It was not by choice, but I went to Hebrew School when I was a kid. I went to Saturday school too, but most of my friends went to Sunday school and Communion classes. I don’t remember much—other than I never did well, and I never did any of the homework assignments—I just remember not wanting to be there and thinking about my friends that were somewhere else, doing something different, and probably having a better time than me.
As it was, I had to sit through regular school, all day, Monday through Friday. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I had to come home, get my books, and come up with another reason why I never did my homework.
And because I did so poorly in class, they put me with the special needs kids. But the last thing I wanted was for The Old Man to find out.
The Old Man grew up with respect for the Jewish religion. He was disciplined to the customs and followed the holidays. He was well known in the Temple and he was respected for his mechanical abilities, which he used to fix their heating and ventilation systems(Free of charge). If the Rabbi had a plumbing problem; he called The Old Man. If the boiler went down; they called The Old Man.
In some ways, the Temple took advantage of him, but he figured this was his way of paying back. And it wasn’t the Temple he was paying back or the powers on the board of directors; it was God the Father.
My Old Man was blue-collar. He was a heavy handed, licensed steam fitter. He was far from perfect and further from sinless, but he believed, and he was loyal to his beliefs. He used to say, “You may not understand now and you may not appreciate your religion, but you’ll understand more when you get older.”
I think every kid hears that. “You’ll understand when you get older.”
I went to a Purim [poo-rim] carnival with my daughter yesterday. I haven’t been to one of those since I was her age. My memory of the holiday is hazy, but I know it celebrates a victory over a man named Haman, [pronounced: Hay-men] and whenever his name is called out, the congregation shouts, stomps their feet, boos, and makes noise to drown his name.
Yesterday, I sat through a brief Hebrew reading and when they canted Haman’s name, the congregation shouted, stomped their feet, and spun their tiny noise-makers.
During the celebration kids wore costumes and people shared food. The temple raised money for the poor and me…I sat there with a happy tear in my eye when the noise-makers went off.
I was graced with a small memory of my Temple and hearing the name Haman…..and like the congregation from yesterday, we screamed, stomped, shouted, and spun our tiny little noise makers.
I admit I have moved away from my heritage. But I do not reject where I came from. In fact, I embrace it. My belief in The Father is very important to me. And like The Old Man, I am far from perfect and even further from sinless; however, I am very loyal to my beliefs.
I am not bound to an Old Testament or held to the New; I believe in one single truth. In the end, I just want to be better and feel better….and I believe this one single truth can help me do that.
Yesterday, I was reminded of something good. I was reminded of The Old Man and a happy time from my youth. I was reminded of the foods I grew up with and a language I struggled to learn. I still remember many of the prayers and I sung them for my daughter when we drove off in the car. This was a good thing
I tried to explain to my child the same lessons my Old Man explained to me.
I told her, “You may not understand what I’m telling you now…but you will when you get older.”
Whatever traditions we teach our children will hook into the walls of their memory, and hopefully (if we’re lucky) they will surface on a day like yesterday morning, and it will make them remember and feel as I did.
I say that’s beautiful…
After explaining, I asked my daughter if she understood.
“See Punky? That’s an act of God. That’s how God works.”
I told her, “God speaks through people. Including you! He has a way of reminding us of who we are and where we come from, understand?”
Of course, my daughter said, “Yes,” but I said the same thing when The Old Man asked me if I understood.
I’m not worried though…
She’ll understand when she gets older.