As parents we want our children to feel loved and secure. They should know that there is Shalom HaBayit (Peace in the Home) and that the home is a safe and secure environment where everyone is accepted and loved for who they are. This is how we nourish the soul. Once children feel comfortable in the home environment, they are open to trying new things, to listening to those who love them and to growing as people. We model some of the traditionally accepted Jewish values: Chesed (kindness), Kehila (community) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) in the hope that our children will integrate them into their character, leading them to live a more meaningful and fulfilled life.
The Torah commands farmers not to harvest all of their crops, but to leave some on the side of the fields, so that the poor can take what they need. It requires the community to provide an impoverished bride with a dowry. The story is told of a town where an extremely wealthy man is known to be ornery. The community avoids him as his nastiness has turned them away over the years. Every Friday morning, the indigent families in town wake up to a bag of groceries on their doorstep for Shabbat. No one knows where the groceries came from. When our ornery hero passes on, the grocery deliveries stop. This leads to the conclusion that he was responsible for the Tzedakah, which nourished the souls and bodies of the poor on Shabbat. Amongst other things, this story models Tikkun Olam and the huge effect it can have on a community.
As we try to nourish the souls of our children, share the traditional value based stories with them. Take them with you to feed the homeless, to visit a sick friend or relative or to drop off their discarded clothes at a shelter. Tell them stories about family members standing up to injustice; encourage them to see the wrong in terrorism, genocide and human trafficking. Let them see us acknowledge our own faults and failures and understand that they love and nurture us for who we are as parents, and in turn we do the same for them. Nourishing the souls of those around us makes the world a better place for all. ✿
Susan Penn, M.Ed. is a mother of three, education director at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of Jewish Educators Assembly.