Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

I just picked up this book for our next book club, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. It's about taking basic principles of Judaism that pertain to the development of character, and applying them to parenting. So far I'm on page 37 and already have too many quotations that I want to burn into my own brain. Here are a few;

The purpose of having children, according to the teachings of the Torah, is not to create opportunities for our glory or for theirs. The purpose of having children and raising them to be self-reliant, compassionate, ethical adults is to ensure that there will be people here to honor God after we are gone. So the rules regarding child-rearing are not primarily about making children feel good, but about making children into good people.

In relation to giving of ourselves, not in specific amounts, nor with the ideal of achieving perfection, but rather to try and give something:
"It is not your responsibility to complete the work [of perfecting the world] but you are not free to desist from it either." -Rabbi Tarfon (from a collection of ethical maxims dating back to before the first century)

And in relation to the author's emphasis upon moderation, celebration, and sanctification (particularly in recognizing the holiness of the present moment):
There is one question that sums up everything I have learned about the power of Jewish teachings to guide us in every generation. It's a question that rabbis like to ask schoolchildren:
What's the most important moment in Jewish history?
The giving of Torah on Sinai?
The parting of the Red Sea?
No. Right now. This is the most important moment in Jewish history.

The author also talks about the dinner table being a family altar. The table where we eat can embody the principles of moderation, celebration, and sanctification in our lives on a daily basis, making the present moment holy. If my dinner table is a holy place, it changes how I approach it. It changes the food I put on it to feed my family, it changes our actions towards each other in a more respectful direction (hopefully!), and it changes how we behave. And it certainly imbues the present moment with a holiness that I might otherwise overlook.
I've read and heard repeatedly how important family dinnertime is for children~those families who eat together daily produce children with bigger vocabularies, fewer mental illnesses, more moderate weights, fewer social problems, and less drug and alcohol use in teenagers, amongst a myriad of other reports. I've often wondered, how on earth? By dinner time we're all tired and cranky, sometimes all I want to do is shout "SHUT UP!!!" at anyone who makes the slightest noise, and we rarely talk about anything profound. But I think what this author is trying to say is, that dinnertime builds character in our children, which I guess is reflected in all of these 'studies' which report great benefits from eating together daily.
Who knew such a mundane everyday thing as eating dinner could hold so much?

Read this book! You might anyways by the end of me reading it, from me quoting most of the book to you....


ms emili louann said...

Going to check it out. Like, now.

Thanks :D

Asheya said...

That's a great quote about the present moment.

And I wonder if families who eat dinner together, it's not just what happens at that dinner table, but perhaps that families that eat together are more intentional in a way that permeates their entire family life about making time for each other. That sentence is not grammatically correct! That's what I wonder.

But I do think eating together is also a huge, important thing. How and what food we take into our bodies, the food that will become part of our very being, is a significant spiritual act. If love from your family, just by being together, and food go together, I think that is very powerful.

amy frances said...

I second all that about dinner, A.

As totally screwed up as everything was for me as a kid, oddly, we still ate dinner together, as a family, every day: me, my sister, and either my mom or my grandparents (depending on where we were living). There was always tension and it was rarely pleasant, but it was necessary and comforting to me anyway. On the rare occasions when it didn't happen, the world felt off-kilter, more dangerous, more uncertain. Maybe it was the routine, the predictability of it, more than anything else. I don't fully understand why, but it was Really Important.

There's something so profound and and powerful and true and human about sanctifying the mundane, little moments of ordinary life, isn't there?

lori said...

Awesome book, it sounds like! I'll have to add it to my list too.