[JOI Word of Torah] Big Tent Judaism: Matot
Kerry M. Olitzky
KOlitzky at joi.org
Tue Jul 22 20:50:32 GMT 2008
"Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah
July 26, 2008 / 23 Tamuz, 5768
The Torah takes its promises-its vows and commitments-seriously, as is
demonstrated in this week's Torah portion. Perhaps the seriousness stems
from the fact that God is called to witness them. So if we break a vow, we
are also breaking a commitment that we have made with the Divine. And this
notion of vows is incumbent upon all the members of the community-even if
the responsibility for fulfilling them is shared by others, depending on
which member of the family is taking the vow. Without getting into the
various shortcomings of the Torah's perspective on women and vows in this
portion, it is important to note that the Torah tells us that the entire
community is to take vows seriously.
So it is today. While there is a perspective that there are many in the
community that do not take their commitments seriously and look for
opportunities to be relieved from them, my experience is that when people
make a commitment, they take that commitment seriously - especially
interfaith families who have chosen to raise Jewish children. Sometimes the
spouse of another religious background takes this responsibility even more
seriously than their Jewish partner.
Of course, there are exceptions. We all know of families-particularly
following a difficult divorce-where the subject of raising children and past
commitments is challenged or reneged upon, but these are the exceptions, not
The lesson of this Torah portion: when someone makes a commitment to raise
Jewish children, celebrate it. Foster it. Support it. But never doubt it.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the author of many inspiring books that bring the
Jewish wisdom tradition into everyday life, and is, among other books, the
author of Introducing My Faith and My Community: The Jewish Outreach
Institute Guide for the Christian in a Jewish Interfaith Relationship
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You are welcome to use these ideas in your own work and writings as long as
you would be so kind as to credit Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and the Jewish
Outreach Institute, thank you.
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