From the Educator
This week’s Torah portion is Sh’mot. It takes us through the enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt, the birth of Moses, his childhood in Egypt and his call from G-d to be the leader of his people. Quite a lot to pack into one portion! There are lots of lessons that can be taken from this particular portion – trust, community, obedience, kindness, fairness, faith… I’m going to focus on faith.
Faith in G-d is one of the hardest things to explain to kids. When it is used as a justification for beliefs, sometimes it can come across as an excuse. As in, “I can’t explain it, I just have faith.” That doesn’t always work for kids. It didn’t work for me growing up. I was living in the concrete, not some supernatural world where I just believed that G-d was there because someone told me to have faith. As we grow up, we experience things in our life that add to the growing collection of reasons to have faith, or to not have faith. For me, it was instances where the only explanation that made sense to me was that G-d was watching out for me or for my family. My faith was strengthened by my encounters with G-d.
Imagine you are Moses, you’ve had an interesting childhood full of privilege but with conflicting emotions surrounding injustice and the treatment of your people. You make the choice to prevent an abuse and end up having to flee your home. Then, you experience a fantastical encounter with G-d through a fiery bush. Faith at that time was a different animal. I would imagine it would be hard not to believe in a higher being if it is talking to you from a plant on fire. But we don’t encounter G-d in those ways anymore. We encounter G-d through people, through nature, through prayer, through tradition, through daily life, through dreams, through tough experiences, through beautiful examples. I think we encounter G-d through hope. This past year shook the resolve, trust, and faith of many people. We are worried about human nature, about the real feelings of people that we know and love. This is when we need to have a different kind of faith. The kind that knows that things will get better because we have hope. We can teach our children by example that when we lose faith, we gain it again by being the change that we seek (invoking a little Ghandi there), by being Awesome Jews! We can help our kids see G-d in the events around us and be that example to others as well.