I am a mother raising young children and struggling with how to keep them sheltered from the less than beautiful aspects of the world that we live in. Today, with the internet, television and media, exposure to things that I would rather they not see is an inevitably. What is the key to successful parenting that will ensure that my Jewish values are imparted on my children?
Anyone who has ever heated a kettle of water knows that once it is removed from the fire it doesn’t stay hot for long. Someone who wants to have a hot tea later will heat the water until it is very hot and then put it into an insulated thermos to ensure that the water retains the heat for as long as possible.
As a Jewish woman, it is you to whom the great honor was given of having the mandate of raising the future of Judaism. Indeed, one of the merits that Jewish women are said to have is that that they ensure the continuity of all that our people stand for.
Our world can at times be a cold place, and our children can easily be cooled down when exposed to the harsh elements that make up our reality. We need to warm our children with the warmth of Judaism.
Our spiritual lives parallel our physical ones in importance, and in the way that we are to function in them. Just as any mother would take extreme care to ensure that she would not expose her child to the freezing cold—heating her own dwelling, and bundling her children in warm coats before they leave the house—so too it is the Jewish mother’s job to create a warm environment at home, and as much as possible ensure that the warmth doesn’t dissipate as her children enter the outside temperatures.
While our grandparents in the Shtetl were able to shelter themselves from the decadence of the society around them, in the society that we live in, it is supremely difficult and not always a positive, to be completely separated from the world that we are a part of.
Being bombarded though by the nuances and images of the world around us can be unhealthy for any child, but for a Jewish child it is all the more unhealthy. The culture of that we expose ourselves to have subtle and often not so subtle messages that slowly creep into our mindsets and change our value systems.
We must maximize the time that we spend with our children to ensure that they be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually as well. Only we can create a warm and spiritually safe environment for our children. We have the ability to create an environment where they can grow in their feeling for Judaism, and in which we can be sure that the heat that we are trying to instill will not dissipate due to the frigid winds of the outside world.
While teaching, nurturing, and caring for her children is a full time job of a mother, and instilling within them Torah values is something that a mother is constantly doing just by her children seeing the way that she acts and interacts with the world around her, it is also very important to do the utmost in action.
One idea to maximize the effects on our children is to transform bedtime from being a chore into becoming a deep learning experience. We can use this as a time to bond with our children emotionally as well as spiritually. Through reading bedtimes stories with strong Jewish values we can create a safe bubble of warmth within which our children can flourish and be truly warm Jews. Jewish children who not only do not become cold in the world that we live in, but heat up the world with the life and vitality of Torah.