Community BlogPlanting Seeds in Time
Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year: thus, we are now in what a friend of mine calls Tush Hashanah. It is a time for looking both forward and back, much like January, named after the two-faced Roman god Janus who decrees that we spend the first few weeks of the secular year writing the wrong date on our checks.
We mused over questions of time and its nature in Parenting through a Jewish Lens. According to Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, one of the scholars whose work we studied,
“As Jews, we are heirs to a treasure map of wisdom drafted on the scroll of time. The map is drawn from the stories of Torah, the ways and days, prayers and rituals, of the Jewish people. Spread across the map, punctuating the time and terrain of the everyday, are the holidays.”
But what do these holidays mean to us as parents, and how do we convey that meaning to our children? Ultimately, we probably shouldn’t try too hard. Far better to let them speak for themselves to each successive generation. Many years ago one of my students cheerfully redacted all Jewish holidays into two categories: the first was “Pray Sleepy,” during which one spends all day at services and sinks gradually into a haze surrounded by the susurration of davening (praying) that fills the sanctuary. The second, and my personal favorite, was “They tried to kill us; it didn’t work; let’s eat.”
As I said. Kids will find their own meaning in the liturgical calendar.
Parents, by contrast, will probably be more concerned about the long-term implications of ritual and observance, for the simple reason that looking at one’s children means glimpsing a spark of the future. With this in mind, our class studied the Talmudic story of Choni, who sees a man planting a carob seed and points out that the man will probably not live the seventy years or so required to see the tree bear fruit. The man replies, “Just as my forebears planted…trees for me, so too will I plant them for my children.”
Upon hearing this, Choni falls asleep and stays that way for seventy years. (At this point in our class, comparisons with Rip Van Winkle came thick and fast.) When he awakes, he is unknown and unregarded; he prays for heavenly mercy and dies.
“We prepare for the future, but we don’t belong there,” said one of the students.
“Our children belong there,” agreed another. “And our grandchildren.”
“But what can we plant for them?” said Rabbi Finestone. “What can we make sure they have with them when we are no longer here?”
“Memories,” said one participant.
“Wisdom,” said a mom. “I hope.”
These, then, are our carob seeds; because even though we are not farmers, we are surely planting in fertile soil. Or, as Rabbi Cardin puts it so eloquently, “That map of time helps us see where we—or at least our people—have been and where we might yet go. It is well worn, yet ever renewed. And in its presence, we know that we do not travel this world alone.”
L’shana tovah, everyone.
Tilia is the author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time, “a tense debut action-thriller that hinges on a pair of related kidnappings.”–Kirkus.