Last week we came back from a brief vacation in Mexico. I had written a sermon in Mexico for Sunday because we were getting back at midnight the day before. While I woke up early and eager to see if anything had changed at the church during my absence, I was still fatigued from the long flight, lack of sleep, and high energy activities. So, when coffee hour finally ended, I breathed a sigh of relief. I could grab a nap before I had to go to an interfaith service at Westchester Jewish Center for victims of violence and extremism, where I was scheduled to participate and pray. I didn’t want to go because I was tired, but hoped that a nap would fix that.
Upon arriving home, I realized that the printer didn’t work. Neither did the one at the church. I really needed to print the prayer for the interfaith service I had written on my computer, however. Kathy ended up printing it at her school, just in time to hand to me as I left for the synagogue – without my nap. I was feeling sorry for myself as I grumbled about whatever possessed me to do this on a Sunday afternoon.
At any rate, I arrived at the synagogue, greeted by many happy faces, and was beginning to be pulled out of my self-imposed misery. To my surprise, it turned out to be a very interesting and rewarding experience. In fact, almost every speaker was pertinent, relevant, and interesting. Despite myself, I was undergoing a radical awakening to the importance of being there and hearing what was being expressed.
In addition to that, the music was good and some of the rituals were very informative. The one that got to me was when an old Torah, smuggled out of Poland during World War II, was removed from the arc that housed it. A ritual began of handing the Torah from one worship leader/representative to another. We were told that this was the first time anyone who wasn’t Jewish had handled this Torah. That alone heightened the experience for me. More than that, I was struck by the words of explanation for the reason the Torah was being passed from person to person.
It was said that it is the vocation of every person to pass down what is important to the next generation. It suddenly occurred to me, what would happen if we didn’t pass down to our children and our children’s children what is important to us and what our values are?
All of a sudden, I was brought back to what good parenting means. Of course, it’s easy to pass a Torah or a Bible from one person to another, but one’s beliefs and faith is not a commodity that you can purchase, create, or grasp like an object. Then I thought to myself, what is being passed through you to others, especially your children, if not your friends and the people you serve?
I hope my children are well aware of what I believe, what I stand for, and what is important to me. It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes I wonder as I watch parents drop their kids off at church and drive away, or as I see how little faith, religion, worship, prayer, and spirituality mean to them.
What is being passed through them, or what that matter, through you? Is it foul language that I hear coming out of the mouth of many kids, as young as elementary school? Is it cynicism, where our children seem unable to express hopeful and idealistic beliefs? Instead, they become part of a culture of unbelief, apathy, and blaming. Perhaps we don’t realize how much we are being watched by our children. Without knowing it, they are observing us down to every detail. Sometimes some of the negative things get through to them more than the positive values we want to radiate.
To me, life is to be lived passionately, where convictions matter, where friendship is important, where expressing your love and concern is felt, and where your faith is shared with others.