Our teens are amazing!!"). For the third year in a row, they are adding a theme to our Shabbat services; this year is "The Wizard of Oz," and if you're anywhere in the area, I encourage you to come. Last year, our Teen Shabbat service earned WOhev the international USY award for religious and educational programming, so yeah, they're pretty "Woh!" And I'm also in young-person-mode this Shabbat because of a tiny little announcement I'd like to share with you.
You may already know that my wife, Rebecca, and I have a daughter, Caroline. Well, now we're looking to grow the flock, as it were,
with another little baby! God willing, he (yup) is due in July. Hooray! So anyway, with kids on my mind this week, I want to offer a little rabbinic reading of this week's Torah portion, paying special attention to the choice of words of our Torah text. You see, this week we are reading Ki Tisa, which includes the infamous story of the Golden Calf. Moses is up on Mount Sinai, receiving God's laws, and the people grow restless and demand that Aaron, the High Priest and Moses' brother, build them a "new" god in the shape of a young bull. Now read carefully with me:
"Aaron said to them, '[You men], take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' And all the people took off the gold rings that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf" (Ex. 32:2-3).
I want to add a little midrash here, a little rabbinic story or interpretation. Aaron asks for the jewelry of the men, women, and children, but only gets back the jewelry of the adults; why? Perhaps because the kids refused to participate. As the story goes on, we hear nothing about children or young people participating; the offense was committed by the adults alone. Indeed, when Moses later calms God's anger towards the people, he reminds God of the covenant, not just with our ancestors, but with "their offspring" (32:13), and God - recognizing the innocence of the younger generation - is mollified.
I am fascinated by the decision of the children to remove themselves from this sin. I also wonder, how did the parents explain this embarrassing incident to their kids? After all the miracles they had seen, and all the loyalty they had pledged to God, how could they back-peddle and now claim that this random golden object was ACTUALLY
their god? As most of us know, children, from toddlers to teens, easily see through the inauthentic behaviors of adults. Surely this whole ordeal would have seemed fake, bewildering, and perhaps even a bit pathetic to the Ancient Israelite youth. The young people remained loyal to God, and it was ultimately our saving grace. It is a reminder to us all to refocus on our young people, and the gifts they can bring to us all. Whether you're about to have a baby (yikes!), or are listening to teenagers in costume explain why the Wizard is actually God, take some time to hear what they have to say. You might be surprised by what you'll discover...
Photos in this blog post:
1. Image of me getting ready for Wizard of Oz Shabbat...
2. Family pic from January, 2016.4. CC image of the Wizard of Oz courtesy of The Man in Question on Wikimedia Commons