The Week & Parsha
Friday October 26th: Shabbat begins 5:27pm
Saturday October 27th: Shabbat ends 6:33pm
This weeks Sidrah: Vayera
How we spend our money is usually a pretty good barometer of where our priorities lie. And this applies equally whether the money is plentiful or scarce.
After the birth of Isaac, his half-brother Ishmael behaves threateningly towards him and Sarah finds it necessary to ask Abraham to banish Ishmael from the family home. Together with his mother, Hagar, they wander the desert. Soon they run out of water.
And the water in the leather flask was finished and she cast off the boy beneath one of the bushes. (Genesis 21:15)
So let me ask you what would be called a typical klotz kasha, or a seemingly obvious but, nonetheless, stupid question. If the flask is empty, why throw away the child? Throw away the empty flask!
It would appear then that when our food supply is depleted and finance is in short supply, the first ones to suffer may be our children. The bank balance is low? How can we even think of a Jewish Day School education! The tuition fees are so expensive. Instead of denying ourselves creature comforts we deem non-negotiable, we sacrifice our children’s Jewish upbringing in the name of economics.
It’s like the old story of the Jewish mother who came from Eastern Europe to join her son in America and was horrified to see he had shaved of his beard and cast off his yarmulke. “What happened to you, my Yankele?” she asked. “Mama,” he says, “America is not the shtetl.” And when she saw him going to work on Shabbat, again he told her America was different. And when she opened the fridge and discovered all kinds of creepy things she never saw in a Jewish kitchen, again he explained that America was not the same as “back home.” Eventually, when it was all getting too much, she asked him, “Yankele, tell your old mother the truth. Are you still circumcised?”
It’s not only an old shtetl story. It’s happening right now. In my own community of South Africa we know of too many who left these shores to make a better life for their children. But emigrating is expensive and with limited resources one must make choices and prioritize. Many chose to do without Jewish schooling. The rest is history. Bad history. Without a Jewish education young people wander about wondering why they should not be doing what their contemporaries are doing. And the money we saved in school fees is now going to doctors, psychologists, or G‑d forbid, drug rehab centers.
Even in Israel, we have to be discriminating when choosing a community. If the other kids on the block are riding their bikes on Yom Kippur, why shouldn’t your child? And if you insist and they feel denied, they may opt out altogether.
Kids need stability and an environment with a healthy value system. No matter how tempting or secure other seemingly greener pastures may be, before making a move we ought to consider the spiritual security system our children will need to survive and thrive—as Jews. Just because the bottle may be empty, don’t throw away the child.