Sunday, October 28, 2007

Look, Ima, there's God.

This afternoon, my delicious son and I were awaiting the end of Shabbat by reading together. He had selected a pile of favorites that includes this fall's favorite, The World's Birthday, a left over from Rosh HaShanah. I know, it's old, but what good, really, is a book you can only read for a few weeks a year? He's practically memorized the story, anyway.

So here we are, reading it. In the book, Daniel, the protagonist (not a word I generally would use to describe the subject of a children's book, but...) wants to celebrate the birthday of the world. His grandfather, a rabbi (conveniently, the same for my son), suggests making a birthday card for the world, like we send Rosh HaShanah greetings. All of this is probably boring you stiff and you're saying, "Jeez, I thought that season was OVER."

Well, the illustration of Daniel's Rosh HaShanah birthday card contained all of the things that were created during the six days of creation. And in the corner, there are two little nekkid folks cavorting. Their names are not mentioned.

My (genius, menschy and obviously theologically astute) son says, "Look, Ima. There's God." And points to the nekkid people.

This really makes me wonder. How do our children get to know who God is? My son doesn't know that God gets thanked when we say motzi or kiddush or other brachot. He doesn't know that when Abba davens that Abba is talking with God (I'm not sure Abba believes that, either). He hears us talking. Oh, and wait, he learned about this guy, Hashem, who created the world, at his (Chabad) nursery school, but I don't think he connects Hashem with God quite yet. And this book didn't go so far, as others do, to talk about btzelem elohim, the idea that all humans are created in the image of God, so he didn't have that idea either.

So where did this come from? I don't know. And now I feel quite sensitive about how I talk about God in front of him, because I don't want to shape his understanding of God...I'd rather he develop his own sense of the divine in a way that is naturally appropriate for a small child.

When he pointed to the folks dancing in the corner, I paused. Then I asked him which one was God. Naturally, he responded, "She is. Her. The woman." Phew.

1 comment:

Maya said...

At the risk of being too ponderous and philosophical, your post brings me back to a life-long question: not just how do we come to know who God is, but why we believe or not believe. It's always seemed to me that you simply believe or you don't. There's nothing you can do to make yourself if you don't. And there's little you can do to disprove God's existence if you do. So, in this sense, if you do believe, it's really important that your child see/feel/sense how you nurture this belief. Since, as we all know, one needn't believe to be a great observant Jew or a terrific, humane person. And observance and humane acts are observable activities. Belief is not.