2017 was a dumpster fire of a year any way you look at it. Nazis marched the streets of America, rapists went unpunished, we started talking about nuclear war again, and California burned down. It was a terrible year for many, many people.
2017 was also the year my first child was finally born.
How are we supposed to raise good children in a world like this? What kind of world are our little ones inheriting? Every day I look at my sweet child’s face, full of softness and innocence, and I listen to the news of a world racing towards disaster. What can we do to reconcile the hope of new parenthood with the reality of a very, VERY broken world?
There is a Jewish tradition called Pidyon ha Ben, where parents affirm their firstborn sons’ commitment to Jewish life by “purchasing” the babies from a Cohen in the synagogue a month after the children are born. According to the Torah, all first fruits belong to Gd, even the first sons of a family. When a couple has a baby boy, they give money to a Cohen, and the Cohen does a little ritual in shul and asks “would you rather have this money or your child?” The family chooses the child, the Cohen accepts the money in lieu of the baby, and everyone is happy.
A few months ago, Suzie and I decided that we would participate in the Pidyon ha Ben ritual, but we’d put our own spin on it.
Our first baby belongs to Gd, of course. And we want to affirm our little one’s connection to Jewish life and Jewish community by donating some money to our shul in the baby’s name. But, as progressive Jews committed to fighting for a better world, our first child also belongs to other righteous causes.
For our little one’s Pidyon ha Ben/ Pidyon ha Bat, we are affirming our family’s commitment to the following causes:
- Temple Israel
- Friends of Nevada Wilderness
- Temple Beth Zion
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- 826 National
- Israeli Stage
In donating a little bit to all of these organization, we are acknowledging that our baby “belongs” to them, the same way he belongs to Gd and the synagogue. Our little donations aren’t going to fix everything in this very broken world, but maybe one day they’ll inspire our children to lay claim to these causes. As our children grow, they’ll know that they have a responsibility to work on Tikkun Olam in big ways, but they’re not alone. Together, everyone involved with these and other progressive organizations can make a difference. We can fight for a better world, and maybe 2018 will be a better year for all of us.
Happy one month birthday, little Nathan Yitzy!