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Eternal Jewish Identity

There is a serious concern today for the hearts and minds of our youth. Teenagers, children, and young adults are thirsty for meaning in life, and where there is a void it can sadly be filled with anything that makes itself available. That’s a big reason we are seeing a resurgence of antisemitism in the world, and especially on college campuses — all cloaked under the guise of compassion and care for the underdog.

No doubt, every parent wants their children to become compassionate adults, and to be part of the solution to society’s ills rather than the opposite. Our goal is always to leave the world a better place for our children, and for our children to continue that trend by doing even better than us. So the question is, how do we ensure that our children make the right choices in life, and focus their compassion on appropriate goals, rather than ending up on the wrong side of history, G-d forbid?

The answer may lie in an interesting string of passages found in the Torah. We often come across parts of scripture that follow one another but have no apparent connection, making for a fascinating journey into the depths of the Torah’s meaning in order to discover a common theme.

The first statement is “You shall be holy,” followed immediately by, “Every man shall fear his mother and his father” and then “You shall observe my Sabbaths.”

Being holy is an expression of standing out and being different than everyone else around us. So the opening message is, Jews are different. We have a different code of laws, we follow the commandments of the Torah, which guide every area of our lives, even the most mundane. This doesn’t only apply to spiritual or religious pursuits — even the way we eat, dress, and engage in commerce, should be infused with a sense of holiness and a greater purpose.

This of course doesn’t happen overnight, it requires intentionality on the part of parents to inculcate their children with this sense of purpose. From the first moment of a child’s life, every aspect of their upbringing needs to be imbued with Torah and holiness. Teaching them to discern between right and wrong, instilling within them the values of Torah and our ancestors, promoting the priorities of a Jewish home life before anything else — will help ensure that as our children grow wings of their own and start their lives, they will be proud links of the unbroken chain of Jewish values being central to our lives.

One of the most assured ways for parents and children to keep the focus on their Judaism as a family is Shabbat. 

More than just a day off, or a day to have a family dinner together, Shabbat is a 24-hour opportunity to disengage from the world around us and to focus on what makes us different. We don’t work and we disconnect from all technology. Instead we spend time together, go to services at the synagogue, enjoy good food, take nice long walks, study some Torah, reenergize and revitalize ourselves so that as a new week begins we can once again face the world, and continue infusing it with holiness.

That’s why, as a direct follow up to “you shall be holy” we are told that a healthy parent-child relationship is key to the Jewish nation’s continuity. By children recognizing the value of the generations that preceded them, and by parents acknowledging that the chain of Judaism depends on their children, we ensure a bright Jewish tomorrow.

And it all starts with Shabbat.

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