Sunday mornings aren't exactly for relaxing in our household. By 8 a.m., Ethan and I are typically already up, dressed and on the road, to drive across town so he can attend his weekly religious school class at our synagogue. The first two years of this have run relatively smoothly, with Ethan obediently and without complaint, hopping into the car, satisfied with attending his three hour class and with the 45 minute drive there and back.
This year has been a different story. Each Sunday morning is greeted with groans, complaints and questions about the necessity of these classes. But this has all been manageable and fairly easily diffused with the purchase of chocolate milk and donuts to enjoy during the car ride. Until this morning. Until Ethan told me that not only did he not feel Jewish, but that he did not want to be Jewish and that he did not see anything about him that was Jewish. Ouch. Seriously, ouch.
I was, quite literally, speechless. Mostly because all of what he said was completely true. And all my (and Adam's) fault. It has been obvious to me over the past year or so, that our Jewish practice has taken a backseat to the rest of our life, and I, knowingly, brushed the fact that it bothered me aside. We used to enjoy Shabbat dinners (admittedly, only semi regularly) as a family, but more often than not, we attended Shul most Saturdays. But that stopped and somehow, I let the rest of our life get in the way. Between Cub Scouts, soccer practice, soccer games and ironically, religious school, time seemed to become such a precious commodity that I allowed all the places where I wanted to fit things in to become full with other things.
Some of those things I can control, and to be fair to myself, some I just can't. And sometimes, I just have to prioritize to the best of my ability. Ethan's soccer team had games on Saturday mornings, during services. Ethan loves soccer, his coach and his team and it wasn't something I was prepared to ask him to give up. But Friday nights are usually free and I suppose we could've been lighting the Shabbat candles and sharing challah together. While I spend countless hours volunteering my time by serving my synagogue (and find it very rewarding), I see that it's not touching the rest of my family the way it's touching me.
Adam and I have had many conversations where we have agreed to refocus ourselves on living Jewishly. And we have seriously fallen short. And it never seemed to have a negative effect on our life. Until today. By Ethan saying that he didn't feel Jewish and didn't want to be Jewish, he unknowingly laid down the gauntlet. This is something I must try to change. It's not enough to learn about being Jewish, we have to live it. And regrettably, we haven't been.
I also understand that as a seven-year-old, Ethan isn't able to grasp the importance of what he's learning in his classes right now. But I also understand I can't ask him to try his best if Adam and I aren't trying our best. I can't ask him to be happy about giving up his Sunday mornings to participate in Jewish life if Adam and I aren't fully participating in Jewish life. (There seems to be nothing more shameful - and nothing that results in faster action - than having your child point out your flaws...and being spot on.)
A Jewish friend of mine once said that there is nothing convenient about being Jewish. And she's right. There isn't. But my hope is that one day, Ethan won't see being Jewish as an inconvenience, but rather as something that brings him peace and happiness. But it starts at home. And it starts today.