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Home » Education, Passover, Shemot Parshah

Shemot: There is Always an Option

Submitted by on December 24, 2006 – 6:55 amNo Comment | 1,396 views

Only in America

High over the skies of Ohio I engaged my seat mate in discussion. His father is Protestant, his mother is Anglican and he, an earnest family man, wants to join the Anglican church. However, the only young congregation in his neighborhood with  facilities for children is that of the United church.

He attends the United Church, but feels uncomfortable with its doctrines. He has been considering staying home on Sunday rather than attending an unfamiliar Church and he asked for my advice. Only in America would an Irish Anglican ask a Jewish Rabbi if he should join the United Church …

Not Uncommon

Unfortunately his dilemma is not unique. Houses of Worship of all denominations struggle with attracting young families and galvanizing their youth. I cannot imagine  Jewish parents attending a Lutheran Church because their Synagogue lacks a Junior Congregation, there is always an option - innerstreambut, just the same, this dilemma plagues many a Jewish parent.

Our Synagogue makes no provisions for our children, should we bring them anyway or should we just stay home? We don’t like the Kiddush Luncheon after services, should we skip it and go home? Our rabbi does not offer classes on subjects of our interest, should we attend what is offered or just study on our own?

This and similar dilemmas plague Shull goers throughout the world. We frame the question with two possible answers and ask ourselves which one to choose. Neither solution is palatable, but fortunately there is a third option.

The Gate

There is a fable about a king who summoned a wise child and asked him to predict the gate by which the king would enter the city. Without hesitation, the child declared that the king would would enter through a new gate that he would blast through the wall.

Aghast, the king inquired how the child divined his true intention. To which the child replied, “But, Your Majesty, it was obvious!”

The King knows that most travelers enter by the eastern gate. In his bid to surprise me, the King would have considered entering through the western gate. However, alert to my wisdom, the king would surely have expected me to anticipate his intention and would therefore decide to surprise me and use the eastern gate after all.

Then again, knowing that I too would consider this ploy the King would have reconsidered and decided on the western gate. This circular logic is endless and leaves the King with no alternative, but to blast a new wall through the gate.

The same is true in our lives. We are the children of His Majesty, the King of all Kings. When are are faced with two obviously inadequate solutions, we mustn’t surrender to circumstance. We must cast about for a new solution. The new solutions are usually the most innovative and the most successful.

The Third Way

Rabbi Mordechai Green, pulpit rabbi in Congregation Adath Israel of Hamilton, Ontario, once considered making Aliyah to establish a new congregation in Israel. He consulted with Rabbi Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rebbe advised against the move. When Rabbi Green expressed his desire to raise his children in the Holy Land, the Rebbe replied, “You look after G-d’s children and he will look after yours.”

As Rabbi green first saw it, there were two options. He could stay in Hamilton where his children would not be properly raised or move to Israel. The Rebbe reframed the question and suggested a third option. Blaze a new trail. Blast a new gate. Turn Hamilton into a mini Israel. Look after G-d’s children and he will look after yours.

This can be your option too. Don’t abandon your synagogue when its youth facilities don’t meet your expectations. Don’t choose a different congregation and don’t suffer in silence. There is another way. Get involved. Help your synagogue improve its children’s program. There is always an option.

When the Kiddush luncheon does not meet with your approval don’t go home in protest. Become active on the Kiddush committee. When the rabbi does not offer a class on a subject of your liking don’t retire in disgruntlement. Work with your Rabbi and educational committee to initiate classes on subjects that intrigue you. There is always an option.

This will not only improve your synagogue experience, but also that of the entire congregation. It will not only fulfill your needs, but also those of others. My seat mate on the plane framed his question with two options. He could stay home or suffer in the United Church. He had another option, he just wasn’t aware.

Take Your Chances

When  Pharaoh ordered the execution of all Jewish male newborns, Amram, the leader of his generation, divorced his wife of many years. What point is there in procreation if Pharaoh intends to wrest our children from our womb and deposit them in the Nile?

Miriam, his daughter reproached him, “Father,” she said, “Pharaoh denied life to the male newborns, you will deny life to the females too.” (1)

Amram framed the problem in two dimensions. Newborn Jewish children should not be brought to the world because they would face execution. Miriam envisioned a third possibility.

Guided by his daughter, Amram and Yocheved courageously attempted the third option. They remarried and Moses was born. He was set upon the Nile, where the very people who decreed his death scooped him up and saved his life. Their audacious risk paid off. It produced a child for their family and a liberator for the entire nation.

We can do the same. We too can confront our problems rather than shy away from them. We too can succeed. This will provided a solution for our own family and for the entire congregation. As we said earlier, there is always an option.

Footnotes

  1. Exodus 2;1. See Rashi (R. Shlomo Yitzchaki, Troyes France, 1040-1105) ibid.
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