Becoming a parent has unquestionably made me much more thoughtful about Judaism. Being a role model and a full time educator (and I’m not talking about my job) means that I’m always paying attention to how Jewish I’m being, or not being, and what messages I’m sending to my children with every decision and indecision.
That being said, since having children I’ve spent very little time or energy doing any work to grow as a Jewish adult. This is a fairly familiar scenario – I spend a lot of time reading to my kids, and have very little time to read to myself. I take my kids to art and music classes, but haven’t picked up my knitting needles in six years. How often have I packed both my kids’ lunches and walked out the door without any food for myself?
In other words, we expect as parents to put a lot of our own needs on hold. But in many cases, and in particular when it comes to Jewish identity, I think we run the risk of sending the wrong messages to our kids. If I only go to shul for family and tot services, am I teaching my children that prayer is something only children do?
This weekend, I’m pleased to say, I spent some time caring for my own Jewish self, without my kids. I made clear to them that I was going to learn more about being Jewish, and that it wasn’t something I had to do, but something I wanted to do.
At Limmud NY, I went study sessions on Torah, Talmud, Hallel, gender, and midrash. I visited four different minyans, went to “Kabbalah Yoga”, and shared havdallah with 500 other Jews. I saw inspiring teachers, and reconnected with friends in the Jewish community whom I haven’t seen in over a decade. (I would have done even more, but managed to come down with a stomach virus less than one day into the conference.) I had a chance to engage with Judaism as an adult, without thinking (hardly) at all about how it relates to parenting.
I’m on the lookout for more opportunities to learn, debate, and to pray with other adults. Maybe you’re already doing that…..if so, I’d love to hear what you do, where you do it and how you manage to find the time.