By Linda Mills, a d’var Torah on Parashat Shemot from our Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class
When we were asked to think about how the assigned Torah portion had meaning to us, I began to ruminate about my relationship, to the Temple, to my parents, and to my children. In my reading, when the mother of Moses who cared so deeply about him, put him in a basket in the reeds by a stream, she felt he would be safer there, rather than left to the mercy of the Egyptians. She was trusting that someone would find him and protect him. By doing this, she was unknowingly furthering the future of the Jews, but she had to trust.
I found many connections to my own life in this short passage. Sixty five years ago, I was a child in a new temple just being founded in Newton, Temple Shalom. I experienced a sense of family there, going through many life passages—religious school, confirmation, sitting with my parents for all the high holidays, marriage and the Bar Mitzvah’s of my sons. Rituals were established. My father, a founding member of the Temple and chair of the Religious Practices Committee for twenty years, loved this Temple with his heart and soul. He felt that we must get there on time for the high holidays, which meant that we had to arrive an hour before the service began to sit in the same seats, year after year. Although the row that was filled by eight family members now only has one, I have continued the family tradition.
Family tradition continued into the sixties. A Temple was situated on the same street where we bought a house. It never occurred to me to join that synagogue. I intended to stay with Temple Shalom, and this meant, as a single mother who worked outside of the home, that I would bring my children three times a week to Temple from Framingham, a thirty minute drive each way. The time when I relaxed in the Temple, waiting for the return trip, I felt peaceful and at home. As my parents did for me, I gave Temple Shalom the huge responsibility for educating my children in their religion. Moses’s mother knew that she must give up all aspects of her child’s future, but she trusted that he would be taken care of. I too trusted, even though I had a choice.
Tradition is carried on in many ways. My son Jonathan who lived in Poland for ten years, like my father, was a founder of a temple, but this one was in Warsaw Poland. I smiled when I read the Rabbi’s itinerary for Poland because Temple Shalom people are about to visit that very temple, Beit Warszawa Synagogue. I burst with pride as I listen to my son Eric who continues the tradition of giving to his temple by blowing the shofar at the close of Yom Kippur.
Years have passed since my father first sat in the sanctuary seats I continue to inhabit, and years have gone by since I brought my children to be educated. When I recognized that my parents and my kids were no longer my connection to the Temple, I knew that I had to make a more significant relationship for myself. I searched for a way that would be meaningful and at the same time would give back to the Temple for all they had given me and my family. It was natural then for me to work with Rabbi Berry in reshaping the educational program. In thinking about Jewish education for children, I understood what was missing for me. My religious education did not include learning Hebrew, girls were not Bat Mitzvahed in the fifties at Temple Shalom. I took the daunting step of enrolling in a Hebrew class. I was the oldest student, and the letters terrified me. I felt like a third grader with dyslexia. However, it eventually came together, and I considered having a Bat Mitzvah. I will never be a fluent reader, but when I sit in the sanctuary on Friday night or on the high holidays, I can read the words. Temple Shalom has once again brought meaning to my life.
The connectedness, the tradition, the protection, the generational continuity, the sense of family came together for me as I thought about how Moses’s mother protected her son, which allowed for generational continuity and traditions, which Moses would pass on to his people.