated. It is better not to be Godaboutwhomwecanonly Difficult Times." Reprinted understood yet than to mis- say that we are incapable of from, a represent the complexity of understanding God's true service of Jewish Family & the issues. Still, in many nature. Life! CAROL STEIN (1) and her mother, BETTY STEIN. i) and her mother LIL! MORGENTALER. 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