Music Lessons

As I was putting our seven year old to bed the other night, we were trying to decide what CD he should listen to. He was pushing for something lively (a Piamenta Band disc), but I put on something a bit more mellow instead (Jonathan Rimberg’s Kumzitz CD).

When it started playing my son said, “Abba, is this the guy who wasn’t Jewish?”

Puzzled I asked him what he meant. My son said, “You know, the guy who didn’t keep Torah and Mitzvos when he was a little boy, like you?”

I explained to my son that the artist he was thinking of (Yitzchak Halevi) was born Jewish. He didn’t become Jewish like Tzipporah and Yisro did (he had just learned about them a few weeks ago).

I told him that some people like me, just didn’t grow up knowing about Hashem, his Torah, and never had a chance to go to a day school. To say that they were “not Jewish” isn’t the appropriate term.

I then said that The appropriate term is Baal Teshuvah, someone who returns to Hashem and a life of Torah and Mitzvos. The concept wasn’t new to him, as he remembered when my wife and I were NCSY chapter advisors.

My son then said, “Abba, you’re a Baal Teshuva, right?”

I answered, “Yes.”

He then said, “Cool. So it’s, like, Elul and Tishrei for you the whole year, huh? That’s awesome.”

Impressed and moved by his observation, I could only reply, “It should be,” and I gave him a hug and said, “Shluff Gazunt” (good night in yiddish).

10 comments on “Music Lessons

  1. Sadly, achdus and good feelings are easier to manifest within cyber-space. It’s funny how easier it is to speak with someone despite their hashkofa when it’s on a blog. Real life is the ikar!

  2. Great comment! Halevai that all of us would think or even try to think in that manner!

  3. Thanks for all the comments. Issues like this are tricky. When kids are younger the stock answers like, “In our family we follow Hashem’s mitzvos” work for a while. The truth is today most Torah observant families (BT or FFB) have a relative that is either non-observant or has inter-married. Sensitivity still goes a long way.

  4. Neil, and everyone else,

    If you have Jewish relatives, they ARE Jewish. They just might not be as observant as you, or even observant at all. Hopefully one day they will be observant like us.


  5. Neil and Joanie,

    Your children are reflections of two terrific parents! Keep it up.

  6. It is always awesome to me how insightful my five year old (soon to be six) daughter is and how much she understands. Never underestimate the comprehesion of a child, he or she will often surprise you.

  7. As we raised our three young children, when they were very small, we’d get together with our secular family and my kids would always say that expression ” they aren’t jewish”. In fact, many of them aren’t, because their mothers aren’t Jewish, but we didn’t even go there, because the families think of themselves as Jewish. Instead, we taught the children to understand the concept that their family members were born Jewish, but that they aren’t observant of the Torah. In time, even at a small age, they learned to think and say, “they aren’t religious like us,” or, “they aren’t observant”, rather than, “they aren’t Jewish. As they got older, the question then came, “Mommy, if Aunt so and so isn’t Jewish, does that mean that cousin so and so isn’t Jewish either? So then, we explained the Jewish law, but we also told them that we don’t discuss this in the family because cousin so and so is being raised Reform, and is being taught that he or she is Jewish. Now, this is for another topic some day. . . what to do when you are invited to a bat mitzvah of a niece that isn’t Jewish. . . .although she thinks of herself as Jewish. . .

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