Parashat B'midbar

What Is Parenting?

Transmitting Jewish culture by embodying Jewish practice is part of the responsibilities of Jewish parenting.

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The answer is found in the commentary of Rashi (France, 11th century). Rashi tells us that Aaron's children "are called the line of Moses because he taught them the Torah. This teaches that whoever teaches Torah to the child of a friend, it is accounted as the bearer of the child." Moses makes himself the equivalent of a parent by providing the Jewish identity of Jewish children. By teaching them who they are and where they belong, he really does perform the deeds of parenting.

As the children watched Moses fast on Yom Kippur, study Torah, build a Sukkah, care for widows and orphans, eat matzah on Pesach, keep kosher, dispense justice, and observe the Sabbath, they absorbed his Jewishness without even knowing it. By teaching them the Hebrew alphabet, how to pray, study and live as Jews, Moses assured the continuity of Judaism and the Jewish People. Isn't that precisely the role of the Jewish parent throughout time?

Today, far too many of us live without the ability to be Jewish parents to our children. Instead of teaching Judaism to them, we learn from them what they have gleaned from religious school. In many homes, parents are unable to parent their children in this most important area of the child's identity. How can we rectify that imbalance?

Every synagogue in existence is really an empowerment center, dedicated to providing Jews with the ability and knowledge to create Jewish homes and to teach their children Jewish ways and Jewish values.

Ignorance is no sin, unless it is the result of deliberate choice. Putting parenting back in the hands of Jewish mothers and fathers is precisely what Rabbis, educators and adult education programs are eager to do. So, reach out to these potential parents of you and your children. Go and learn!

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.