Prayer for my children

godYesterday I received an email from Artscroll, an Orthodox publishing house, with a prayer to be recited over one’s children on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the evening before the new month of Sivan begins. The email explains that since the Jews received the Torah in the month of Sivan, and thus became God’s children, this is an appropriate time to pray to God for “good and upright children.”
 The the text of the prayer  is terrifically long – three pages in single spaced, small font. (I think I would first have to pray for the time to recite such a long prayer….) Not surprisingly, there are quite a few sections that don’t quite align with my deepest hopes for my children. Artscroll has never really been my cup of tea. First of all, their translations always refer to God as Hashem, which I can no longer read without recalling the time a non-Jewish friend mispronounced it as hash-em, as in “What would you like me to do with these potatoes?” Their children’s books tend to be a stunning combination of didactic text and unattractive pictures, with titles that seem like they are from another era altogether – When Moshiach Comes, Donny and Deeny Kteeny, and Mitzvos We Can Do! (We’re definitely more of a Jewish Lights kind of family, collecting up all of their warmly illustrated, completely groovy, rabbinically penned but nearly ecumenical, books about God.)
First of all, the Artscroll prayer for children contains several references to their “mates.” While I do hope that my children will grow to find life partners and create families, the word “mate” conjours up images of dogs humping. Or Australians. But definitely not my four and five year old daughters. 
The prayer goes on to ask of God (I mean, Hashem): “May they serve you with love, and true, internalized fear of heaven, not merely apparent fear.” Agreed, yirat hashamayim, or fear of God, is probably a good thing. I’m sure it would be of particular value come adolescence. But when I think about nurturing my young daughters’ emerging relationships with the Divine, fear (and REAL fear, not pretend fear, damn it) is not the top quality I’m aiming for. Instead, I’m working on some combination of intimacy, wonder, and gratitude, with a touch of duty for good measure.
On some days, I think we’re getting close. There was the time Ella started whispering out the car window, and later reported that she was asking God to please make her big enough to take ballet lessons, or Zoe’s stock answer to the question “who made you so cute?” But there are other days, when we’re doing an errand on shabbat, or when we neglect to say brachot before eating, that  I think I’d be doing a much better job at this whole home-shuling thing if I were a little more Artscroll, and a little less Jewish Lights.

Comments read comments(8)
post a comment
Leigh Ann

posted May 21, 2009 at 10:39 am

Thanks for the reminder! Do you mind if I do a blog post inspired by yours? I’ll link to you, of course.:)

report abuse


posted May 21, 2009 at 11:37 am

Oh, of course, go right ahead!

report abuse


posted May 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm

“But there are other days, when we’re doing an errand on shabbat, or when we neglect to say brachot before eating, that I think I’d be doing a much better job at this whole home-shuling thing if I were a little more Artscroll, and a little less Jewish Lights.”
Please repeat after me: Judaism is NOT all or nothing.
The best thing is that you can be a little bit Artscroll and a little bit Jewish Lights and a LOT yourself. Sounds like you’re doing a great job making conscious, relevant choices.

report abuse

mother in israel

posted May 22, 2009 at 12:14 am

I think awe is a better translation than fear. Not perfect either.

report abuse

Frume Sarah

posted May 22, 2009 at 1:57 am

Ditto to what Phyllis said!!!
No one segmemt of our community has the right to co-opt Judaism and leave the rest out in the cold.
Jewish observance should be vibrant and organic and fluid. Where you are today is not where you once were and should not be where you will one day find yourself.
Instead of thinking about what you are and are not doing, take Martin Buber’s approach. He once defined “kodesh” and “chol” not as holy and profane but as holy and not-yet-holy.

report abuse


posted May 22, 2009 at 6:35 am

I love my readers!

report abuse


posted May 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I struggle with this all the time, too. I think you frame the question and the beginning-of-an-answer so beautifully here (and your readers also!) I find it a challenge to take seriously the idea that Torah (in the broadest sense) speaks to all times, while also knowing the traditional context – so that “yirah” can authentically mean (for me, for my conversations with my child) something like “awe” or “wonder.” I don’t always make it to that place. I’m glad I’m not on my own trying!

report abuse

Christine Hebert

posted May 30, 2009 at 10:44 am

I agree with mother in Israel. Awe is a better translation and much closer meaning than fear.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Teaching the Four Questions to young children
One of the greatest privileges of being a kindergarten teacher in a Jewish day school is having the opportunity to teach children to recite the four questions. Unlike almost anything else I teach them about Jewish ritual, this is "real work." ...

posted 7:36:03am Apr. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Guess what's Kosher for Passover (this will change your life.)
I'm not exaggerating. The bane of my Passover existence has been pareve baking. I cook a lot more meat during the holiday than I do the rest of the year, which means a lot more pareve desserts. Which has, up until now, usually meant margarine ...

posted 5:02:27pm Mar. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Why I love the New American Haggadah (and it's not just because I got to have a martini with Nathan Englander.)
I'm not a haggadah junkie. I know many Jews whose shelves are overflowing with numerous versions of the Haggadah - from the traditional Maxwell House to the not-so-traditional Santa Cruz - and whose seders are an amalgam of commentaries, poems, ...

posted 9:25:37pm Mar. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Best Hamentashen Ever, even better. And, a Purim opera.
This time of year, I'm always excited when I look at my google analytics and see that people have landed at my blog by searching for "hamentashen recipe". I love the idea of people all over the world making my great-grandmother's fabulous ...

posted 7:13:38pm Mar. 05, 2012 | read full post »

Edible Purim baskets. And, introducing...the cookie fairies!
My very favorite Jewish holiday tradition, bar non, is the mitzvah of mishloach manot - preparing and delivering gifts of homemade goodies to friends and neighbors on Purim day. This is a mitzvah which embodies so much of why Judaism is ...

posted 8:16:28am Feb. 26, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.