August 19, 2022
Interpretations and reflections from this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Eikev, tend to focus on three common themes. These include Moses’s rebuke of the people, recalling the Golden Calf incident (Deuteronomy 9:16) along with other moments of the Hebrew’s weaknesses and failings, the reference to Israel as the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 11:9), and the words of the second paragraph of the daily Shema prayer (Deut. 11:13-21).
However, what is rarely associated with Parshat Eikev is the brief reference to intergenerational influence, “It was your ancestors whom Gd was drawn to out of love, so that you of all people, their descendants, could follow [their laws] today.” (Deut. 10:15)
Yes, this verse, although obscure, is often used to explain why Jews today follow the Jewish laws and customs established by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Moses and Aaron, and all our Jewish leaders and great sages since.
But why look that far back? What if we only looked a few generations back from today, each one of us considering the choices, practices, and lifestyles our grandparents made (and might still be making) that influence our lives?
Having spent thirty years in education, I had the opportunity to see how grandparents involved in their grandchildren’s lives help nurture in their grandchildren a strong sense of self. Although parents give their children unconditional love, a child can often interpret this love as conditional because when they do something right, mommy and daddy are happy; yet, when they err, mommy and daddy get upset.
However, most grandparents involved in their grandchildren’s lives tend to exhibit unconditional love. “Oh, you dropped your bowl of ice cream because you were fooling around; that’s too bad. Let’s go get another.” Grandparents shower their grandchildren with constant love, enabling these children to develop strong self-esteem, knowing that they make mistakes and are not perfect, but that they are loved unconditionally, nonetheless.
A recent report built on a first-of-its-kind 2019 national study by the Jewish Grandparents’ Network (JGN) “identified the important roles that grandparents play in their grandkids’ lives, and the commitment that they have, to their grandkids being involved in Jewish life, being connected to Jewish traditions and Jewish customs and values,” JGN co-founder and CEO David Raphael.*
So, what can we do about that here in San Antonio? Well, first, I encourage our grandparents to get involved. As the study showed, if you have b’nai mitzvah-aged grandchildren, engage in conversation with your children to see how you can be part of this critical lifecycle event. And if you have younger grandchildren, don’t wait! Engage in their lives as part of the PJ Library program.
Did you know that there’s a special intergenerational “Making Memories” event scheduled for Sunday, September 18, 12:30-2:30pm? Join the PJ Library team for a fun-filled time (including lunch) with your under-twelve-year-old grandchildren as you engage in special Jewishly-themed crafts. Click HERE to find out more and register.
Building community is a marathon, not a sprint, and in this week’s Torah portion, we read that it can take generations to make the necessary changes to achieve our goals. This week we encourage our grandparents to reach out to their grandchildren and do something, anything, Jewish. To our parents, provide your parents with a few of your children’s favorite PJ books and have them read together. And if you’re too far away from those intergenerational loved ones, let us know, and we’ll connect you with local community members who would love to temporarily fill the void, because we are…