Letís Turn Parentsí Day on its Head
As I looked up some holidays I found that July 28th is Parents’ Day. I have never heard of it before. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of every July. Well, I guess that makes sense since Mother’s Day is in May and Father’s Day is in June. Since one plus one equals two we get Parents’ Day in July. (In case you are wondering Parents’ Day was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.)
I’m all for showing appreciation to parents, but I was surprised to see this as a holiday. From what I could tell it is celebrated like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with cards, gifts and generally showing thanks.
I think that in Judaism, if there was a Parents’ Day, it would be celebrated differently. It would be a reminder, not to the children, but to the parents that they have responsibilities. I’m not just talking about loving and caring for our children and helping them fulfil their potential and making them the best people that they can be. I’m also talking about our Jewish responsibilities.
Every time we walk into a Jewish home; and in a religious house, into every room (except a bathroom or closet), a mezuzah is on the right hand doorpost. Inside each mezuzah are instructions to parents. (These same instructions are also recited at least twice a day by religious Jews in the Shema.)
The parchment inside each mezuzah is the same. There is no difference in the text no matter where your family originated from, if you are rich or poor, religious or not religious. If you have a mezuzah on your doorpost, the casing may be very elaborate and expensive or handmade and cheap but the inside is the only part that really matters. The outside is only there to protect the inside.
So what is written on the scroll inside? The verses of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 are hand written onto parchment. Basically in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we are told that there is one God, that we are to love God “and these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them to your children and shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you get up.” And then we are told to bind them on our arm and between your eyes (which men do through tefillin) and to write them on our gates (which we do through the mezuzah).
Deuteronomy 11:13-21 tells us that if we listen to God’s commandments and serve Him we will be provided with food but if we don’t He will withhold rain and the ground will not provide food. We are told again that these words should be bound on our hearts and on our souls as well as on our arms and between our eyes. And then it says, “And you shall teach them to your children to discuss them, while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you rise up.” It then tells us to write them on our gates in order to prolong our days and the days of our children.
Those are our instructions as parents. And who said that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual? Okay, I know it’s not that simple. But the point is we are told a great deal about being Jewish parents with these few lines. We are to take our task very seriously or it wouldn’t be written in the mezuzah and in tefillin and said at least twice a day in the Shema.
In short, being Jewish isn’t something which is for when you are in the synagogue or for religious school. It is something that we should hold dear all the time. And it is not something that we should keep to ourselves. We should be thinking about it and discussing it and living it – together with our children. We are not just to be parents. We are to be Jewish parents. Whether we are in our homes, walking along the street, lying down or getting up.
The first time we, as Jews, put something on our doorposts was in Egypt right before the tenth plague. The blood which we put on our doorposts saved our lives. Any doorpost without blood had its firstborn killed. Just as we were saved at that time, so today, if we want to save Judaism we have to take notice of what is on our doorposts. Today, perhaps more than ever, with all the influences of the Internet and globalization, we have to not only teach our children, but also talk to them as Jews, about Judaism and perhaps most importantly, be Jews with them.
As parents, let’s step up to the plate, or should I say up to our mezzuzahs, and examine if we are doing all we can to fulfil this very important duty of being good parents. This year, whether you have ever heard of Parents’ Day or not, examine honestly how you can improve as a Jewish parent.
Happy Parents’ Day!
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for theSecond Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs. .
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
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