Tag Archives: Jewish parent

Davening With Fire 005 Santa Claus & Jewish Prayer

Cats Eye Nebula From Hubble















It all seems so many years ago. Do you remember Bloomingdale’s? What a great store! Back in the day, before the malls and all those Amazon websites, there were department stores, huge edifices where you could find almost anything you were looking for.

In Stamford, Connecticut, Bloomingdale’s ruled supreme, with its escalators and bustle and row after row of stuff. The fun of the place almost made me forget how much I hated being schlepped around a store.

But towering over every awesome part of Bloomingdale’s was Santa Claus. Santa Claus! The god of everything a child could ever want. Santa, the guy who would take me on his lap, listen to my wish list as only Santa Claus could, and then give me a candy cane. 

In spite of my orthodox Jewish ways and the pretty much accepted consensus that Santa isn’t real, I still smile when I recall those days. In a way, that entire seasonal ritual teaches me two lessons about faith and prayer that guide me to this day. 

The first lesson is that faith that’s based on a Santa Claus kind of deity is bound to fail. In the decades which I’ve spent engrossed in faith, it seems that so many are holding out for a god that does everything they want. ‘If God existed then he (it’s always a ‘he’) would do such and such’ or ‘If God existed then how could he let the holocaust happen?’ It seems that these often highly sophisticated and educated people still believe in Santa. I don’t know much about God but I expect a lot more from humanity. 

The second lesson is about prayer and wishing. As great as it is to wish (and it really is) it’s so often expresses of my self-centered, power or comfort driven desires. Prayer however is about personal transformation. Prayer may begin with a wish but for me it’s a process that ends with a new me. Whether or not I get what I want is besides the point; the real part of prayer is the person I become through it. 

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The Cognitive Parent Shabbat Chazon The Vision Thing

how success is built


This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon because of the first word of the Haftorah which we read in shul. You can read more about that here. The word ‘Chazon’ means vision. While the Haforah refers to the prophetic visions that foretold the exile of the Jewish people (and their return), the word ‘vision’ triggers a recollection from years ago:

Many of us remember the 1992 presidential campaign in which Bill Clinton handily defeated incumbent president, George Bush. Clinton, a master of spin and communication, introduced a slogan that would do great damage to Bush’s chances of victory. The slogan?

‘It’s a vision thing’. 

In other words, in spite of Clinton’s terrible baggage of scandal and incompetence, Clinton convinced enough Americans that Bush lacked a vision for a better America. 

It was a brilliant tactic for one simple reason: visions mean the difference between life and death to us. 

And that’s why all of our obligations to our children must flow from the vision that we have for them and for ourselves. All our urging, cajoling. yelling, bribing and so on, must be rooted in a vision that we have for them. If we’re smart we’ll make that vision positive and uplifting, one that is rooted in the promise of a beautiful future for themselves and for all of humanity. 

So, on this Shabbat, lets tell our kids the Jewish vision: the future is bright; our success is assured. All that’s required are baby steps of self improvement and the knowledge that we’re in the best of hands.

Shabbat Shalom to all!