On the doors in and out of our house is a small device that holds a scroll with the words from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is a mezuzah, a reminder in a Jewish home to remind them of the covenant with God made after the Exodus.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Do we remember to talk about our faith in our home, to our children? Do we remember the promises of God when we depart and when we return? Are they ever before us and with us like our hands and our reflection in the mirror? Probably not. We tend to talk little about what we truly think is important, favoring instead to discuss popular topics such as sports, weather, and politics. What do you talk about with your family?
John Adland is the rabbi at Temple Israel in Canton, OH. He became Marsha’s rabbi and a friend of my family when he was in Lexington, KY. He does a weekly piece which he sends through Google documents to those who know and respect him. His “Shabbat Shalom” column sent out on July 15, 2011 inspired this article. Here is what John said.
“Every Friday morning on NPR at 6:25 AM is a segment called Story Corps. ‘Story Corps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate the lives of everyday Americans by listening to their stories.’ What you get is a snippet of a conversation or interview between two people. It could be a husband and wife, siblings, friends, relatives. This morning a father was telling his daughter about her grandfather. The details aren’t important though it was very emotional for him to speak about this, but what is important is that he didn’t learn an important detail of his father’s life until late in life. His father didn’t talk much or share much.
“I thought about this as I listened to something I have counseled often to parents. ‘Tell your children about your life. Tell them what you do, where you volunteer, what you like and dislike, what is important and what you are passionate about.’ I met a couple this week, who were talking to me about end of life issues and I said the same thing to them so that when the time comes to prepare a eulogy they will know about their mother or father. More often than not our children are not present in our lives. Sure we share vacations with them when they are younger or go to their schools for performances or watch them compete, but do we tell them what meetings we attend in the evening, where we contribute our money, why we vote the way we do, or what is truly important to us? Our children leave and live their own lives and when they do the conversations aren’t about these things. It was different when people grew up and lived their lives surrounded by family, but for the most part this doesn’t happen. Add to this scenario the fact that when the children are able to see, hear, and remember what we are doing when they are at home is when they are teens. Most teens don’t take a huge interest in the lives of their parents.”
How well do you know your parents? DO you know what they felt was important? DO you know why they believed as they did? I do not have a complete knowledge, but I do have a sense from conversations with them and their actions. Most of this knowledge I gained when I was in college. I hope that my children know what I hold important and what I believe. Maybe if we were more willing to discuss our feelings and beliefs with our families, we would not fear as much to share our hopes and dreams with others. We might find a strength in sharing more than superficiality with friends, colleagues, and family. We might even find the strength to follow the words of Deuteronomy and live in closer covenant with God.