Chayei Sara – If You Won’t Teach Your Child, the Street Will

Abraham is asked in this week’s Sedra, ‘ Chayei Sara’, to separate his two sons: his son Yitzhak who is to become the father of the Jewish nation, from his his older brother Yishmael who is to become the father of the Arab peoples. While Abraham protests his wife’s Sarah’s suggestion, he abides by it – and wisely so as Yishmael becomes faith-challenged later in life.

  • Kabbala explains that a significant difference between the two brothers can be traced back to their moments of circumcision. Yitzhak is circumcised on the 8th day, and Yishmael on his 13th birthday. The difference: Yitzhak’s is a supra-rational circumcision – at 8 days there is no age of consent and the Bris defies reason to the baby.
  • Yishmael’s circumcision at the age of 13 allows reason to be a basis of the act of covenant. Therefore later in life, reason takes Yishmael elsewhere in his mind and heart, whereas Yitzhak remains firm in his belief and doesn’t waver – his bris having taken place beyond rational decision-making.
  • There is a misplaced attitude on the part of some parents that we should not raise our children with spirituality and Judaism because the child has to ‘make up his/her own mind’. Nothing can be more senseless. If parents don’t share with the child the distinction between right and wrong, then the random prevailing view on the street, or the whims of the sitcom scriptwriter, or the editorial biases of the newspaper – these will raise your children, instead of you. • Children want to believe their parents. This is not rational – it is supra-rational. Don’t allow your child to use mere momentary happenchance culture to be your child’s teacher. Implant belief from an early age. Let the child believe what you believe.
  • Send away the Yishmael of surrounding culture and absorb the belief system of Yitzhak.