Mazal Tov on the start of a new school year at Solomon Schechter! What a zechut (meritorious opportunity) to invest in your child or children’s Jewish future by equipping and empowering them with a day school education! Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe of blessed memory identified two primary modalities of Jewish education: planting and building. When we build for our children a Jewish education, we marvel how brick is layered upon brick, developing into a well-constructed whole: Hebrew language acquisition, knowledge of the Bible and Oral Torah, a grasp of Jewish history, etc. When Shabbat and the holidays come, our children know what to do, what blessings to recite, what songs to sing, and what rituals to enact. But, a Jewish education is also like planting. We plant within our children the seeds of the love of God, Israel, and Torah, of the Jewish people and humanity. We sow deep in the soil of our children’s soul Jewish pride and an ethical responsibility to stand up for the right and the good. We plant within them a profound sense of Jewish purpose, and a desire to join in, if not lead, the effort to redeem our world. Just as our parents and grandparents planted for us, so we plant for future generations.
For the most part, building takes place in school. Planting, however, is a full partnership between parents, teachers, and community. Our plantings must be constantly watered at school, at home, at shul, and everywhere else. And while the building results are immediately visible, the fruits of planting are more variable, given that seeds germinate, sprout and flower on their own schedule.
Here are three things parents can do to partner in Jewish educational building and planting.
- Pursue adult Jewish education for yourself. Show your child how important a Jewish education is to you.
- Let your child become your family’s teacher. Create a weekly opportunity for your child to share his or her Jewish education with you.
- Family chavruta. Study Torah together as a family, either all together, or one on one.
May this New Year be one of beautiful construction and fertile planting!
Benjamin J. Samuels is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Newton Centre.