Taking our Teenagers Seriously
Every year at this time, I return to a High Holy Day prayer-poem, Ki Hinei KaChomer.
We are clay. You are the Potter, who shapes us at will. Mold us into worthy vessels though we are only clay. Do not smash us, if we prove imperfect. Remember we are only clay.
We are glass. You are the Glazier, who shapes us at will. Form us into finest crystal. Even if You have to twist and turn us in the fire, do not shatter us if we are impure. Remember we are only glass.
We are silver. You are the Smith, who fashions us at will. Hammer us as Your design. Even though we are not gold, do not abandon us if we tarnish. Remember we are only silver.
We are the rudder. You are the Helmsman who steers us to the left or right. Direct us to the shores You choose. Do not let us idly spin even if we resist your grasp. Remember the waves are very strong.
We are threads. You are the Weaver who creates patterns at will. Weave us, God, into Your plan. Make us soft and strong, straight and true. Do not toss us aside, should we be flawed.
Remember we are only threads.
(translation by Rabbi Michael Hecht, slightly adapted.)
These strong metaphors speak to us at every age and life-stage. I wonder, however, how our teenagers would interpret these verses. They are so keenly aware of their rapid growth and development – physically, emotionally, intellectually. They are so keenly aware of the many influences, which shape them – friends and family, teachers and coaches, media and social media. They are so keenly aware of their imperfections and our high expectations. Are they also aware of God’s guidance? Of the Divine Spark within them?
I’ve heard many parents over the years say they are searching for Jewish wisdom and Jewish values to help guide them and their children through the challenges of the teenage years. I also see how teens walk through the world with greater confidence when their Jewish identity is strong. When the synagogue is a home away from home, they know they belong to a people with a long history of courage and compassion. When things get rocky at school or at home, Holy Blossom Temple can provide a safe and supportive environment where friendship and mentorship can develop with ease.
Our promise of Renewal of Space and Spirit holds true for our teens, too. This year we’ll open the doors to our new Youth Lounge to give our teens their own space to gather for learning and leadership development, for playing music or just hanging out. And this year we are launching Moving Traditions, a tried and true program for teen girls and teen boys — young men and young women. Our Director of Youth Engagement, Lisa Isen Baumal, and our congregant and Jewish educator, Daniel Abramson, are extraordinary with teens. They will lead the monthly program as guides and mentors to our youth and our Rabbis will lead the complementary parent program. Click here to hear what other North American teens have to say about Moving Traditions and the anchor it provides in their lives.
During this month of Ellul, in preparation for the High Holy Days, we sense that we are becoming more malleable like clay, more transparent like glass, more reflective like silver, more directed like the rudder, and more woven together with our people like thread. May the coming days be fulfilling for us as we, like teenagers, explore our potential for good.
In anticipation of our annual reunion, I wish you and your dear ones L’Shanah Tovah.