Elul and Back to School


Dear JWRP Chevra,

Today I had a short break to speak with one of the members of the JWRP team. In between meetings and exciting work at the office, we spoke about where she was in her Judaism, where she was struggling and how to move forward. It was only five minutes, but it helped us both find clarity and connection. 

Do you want to talk, catch up and reconnect? You can actually win a coffee Skype date with me in a contest!

After launching our first episode of Momentum TV, which hundreds of you watched, we wanted to get the word out so we launched #ShareTheMomentum, a contest to help more people know about this exciting show, which is our take on The View

For your chance to win, simply watch the episode and share it on your Facebook wall, tag three friends in the post and subscribe to our Momentum Trips YouTube Channel. One participant will be chosen to have a 1-on-1 coffee date with me. The contest ends today (Thursday) at midnight Eastern time, so share away! I can’t wait to see who I’ll be speaking with.

Let's keep the Momentum going.

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom.



Hey to the Chevra,

In case you hadn't noticed, children large and small are heading back to school. After all these years, grown women like me still get pumped up about notebooks full of clean, white, lined pages. If I don't steer clear of the school-supplies section at the grocery store, I'll forget the food and come home stocked with pens, pencils and a new ruler.

It is probably a safe guess that for anyone reading this Ramble, attending school is not negotiable. We want our children to get a good education, one that will prepare them for university, a profession, a good livelihood. We want them to be able to navigate the world, to be computer savvy, able to fill out tax forms, mortgage applications and more. My friend told me she watched a 19-month-old toddler take her father's iPhone and tap on the app she wanted. She proceeded to find the farm animals, who instantly rewarded her with the appropriate barnyard sounds. My friend was worried that she had not yet taught these skills to her 2 1/2-year-old. She was stressed that he might never catch up and would reach adulthood unprepared.

It is easy to worry about whether we have equipped our children with the right knowledge, tools and experience to go out into that rough and tumble world. When we envision the big picture that encompasses our dreams and aspirations for ourselves and our families, and we fill in the pixels, the details that bring dreams into reality, we need to think about what is truly essential, what is secondary and what might be totally unnecessary. Every year, during the month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are encouraged to ask ourselves those important questions. If we begin to wonder if perhaps we are on the wrong track, we are reminded that it is never too late to change our course.

This week's parsha, Parashat Ki Teitzei, contains many mitzvot (commandments) addressing difficult topics such as divorce, rape, war and poverty. The Torah was given to us for use in the real world. There is a clear recognition of the challenging and even tragic possibilities human beings encounter. The Torah gives us an outlook for how to address these horrendous challenges and a system to help us balance a strong sense of justice with a healthy sense of compassion.

While much of modern-day thought focuses on the randomness of life, the uncertainty principle and chaos theory, Judaism teaches that life is far from random and G-d has challenged us to take action, to work to transform ourselves, our communities, the world. To paraphrase Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his wonderful book The Dignity of Difference, Judaism teaches that human beings are not immune to conflict or tragedy, but when they strike, the individual is not alone. Judaism obligates us to dedicate energy to creating and sustaining society through education, values and morality, and careful protection of human institutions.

When we send our children off to school, we hope that, in addition to math and science, they will learn virtues and rules of conduct. Rabbi Sacks writes that we have to help our children learn to value the "we" as well as the "I." "The rewards of a moral order are great. It creates an island of interpersonal meaning in a sea of impersonal forces. It redeems individuals from solitude. Morality is civilization's greatest attempt to humanize fate."

Perhaps our challenges as a society are related to what Daniel Goleman, in Working with Emotional Intelligence, calls "too much college and not enough kindergarten." As our thoughts turn to the upcoming High Holidays, it's time to re-examine our fundamental values and then consider whether we walk the talk. Children see right through our lectures and discourses. They learn from our actions, how we conduct ourselves; where we put our time, effort and energy.

We may be sending our children to school with the hopes that they will receive a good education, but at the same time, we must remember that we are our children's first and primary teachers. The most significant understanding of ourselves, our relationship with others, our connection with our Creator begins at home. For that type of education, school supplies aren't necessary. What we need will come from the emporium of wisdom for living contained within our Torah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Lauren Shaps

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