Monday, April 23, 2012

Subjective Love and Chosenness

Natan Margalit, president of Organic Torah, has been a beloved teacher in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens for many years. He lives in Newton with his wife and two sons - here he shares about his teaching experience this year.


We recently finished our last session in the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens group at Congregation Kerem Shalom in Concord. It was a wonderful group and they are planning to continue their learning with a couple of follow up sessions this spring – they couldn’t get enough! Or maybe it was that we never finished any of the topics, so absorbed did we get in our conversations, leaving a lot of interesting material in the workbooks yet to be explored.
In the last of the 10 sessions we tackled the sticky topic of “chosenness.” Participants generally do not take to something that appears to set the Jewish people apart from the rest of humanity. Yet I have found that it is a very good session in which to talk about parenting. In trying to share with the participants my own view of chosenness, I find myself using the metaphor of parents and children. We were holding this last session outside as a picnic class, and many of our kids were running around the synagogue yard, playing and horsing around. My kids were there, too. I pointed out that I personally feel that my kids are the best, most beautiful, brilliant and talented kids in the world. But I understood that the other parents there might feel the same thing about their kids. It is natural and good, I argued, for kids to feel that they are loved with a special love that their parents don’t feel for just any kid, and parents may be forgiven for subjectively feeling love for their kids that is greater than for anyone else’s kids. But, I also know, in my more objective moments, that these beliefs about our own children being the best is only subjectively true – other parents feel the same way about their kids.
So, I suggested, perhaps that is what we mean by Jewish chosenness. Perhaps we as a people can legitimately feel that God loves us in a special way, and has chosen us, as long as we know that other nations and people also have the right to feel that way as well. I mentioned that the Dalai Lama, when he met with Jewish leaders, said that he loved that fact that the Jewish people were chosen – because the Tibetan people were chosen, too!
Of course, not everyone accepted my analogy. It opened up a lively discussion about God and the Jewish people and also about parenting and how we love our kids. It was, in my subjective opinion, a good way to finish our course in Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.
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