On Monday morning, our Early Learning Center opened its doors for the first day of school. On Wednesday afternoon, our Jewish Learning Center did the same. Thank God! It had been way too quiet around here without the kids. It’s great having them back around. Our tradition has always appreciated the presence of kids in communal life.
In this week’s portion, we read about the “Hak-hel” ceremony in which the whole Torah was read in one sitting (which makes High Holiday services seem downright brief!!).
The generation that left Egypt was gone and the next generation was now preparing to enter the Promised Land. God instructed Moses: “Gather the people — men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities — that they may hear and so learn to revere Adonai your God and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God as long as they live in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to possess (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).”
The children are mentioned twice. Including the children and telling them the story was central to the Israelites’ preparation for settling in the Land of Israel.
This is reinforced in the first paragraph of the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) which we recite in our daily liturgy. “You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children.” In other words, we should walk away from our prayer experience thinking about how we can pass the tradition down to the next generation of our community.
In fact, the rabbis wrote a prayer which is part of the preliminary service that makes this even clearer. The prayer is called “V’ha-arev Na” and it says: “May the words of Torah, Adonai our God, be sweet in our mouths and in the mouths of all Your people so that we, our children, and all the children of the House of Israel may come to love You and to study Your Torah on its own merit. Praised are You Adonai, who teaches Torah to Your people Israel.”
This is why I am so looking forward to spending time with the children of our community during our Family Service and Community Service over the course of the High Holidays. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with the grown-ups. As the youngest child in my family, I had to scratch and claw to get to the “grown up” table at family functions. However, I think that George Benson (first) and Whitney Houston (later) had it right when they sang, “I believe the children are the future; teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Looking forward to worshiping with our community – regardless of age! – next week.