What We Learn From Children

October 7, 2019

While preparing to give a d’var Torah for Parshat Akeyda at B’nai Amoona, I asked a few students if they had any thoughts about the parsha. One of the 4th graders looked up at me and earnestly asked “Are you sure you want to introduce THAT parsha? It’s kind of dark.”

What ensued was a conversation about why they think we read this troubling story about the binding of Isaac each Rosh Hashanah.

Some Jewish scholars say it is because it mentions rams horns, and other say this story represents the moment God’s relationship with Abraham changed course. One of our middle schoolers offered another interpretation: “The story is so compelling because Abraham has a dilemma  with no right answer. His choice: obey God and sacrifice his son, or save his son and disobey God.”
Other students chimed in, sharing times when other people had to make similarly difficult decisions. They reminded me of Diane Harris, whom we met on our middle school Civil Rights Trip. Diane marched in Selma for voting rights at age 14. Her choices: risk her own physical safety and her family’s security, or accept that she and other African Americans would not have the right to vote. They reminded me of Righteous Gentiles who risked their own families’ safety to save a life. Their choices: assist in genocide by reporting the whereabouts of a Jew, or defy the Nazis by hiding Jews. Like Abraham, the children of the Civil Rights Movement and the Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust faced a dilemma with no one right answer. Every choice had a potentially terrible consequence.
During this time of year, we turn to God and ask forgiveness for the choices we have made in the past year. We come to synagogue because life is messy and sometimes there’s no easy path, no clear direction and no way to win. We turn to our tradition for guidance and answers. And we turn to our children for clarity and reminders of the way their Mirowitz education is allowing them to interpret Torah and understand the world through a Jewish lens.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah,
May you be written in the book of life,