Sometimes the holiday season makes me crazy. I can point you to posts that I have written about the hypocrisy of being asked to give once a year or the issues with the Salvation Army guy. I can show you the silly and the sublime in all of this. Recollections of fantasy and fact.
But I always find myself getting stuck in the same places. I think of them or it as levels of intolerance.
These are the posts where I tell you that there is no such thing as a Chanukah bush and that Jews who have them should call them what they are…Christmas trees. In years past I was far more vocal about it. I made it clear that I think it is wrong to do so.
Read through the archives and you’ll find the posts where I engaged in some pretty vociferous arguments with people about what should or shouldn’t happen. Every time I did I thought about what I was doing and asked myself several questions:
1) Was it right or fair for me to judge others?
2) Would I change my mind or convince others to change their opinions?
3) Were my words a help or a hindrance?
I am not just a guy, I am a father. I take that role seriously. I may screw around with comments about being the greatest daddy blogger ever but I don’t lose sight of what I am trying to do. I am trying to raise menschen. I am trying to raise good children of character, worth and value. Good children who make a difference in the world and are productive members of society.
So I look again at my levels of intolerance and apply it to my children. The answer to whether it is ok to be judgmental is simple. It is yes. I have to be. I have to make decisions about all of the facets of their lives. I make decisions about education, religion, nutrition and morals. I look at their friends and try to steer them away from those who will get them into trouble.
They aren’t automatons. My children make decisions on their own, but they require guidance. My levels of intolerance can be viewed in lots of different ways. Some people will nod their heads and agree with me. Others will look at me and walk away because I have pricked the bubble of their levels of intolerance.
I teach my children to judge people based upon their actions. I teach them that race, religion, color and creed are not suitable for making decisions about people. But the levels of intolerance make some of those discussions more challenging.
They have cousins whose parents are raising them to be Christian children who occasionally experience brief moments of Jewish life. They light a menorah each year and show up at a Passover seder. They enjoy the family aspect and the culture, but the religious component is lost upon them. My children have known for years that Santa isn’t real and have been taught not to ruin it for other kids.
But kids push and prod. Some try to taunt and the words fly out, “Santa isn’t real- your parents are faking him.” This is not what I want, but I am not responsible for helping to facilitate this lie. I have done all that I could to prevent the discussion.
I am caught in the middle. Orthodox relatives and friends tell me that since I have fallen off of the derech I am not allowed to talk this way. I don’t keep Kosher and I am not Shomer Shabbos, so why do I dare to say these things. I look at them and we engage in hard core debate about this and that. But we come to an agreement…sort of.
We are committed to ensuring that the kids stay Jewish and they accept that though my way is not theirs it is likely to happen. So I revisit my levels of intolerance and ask why I can’t extend the same level of courtesy to those who put the tree in the house.
And I come back to the same places. It is my line in the sand. The tree is beautiful. The festivities are lovely. It is much easier to assimilate. It is much easier to give in and I see this as a gateway.
I accept that I might be wrong, but the stories I heard as a child stay with me. Relatives fled Europe and pogroms for the safety of America. There are pictures of those who didn’t. Those are pictures of the dead not because of old age but because of the Nazis. I will not help Hitler reach out from the gates of hell and grab more of us.
But I will work harder to mask my levels of intolerance from my children and those who do other than I wish they would. I am allowed, entitled and permitted to be judgmental and so are they. They can do as they wish in their homes and it is not for me to say otherwise.
I am curious to see if over time my feelings change. I have mellowed on this. Maybe it is because I have fewer and fewer concerns that my children will want these things for our home. I am not really sure.
All I know is that each year I will continue to explore my levels of intolerance.