Friday, September 15, 2017

Shabbat Around the Table -- Nitzavim Vayeilech

In this week's parsha (or weekly Torah reading) Moses reminds the people of the covenant God has made with themGod has not only made this covenant with the "people standing here today" but also with "the people not here today," which has always been understood to mean future generations.

This notion that future generations are beholden to the promises of their ancestors might not fit with our modern sensibilities, but to me it's a profound reminder that what we do now -- or don't do now   -- will matter in some way, somehow in the future. Our actions (or inactions) do have consequences, some immediate, and some we'll never even live to see.

As parents, this might feel overwhelming and exhausting. It might feel like a burden. It some ways it is. But we can also see it as a privilege. We can remember another Jewish value, tikkun olam, which literally means repair the world. We believe it is our duty to work with God to finish the work of God's creation, meaning that it's incumbent upon us to do our part -- small or large -- to make the world a little better than we left it. We're not doing it for us, we're doing it for our children and their children.

There is a story about an old man planting a fig tree by the side of the road. A stranger walks by and laughs at him: "Why are you bothering to plant that tree? You'll never live long enough to eat its fruits!" The old man replies, "My ancestors planted fig trees for me. And now I am planting this fig tree for my children and grandchildren."

As your children continue to grow, take time to acknowledge, and feel joyful about, all the fig trees you're planting for them. 

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