Contribution Beyond Continuity

It is astounding to me how much money we spend as a community on Holocaust education. Yes, I know we can never forget, but do we need to pay for other people’s children to remember? Let them pay for their feelings of guilt. As for our own children, I appreciate that the Holocaust is a part of our memory and history, but so too is the breadth and depth of Jewish literature, art, and culture. It saddens me to think how much we educate our children about how we died, over and above teaching them how we live. You can disagree with me, but I doubt that this victim’s mentality is compelling to a generation who grew up in affluence and safety. No matter what we teach our children they will have to decide for themselves how they want to live. So what will drive our children?

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read that God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “Let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivated him you shall take My portion“(Exodus 25:1). The Israelites communicate their devotion to the Jewish project by contributing to the building of the tabernacle. Out of their own free will they all gave to build a “home” for God on earth. But, what can we hope to do now that the taberbacle and subsequent temples have been destroyed?

We need to find more places for God to come into our lives. I think that we need to educate our children to see simultaneously the tremendous beauty and harsh reality of God in the world . While there is poverty, violence, and destruction, there are also everyday miracles. If we want to find a place for ourselves and God in this world, we are going to have to get our hands dirty in rebuilding it. What have we given of ourselves and of our communities to make the world a better place? Once we master the art of contribution, we will have no problem with continuity.

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