Judaism is all about making ordinary moments holy and giving them meaning. Ever since I can remember, my parents taught me that our only mission in life is to leave this world a little better than we found it. I later learned this is Tikkun Olam, or Repair of the World, a cornerstone of Jewish belief. Since becoming a father myself, it has become a primary focus of mine to pass on my Jewish heritage to my son, so he may reach is own spiritual understanding of our faith and pass this legacy on to future generations. And so, I was very excited to discover the book Jewish Spiritual Parenting by Rabbi Paul Kipnes and his wife, Michelle November.
Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness is all about teaching our children how to find the sacred in everyday life through ageless Jewish wisdom that is as relevant today, as it was for our ancestors (maybe more!). Jewish concepts such as Tzimtzum (Divine expansion and contraction), L'dor Vador (from generation to generation), Shutafut (partnership) and B'tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) are creatively interpreted as guides for parents to instill a deep and meaningful Jewish identity in their children that will hopefully lead to their being better citizens of this world.
An aspect of this book that I find valuable is the fact that the authors draw upon their experiences as a rabbi and Jewish educators, but also as parents themselves. Each lesson incorporates not only Jewish philosophy, but related stories of how they incorporated this wisdom into the raising of their own children. Thus, readers are able to see first-hand examples for better understanding.
The book begins with a discussion of the many ways we, as Jews, define God. One quickly learns that there are as many unique ways of understanding God as there are Jews in the world, and all are compatible with Judaism itself. Through open discussion between parents and children, they encourage a spiritual sharing of ideas about God that lead to greater clarity and understanding.
Drawing upon the teachings of Maimonides about friendship, readers learn how to use Shutafut (partnership) as a parenting strategy and how we can learn from the failures of our ancestors (as told in Torah and Midrash).
Tzimtzum is the Kabbalistic concept of how the Ein Sof, or limitless Divinity, contracted itself to make a space for creation. Rabbi and Michelle Kipnes use this philosophy to show parents when they should reach out and when they should hold back to allow their children space to grow.
It was Elie Wiesel who said that "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future." This is the Jewish concept of L'dor Vador, from generation to generation. In this lesson, the authors encourage parents to build relationships between their children and older generations through sacred storytelling and dedicated times for grandparents and elders to share their life experiences.
B'tzelem Elohim is the teaching that we are all created in the image of God. In this lesson, we learn how to celebrate the uniqueness of each of our children, so that we can build a rapport and guide each of them in ways that are better suited to their understanding and personal growth.
These are just a few of the many lessons included in Jewish Spiritual Parenting. I would definitely recommend this book not only for prospective and new parents, but also for those parents with older children who want to transmit and teach the values of their Jewish faith and heritage in a way that is meaningful and can be useful for everyday life and growth. Ultimately, we can only be guides for our children on their journey through life. As Anne Frank said, "Parents can only give good advice, or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
Author of Spiritual Thriller, True Identity