The Things You Do…

Judaism teaches lessons in, sometimes, odd ways. For example, when lighting the chanukiah, you always light the newest candle first. Why? Because every candle gets a chance to be lit first, so that none of their feelings are hurt.

There’s also a very specific hierarchy of blessings over food. The top of that list is the bracha(blessing) over bread. Since bread is seen as the foundation of a meal, it works as a cover-all, negating the need for other brachos. On Shabbos and holidays, in order to sanctify the day, we do so with wine. This has to be done immediately prior to the meal. But since the bracha for wine is seen as a secondary bracha to the one for bread, we cover the bread, so that it doesn’t see that we’re making a bracha for the wine first. Again, it’s to protect the feelings of an inanimate object.

Now, before you start thinking “Geez, these Jewish folks are weirder than I thought. They’re worried about the feelings of bread and candles?! What a bunch of nut cases.”, there’s a very good explanation for all of this. Obviously we don’t believe that these things ACTUALLY have feelings. The rationale is that if we can take the “feelings” of inanimate objects into consideration, it stands to reason that we’ll be much more likely to consider the feelings of people.

I really hope that you don’t think we’re nuts. I remember when I learned all of this, many years ago, and I told my Rabbi that if we were really intent on discovering who REALLY wants to convert, tell them this little nugget. If they stay, then their reasons for wanting to convert are legitimate, and not just because they like the food and the extra days off work. He wasn’t exactly sold on the idea.

So, being the sort of person who is inclined to consider the feelings of a candle or a delicious loaf of challah(I’ll cover it, but in a few minutes I’m going to slice it and eat it. If I didn’t eat it, it wouldn’t get to fulfill its destiny, and that wouldn’t do either of us any good), it didn’t exactly catch me off guard the other day when I thought of the (strange) desires of my son.

I’ve been playing a particular computer game, off and on, for many years now. It’s a city-building game that takes place in Egypt(a Jewish guy building Egyptian cities?! That’s some serious deja vu). It’s great. Anyways, recently I was playing and Tevye was watching. He was very intrigued by the whole concept of the game, and was asking all sorts of questions. I showed him that some of the people were building a pyramid, but, as you might imagine, it was taking a while(these weren’t exactly weekend projects). He was desperate to see what it looked like when the people finished, and I had to tell him that it wouldn’t be done for a long time. After a bit, I had to do grown-up things, and turned the game off.

Monday comes around, and I happened to play a bit while the kids were at school. Things were going along swimmingly. The city was prospering, people had lots of food, industries were doing well. The pyramid was almost finished. OH MY GOODNESS! If I don’t stop playing now, Tevye’s going to miss it, and I’ll feel like a jerk.

And just like that I closed the program so I could show him when he got home from school.

That afternoon he and I sat and watched all the little workers finish their project. I explained the process, and he enjoyed the show.

It may not be one of those big Father-Son bonding moments that either of us will remember years from now, and you, lovely reader, may be thinking “I read all of this to discover that you finished a level on a computer game?”, but it was important to him.

And if it’s important to him, then it’s important to me.

2 Responses to “The Things You Do…”
  1. If someone ever ate challah, blessing it makes so much sense. That said you are a great Dad!!

  2. I am the first to admit that I am quite uneducated when it comes to Judaism (or most religions) given that I grew up in a strictly atheist household. However I desperately want to change this as I now have a daughter of my own, who needs to grow up learning respect for other people’s beliefs. Your blog is one of my favourite reads for this reason. I learn, I laugh and I relate. Thank you đŸ™‚

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