It used to be a question I asked myself often. Not anymore.
I spent many years thinking deeply, trying this and that, and praying for an answer to that one confounding question that worried me more than any other.
How can I teach my children about God?
I felt like a failure. I am a freakishly God-loving person. I think about God pretty much every hour of everyday. I talk to God like we’re buddies, I have this awesome respect for my Mentor and Provider. I am powerfully connected to the Lord.
But my kids…not so much.
My son in particular, is a skeptic. Well, actually he is more than simply skeptical about a Divine presence, he is not a believer. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we’re Jewish, the “Chosen People”. According to our religion, if you’ve got a clean bloodline back to Abraham you don’t have to declare belief in God, you simply have to live in a Godly way, and you’ll be okay.
So, I lived with the fact that despite my honest efforts to teach my children to “love God with all your heart and all your might” [Deuteronomy 6:5] I did not exactly hit it out of the park on that one.
I suppose I could say I saw more success with “living in a Godly way”. My kids are all grown now and they are responsible adults, kind and good, with compassion to others, a strong work ethic and blessed with devotion to family and friends.
With that box checked off, I figured I had another chance to teach my grandchildren to love God. Their parents turned over their religious education to me. I tried a different tack this time. I didn’t force them to sit in a religious school classroom. Instead we took field trips to Jewish institutions, we had Jewish cultural experiences, and they came with me to worship at what I call the happy clappy musical service.
With their “Hebrew Homeschool” completed I conceded, no God lovers in this batch either.
Being a Jewish grandmother, (they call me Bubbe) I know the way to the heart is through the stomach. Friday night Shabbat dinners have been a staple in our home for thirty years.
Last Friday night was no exception. The three grandkids came to celebrate Shabbat at the dinner table.
As usual, the meal started with soup. That week it was french onion. The kind with the gooey cheese that sticks to the crocks and is oh so delicious.
There was a salad course of course.
The entree was a sautéed steak in a peppercorn crust using two cast iron skillets. You’ll understand why I’m sharing the cookware details later on.
I roasted asparagus on a large cookie sheet. Olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a fistful of grated pecorino on top, cuz every vegetable taste better with a nutty cheese on top.
Double baked stuffed potatoes. Chives this time, no cheese – enough is enough already.
Of course, always the star of a Shabbat dinner…the home baked challah, straight from the oven to table.
Desert was individual strawberry shortcakes with freshly whipped sweet cream.
If you’re a cook, and even if you’re not, you can appreciate that a meal like this is a lot of work. I cook with love, and I love cooking, so for me it is something I do nearly every week. But it’s a full day of cooking and by 8:00 when the meal is over I am pooped.
Many years ago I came up with a system for clean-up that most people find abhorrent. I put away the leftovers and leave the rest of the mess for the next day.
That’s right, I walk away from the disaster in my kitchen with plates stacked in the sink, pots, pans and cookie sheets lying around exactly where I left them when the food made its way to the table. Glassware and platters are still sitting on the dining room table.
I wake up early on Saturday mornings before I go to synagogue and tackle the clean-up with enthusiasm and energy. About 2-2.5 hours later everything is back in order. Unless I don’t get around to until the afternoon.
Or unless it was this particular Shabbat.
My husband David and I needed to rush out after dinner last Friday night. Two of our grown sons were in a band performing at a local bar. It was a 21 and over crowd. We left the three grandkids to fend for themselves as they were sleeping over that night. For the record, Jake is 15, Rosie 14, and Max is 12.
I left the party early and Ubered home. I entered through the garage and the house was dark. Very dark. It was 10:30. “The kids must be asleep” I thought. I checked the bedroom. Beds were still made, no kids. I called their names. No response. I was mad. They must have snuck out.
I walk to the kitchen to turn on some lights. I flip the switch.
The surprise turned into shock as I looked around. The entire kitchen was clean. Every dish. Each cooking utensil. Counter-tops sparkling. Those three kids performed a miracle in the space of time I left, to my return.
They hand washed the china, they loaded the dishwasher, they scrubbed greasy cookware. Table linens were in the washing machine. The floors were brilliant, swept and then mopped. Every single item was put away. How did they figure out where everything went?
That was my first thought. My second thought was to thank God. My third thought was my ah-ha moment.
I did it! I taught my kids about God. I taught them to love God. When someone knows love and knows how to show love they are loving God through their actions. Cleaning up the kitchen for their Bubbe was their expression of gratitude to God.
Everybody doesn’t have to feel a love for God in the same way I do. Even better is when they can simply live the love of God.
Praise to You God of my ancestors, God of my present family, and God of the future generations. May the love of You God continue to grow in all of Your mysterious expressions of faith. Amen.