Passing on the Faith
You Shall Teach Them to Your Children
While I am deeply in love with the practices I have received from those generations, and want my kids to feel the same way, I know that "The Tradition" is bigger than any one traditional understanding of how to practice, and appreciate that the next generation may carry on the former, faithfully and successfully, even when we may disagree about the latter.
Most powerfully, especially in our era of professionalization and the presumption that an expert can always be found to solve even the most vexing of challenges, is the notion expressed in the verse that parents are their kids' primary teachers, especially when it comes to faith. The Bible knew that farming out education was always a second-best response, not because expert input from masters was unimportant, but because the core of most people's spiritual education comes from those whom they most closely observe, i.e. their parents.
In fact, parents are usually great educators, even if they don't always like seeing their real teachings mirrored back. Parents who demand things of their kids, things that they themselves don't fully embrace, should not be surprised when their kids don't embrace those things either.
Our kids can tell the difference between what we say we love and what we really love, and they will follow the latter over the former every day of the week, including when it comes to observing whatever Sabbath we tell them to observe.
When our kids see us living and loving the traditions we claim, they will learn well the real and durable value of those traditions. That's what it means to be our kids' best teachers.
Ultimately, all evidence points to one very simple truth about the complex nature of spiritual education: we build the brightest future, not by worrying about the future, but by living our faith in the present. When we do that, and we do so with those we love, and do so with love, we make sure that the future of faith is bright even when we cannot know its full contours or details. In other words, having faith in the faith we follow, and in those we hope will follow us, is the surest way to build the future of faith.
Listed three years in a row in Newsweek as one of America's 50 Most Influential Rabbis, and recognized as one of our nation's leading Preachers & Teachers by Beliefnet.com, think tank President, talk show host, interfaith activist, and diversity expert Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008).