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Monday, 14 April 2014

Have you had the big talk with your kids yet?

Beitzah 15

Today’s Life Yomi is dedicated in honour of the 56th birthday of Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld of Isralight, Los Angeles.  Biz 120 in good health and much hatzlocho b’gashmiyus uv’ruchniyus! 

We all make incredible sacrifices to ensure that our children are educated in the ways of our heritage.  Jewish dayschool tuition costs an arm and a leg, summer camp is a small fortune, and yeshivos and seminaries are not cheap either. 

Are we getting bang for our buck?  What’s the return on our investment?  Some kids thrive in the system and emerge as committed Jews and leaders of the next generation. Sadly, many others come out of the system ambivalent or worse towards their experience. 

As tuition costs rise and families’ abilities to afford such costs become more and more strained, many are jumping on the ‘charter school’ bandwagon.  I already pay for education in my taxes – if it’s not even guaranteed whether or not my kids will thrive in the system, why shouldn’t I get the government to pay for their education?

Rabbi Yochanan quotes Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Shimon: One who wants his assets to survive should plant an aider tree in them, as it says “The Almighty is adir (strong) on High.”   The tree is commonly known as aidara, because it survives from dara to dara (generation to generation).

Similarly it was taught in a Braisa: A field that contains an aider tree will never be stolen or attacked and its fruits are forever guarded. 

Rabbi Eliezer is teaching us the secret of Jewish continuity.  If you want your “assets” to survive “from generation to generation,” you must plant the “Adir” – the Almighty in them. 

We spend tens of thousands of dollars educating our kids in tradition, laws and customs.  But how often do we talk about G-d with them?  They become young adults, go off to college and for the first time, they encounter the big questions. 

‘Is there a G-d?  How did this universe come about?  Why do bad things happen in the world?  Why am I here?  Does G-d care about me and what I do?  Why did G-d bother with the universe?’

The Braisa teaches that if our children are conversant in the big questions, they will never be stolen or attacked.  No foreign influences or philosophies will be able to penetrate them, because by the time they have reached that stage of their lives, they will be so well-versed in the truth that nothing will ever sway their faith and reason. 

And so, not only are your assets – your children safe, but their fruits are guarded as well.  You will have grandchildren and great-grandchildren that are committed to our heritage.

The answer is not to throw the towel in and give up on our Jewish schools.  Relinquishing control over our kids’ Jewish education often means surrendering curriculum design to governing authorities, admitting non-Jewish students and a host of other adverse repercussions.    

Instead, we must make sure that we are truly tending to our fields.   It’s not enough to appoint a farm-manager of our affairs – in this case, the school.  The school has its role to play, but as the “asset” owners, it is incumbent upon us to plant the aider – to talk about G-d with our children.

Talk to your kids daily about the Almighty.  As your saplings become trees, the level of conversation must also mature.  Teach them, ask them, engage them.   You’ll be surprised at how much you learn along the way.  And they will forever be protected from any external threat – you will watch them flourish and go on to engage with their children and grandchildren for all generations! 

Life Yomi dedications don’t cost a penny!  To dedicate a day of learning in honour of a birthday, anniversary or yortzeit, all you need to do is commit to sending the Life Yomi of the day (or another Life Yomi teaching of your choice) to 18 (chai) people!  You needn’t provide us with the names of recipients; all we need is the honouree’s name and occasion.  For more details, please email

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