Our forefather Abraham was known “to be careful to teach his children.” Thus began the tradition of Jews valuing education. Education embraces all facets of life – learning to read, write and do arithmetic; understanding and integrating acceptable social skills and behavior patterns; being able to exhibit sensitivity and empathy; mastering traditions and family rites of passage; determining the value of relationships, and above all, acquiring the knowledge to know that learning is a lifelong journey.
What do we want our kids to learn? How do we want them to learn? One of the most difficult things as a parent is watching our children make mistakes we’ve warned them against. Oh, the joys of parenthood!
When Eve stood hungry in the Garden of Eden wondering whether she should listen to the serpent and eat from the Tree of Knowledge, she faced the very first recorded moral dilemma. The snake tempted her to take the more attractive route, the easier path and so she followed.
We try to teach our children to think things through before they act, not to always take the easy path, not to blindly follow the crowd and to always stand firm in the face of injustice. However, we are not always there when they are confronted with the dilemma.
Our children are human, just as Eve was and just as we are. We all make mistakes as we journey through life; sometimes they’re little mistakes and don’t impact anyone else’s life and other times they’re bigger, changing those around us forever. The challenge for all of us, adults and children alike, is to learn from our mistakes, to emerge as better people and to try to make amends.
It is difficult for us not to judge one another, to criticize or to place ourselves on a moral pedestal. However, we need to keep remembering that none of us is infallible, that we are all journeying towards becoming better people and that it is not our place to pass judgment.
By placing the snake in the Garden of Eden, our ancestors sought to teach us about temptation. The easy or more attractive path is not always the correct one in the given circumstances, and passing judgment is often just another easy path to follow. ✿
Susan Penn 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.