Dear friends and families,
“Then sang Moshe and the Children of Israel this song to God, and they spoke, saying: This is my God…”
(Exodus / Shmot 15:1-2)
A servant girl saw at the sea what Isaiah, Ezekiel and all other prophets did not behold.
Being a (good) parent is hard. Being a Jewish parent is even harder.
The world we live in is as it has always been, at once beautiful and mysterious, chaotic and dangerous, filled with opportunities and wonder and oh so many other things we want to protect our children from. Helping our children navigate the world, and most especially their online world, is a complex task, and a never-ending balancing act of openness versus sheltering, screen time versus play time versus study time.
And it’s not enough that we have to work with our children on their online behaviour and viewing habits, we also have to monitor just how much screen time they are getting, while we ourselves are all (hypocritically) addicted to our devices. Do an experiment next time you are on the Skytrain or at home at night with the kids. Put down your phone for a minute and take a look at just how many of our friends or family or even strangers are on their tablets at that very moment.
And maybe, just maybe, just when we think we have a handle on that aspect of our children’s lives, and applaud ourselves for being good digital citizens, we have to also contend with that other aspect of their development, and the uncertainty of how our children will grow up Jewishly. And I don’t mean will they marry Jewish or not. I’m talking about if our children will grow to become knowledgeable, passionate Jews, who are in it for the Love of God, and not as a reaction to a fear of the world and anti-Semitism or because “that’s how we’ve always done it”, all rote, no feeling.
While all of us try and do our best in these important areas, and spend our time, money and energy to give our kids the best possible future, it’s OK to admit that sometimes we need some help in these areas – which is why we are so excited to share two upcoming parent events at the school, which on the surface are completely separate topics but are actually interrelated. Jesse Miller’s talk on January 26th on Social Media and Online Safety and Doron Kornbluth’s talk on February 1st on Raising Kids to LOVE Being Jewish share the following truth, which is alluded to in this week’s parsha and the Mechilta’s above commentary of what the Children of Israel saw following the Splitting of the Sea – our children are naturally spiritual and creative beings, ready to learn and explore and discover.
They, like the girl in the Splitting of the Sea, see things we don’t, or at least see what we used to see, when we ourselves were kids. Before life covered us up with layers of cynicism, rote learning, fear and bad habits. They know how to see God in ways we have lost, they know how to talk to God in ways many of us have lost.
And if we are not careful, all that future potential, all that inherent goodness, all of it begins to be covered up under layers of tablets and mobile devices, Crossy Road and Candy Crush, Instagram and Facebook, and yet one more Justin Bieber video on YouTube.
Let’s work together to help our children shine. And maybe ourselves too.
Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach.