Editor's note: Laurel Snyder is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a poet and author of many books for children. Follow her on Twitter at @laurelsnyder.
By Laurel Snyder, Special to CNN
(CNN) – A few years ago I was invited to my local Jewish Community Center to do a reading of my picture book “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.” It was going to be a child-friendly event, so I took my kids along.
Now, “Baxter” isn’t really a book about being kosher. It’s about wanting to be accepted into a community. But I always like to make sure my listeners know what the word kosher means before I read it, since the joke at the center of the book depends on that. So as usual I asked the Jewish Community Center crowd if they could define the word.
Before anyone else could answer, my own son Mose, who was 5 at the time, jumped up and shouted out, “I know! I know! Kosher is us! We’re kosher!” Then he sat back down again, beaming proudly.
And I might have been proud too. Only, you see, we’re not kosher.
On the drive home I tried to figure out what to say to Mose about his mix-up. I wanted him to know what it means to be kosher, to live by a rigid religious dietary code, day in and day out. But I also needed him to understand that we’re not.
How could I show respect for this part of our Jewish tradition while also suggesting that it doesn’t seem relevant in our own household? Should I just blame it on my own parents, who didn’t raise me that way?
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
It’s not easy to explain something to a kid when you haven’t yet figured it out for yourself. One of the most helpful/terrible things about having children is that they require us to think things out explicitly. That often means they make us face the very things we’ve been avoiding.
Sometimes, as a result, kids challenge us to become more mindful or observant. I hadn’t been a member of a synagogue for years when I became a mom. I hadn’t hosted a Passover Seder or found the time to light Shabbat candles.
Even though I worked for a Jewish agency and wrote about religion professionally, when it came to my home life I was almost completely unobservant. Judaism was something I thought about more intellectually than personally. Religion was an interesting idea more than a belief system.
Now I light candles each week and say the blessings. I belong to a havurah – a cohort of local Jewish friends who get together for monthly potluck dinners – and also a synagogue.
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Because there’s something about having kids that makes me want to be a better version of my Jewish self. I want something special to pass on to them. Something more than “You’re Jewish because I’m Jewish.”
But sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes my kids help me recognize the limits of my faith.
In truth, I do not keep kosher and I don’t really want to. My husband is not Jewish, though we’re raising our family to be. So, yeah, we eat tacos for Shabbat dinner most weeks and usually skip Friday night services.
This is the truth and I have to own it. I can only shift my life around so much without feeling inauthentic. Lying to my kids about my religious life is no way to model the value of faith.
So when, after the “Baxter”/kosher fiasco, I set out to write my new picture book, “Good night, laila tov” (laila tov means “good night” in Hebrew), I wanted to paint an honest portrait of my largely secular household.
I wanted my kids to recognize the family in my story as Jewish, but also as, well, like us. Which is to say, not exactly kosher.
On some level I was reacting to the fact that most of the Jewish picture books in my home feel like they’re about someone else. They’re usually set in a Polish village a century ago, or on the Lower East Side of New York City, where mothers cook and fathers pray.
I wanted “Good night, laila tov” to be a sort of lowest common denominator. Contemporary and universal. It’s not about Jewish history, and it doesn’t have a single rabbi in it. It won’t teach you new Hebrew words or show you how to say a certain prayer.
It’s just a story about a Jewish American family going camping, experiencing nature, love, work and rest. In writing it I hoped to capture something typical, something natural, something simple.
And it does present, to my mind, Jewish values: Nature is spiritual, and takes us beyond ourselves. Time spent with family is sacred.
The family in the book plants trees and picks up their campsite, because caring for the earth is part of Judaism, I think. Along with caring for each other.
But as I wrote, I found myself a little afraid that, in attempting to write a picture book for everyone, I was letting the Jewish particularity go. Aren’t family nature, and environmentalism tenets of faith beyond the Jewish world, in every religion?
What did it say about me, my choices, my household, that the Jewish life I was choosing to depict looked like it could be any household at all?
Then I come back around to that moment with Mose, that moment of realizing I’d somehow misled him. Because whatever I’m unsure of, whatever I don’t know about faith, I do know this: if it isn’t honest, it doesn’t count.
The purpose of faith, as I understand it, is to infuse life with greater meaning. To make it more real. Not to dress it up. Not to pretend.
My kids and I are on a journey together. We’re setting out for parts unknown.
And while we may find ourselves changing as we trek along, there is a sacred quality in simply being who we are today. Of stopping on the trail and taking a deep breath. It’s enough, I think, to be exactly who we are, kosher or not.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Laurel Snyder.
Spit it out, what is it you are trying to say?
The zealots always go this route in confusing the relative things to equating to a god.
They probe and inquire of others seeking for the hints of "I don't know" and then pose "isn't it possible then god did it"?
The stupid person who thinks that the unknown is the realm of a god is an absolute moron. Technology and the human take on progress will ultimately master any device to render everything knowable. True stupidity wants a god because they can't get the answers today.
Science isn't for the immediate, it isn't fast. It is slow and it works. God is just a moron concept.
Interesting to read;
Muneef, if you have anything to say, say it. Stop the linkspamming please.
You are right dear but to tell you the truth I know nothing about the Jewish religion other than what we know in the Quran therefore I guess I have just to skip this blog.
The only thing I can say we as children were not much aware or cared about religion but the main thing we were brought up with were the religious morals of respect and ethics, beside as how to perform ablution and carry on prayers and memorizing some of the Quran needed for prayers... It is only at advanced age we became interested to read and learn more about our Islamic religion.
Since the idiots like Monarda and its alter egos can't prove their points, the conclusion is that they're without proof; therefore the other side wins.
There is always the possibility of the mind being powerful and I am not speaking of level of intelligence, but actually powerful. We only use about 10% of our minds don't we?
That is incorrect.. It looks like you believe in more than one myth.
Ten percent of YOUR mind is about two percent of everyone else's mind, you idiot.
No, that's actually an incorrect, although popular myth. We use a far larger percentage of our brain, however, we use a small fraction of it consciously. The vast majority of the usage of our brains controls things that happen below the level of consciousness.
Okay Phosphorous, how powerful is the mind according to Scientists?
What does that have to do with anything?
I would have to say that there is no consensus on how powerful the mind is and that we don't know enough about it to build an accurate enough model as of yet. I'm not trying to evade the question, but to be as honest with my answer as I possibly can. We honestly don't know the answer, and you'll get a wide spectrum of disagreement from the scientists in neurological research. We are constantly being surprised by new information, which leads to even more surprises.
You idiot, "scientists" isn't capitalized unless it's the first word in a sentence.
If you were any dumber, we'd have to water you.
Various types of science have different methods of quantifying the "power" of the brain.. It really depends on how you are defining "power" and what mental function or combination of functions you want to discuss.
Well I mean in the sense that we may be able to unlock the other 90% of the brain and find what it can do. What if we could read minds (I expect some argument on that one) and predict the future out of the bloom (and this too)?
This question is meaningless unless you first define The word "powerful" in the context of your question.
Nah. The question is meaningless unless you have a brain. Montarda doesn't.
Mocada, I'd reply to your reply if I had any idea what you were saying.
In your posting above, I can honestly see of your most honest consternations regarding the sciences! I can even suggest that your abilities for stradling the fences regarding sciences' onwards march are a goodness quality! You are a goodly humanist and your humanisms are noteworthy! :-) :-( :-)
When I was in college, I hung out with a lot of people of Jewish background. They did not seem to take the hocus pocus part of jewdeism seriously. But they took their cultural heritage VERY seriously. As a group, I found them to be among the most intelligent, witty, and productive people I have ever known.
Phosphorous lets have our own conversation with out Tom, Tom, it will enable us to see different perspectives.
If you don't even know that "without" is a WORD, you imbecile, your opinion is hardly worthy of any recognition whatsoever. You're an unschooled dolt.
Tom, Tom: When you don't know old English, you shouldn't be preachy about words.
You fucktard, you aren't writing in "old English" or any other English, you little fraud.
Tom, Tom there are differences between old and the modern English, for example, today words have a different definition to say 100 year ago.
Then off yourself, you moron. Otherwise, observe the rules of modern English, and stop pretending you're actually a sentient being, you retarded dwarf.
Nevertheless it's English.
Can we let @Moncada hang him/herself on the issues, instead of having to be diverted onto defending against ad hominems?
Sure. Regardless, the moron is clueless.
@ Tom, Tom- I need an actual well mannered person who I can peacefully exchange ideas with. Phosphorous please write back you are the main candidate.
I don't give a ripe fuck what you "need" you little POS. Answer the question or be exposed as a complete fake.
Maybe I could answer the questions if I am not being cursed at every time I post.
I'm sorry, but I'm not so well-mannered in my responses to those that uphold the principles of adhering to those things that exist only in our minds, and nobody can prove or disprove otherwise. I'm well-versed in denting the shields of my opponents with science, logic, facts, reason, and sometimes, rhetoric, but I'm not sure you'd like for me to be the candidate, because I really do not honor or respect the supernatural in this day and age of reason. In fact, if you look up the definition for Phosphorus, you'll see that I really don't play well with theism.
However, comparatively speaking, I am perhaps a little more civil than some of the others here today. Okay, I can play nicely. What is your question.
Why do you morons always ask for the proof of something 'not existing'? It is always IMPOSSIBLE to ask for that. It is ALWAYS possible to provide proof for something that IS EXISTING. Get it through your stupid skulls you zealots.
Learn some logic!
If you can't answer the questions regardless of the circa umstances, you little phony, you can't answer them. Get a clue, Tinkerbelle, you little fake.
I was educated in a christian school and a predominantly christian country. I enroll my children in a christian school all the way to college. Never do I indoctrinate them about christianity. I am now a practicing Buddhist and I let them choose what they want to be. I told them to use their mind and reasoning as they are well educated to think and be mindful of what they do to their fellowmen. This is what we leave as our legacy in this world. No more no less.
I appreciate the authors attempt to be real with her kids, but she never really addressed her original question of how to explain that she was not practicingthe tenets of her faith. It seems to me that only two real answers exist: 1. she is not practicing her faith because does not really share in the faith, only in the non-burdesome traditions that accompany the faith, and 2. she shares in the faith but does not abide by its precepts because she has higher priorities (eating whatever she wants).
Phosphorous give me proof that my God does not exist. You can't can you?
Can YOU give any proof he does?
Yeah, I thought so.
Really, Mononucleosis, I do sincerely hope you have not reproduced, as this world doesn't need any more idiot than it already has.
If you can't it's okay, I wouldn't be able to prove his existence to you. See we can make things real, how Science may argue that the brain can have so much impact that it may influence the outcome of things, answer back so I can explain more.
Prove that I don't have a spider monkey on my shoulder flipping you the bird. You can't, but it doesn't mean I don't have one, or that you're not being flipped the bird. Prove Rainbow Brite doesn't exist, or Oscar the Grouch. How about He-Man and Skeletor...prove they don't exist. Do leprechauns exist, and do they really fancy Lucky Charms? Prove to me they don't! Your comment is simply a little more stupid than the one I'm typing right now because you've likely had it thrown back at you in hundreds of different ways. I really don't care that you believe in sky fairies or celestial butterflies. I do care that delusional thoughts such as this make their way into my government and infringe upon my liberties. In the words of Christopher Hitchins, "That which can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof."
Translate your post into English first, moron.
In a case like this, where there is not proof one way or the other, the default / fall-back stance is NOT that it IS true.
Mocada, I don't have to prove your god does not exist just like I don't have to prove to the unicorn believer that unicorns don't exist.. If you are saying that something god-like exists, then you are the one who has to prove the existing thing.. Claims a.sserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.. You are asserting a claim without evidence.
By that warped logic, you should go ahead and worship Zeus and Santa Claus. Batman perhaps?
An update on Judaism:
ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:-–>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."
So? I'm not sure why you think any of this is news. I am Jewish and have not thought of the bible as truth since early childhood when I could reason my way out of thinking that. And studying history we know Exodus, etc almost certainly didn't happen. no big shock. There are other versions of the Jewish bible that are better IMO and which have great foot notes that show a deep understanding of the jewish bible as a whole and do not support taking it literally. None of this is new and news to most current American Jews.
Sam don't be silly. What if we didn't teach our kids to look on both sides of the road, and they found out the hard way that they do need to?
I sincerely hope you don't have any spawn.
Apples and oranges unless you are implying that personal safety requires religion.
Are you saying that you should teach your kids to be open to the possibility that every fairy tale and myth that has ever been invented is real? Or, do you have a particular one in mind?
You should only teach your children just enough religion to be able to qualify for a run for public office.
That's easy. When they run for public office they can just say they are religious. They don't have to actually believe. After all, they are politicians.
Did you know that people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder do better in recovery if they have religious beliefs.
Cite your source.
Did you know Sunday seems to be an awesome time for delusional folks to post over and over on the belief blog as if they actually have something meaningful to impart?
Bah, never mind. In looking at older posts, it seems we're bantering pointlessly, yet again, with HeavenSent.
Tom, Tom: Please read books on medicine, I insist, your ignorance of such simple things really makes me concerned for the future of this world, hopefully not all Atheists are like you.
OOooh, gee, Mona, I'm just ever SO impressed by your... oh, wait. You aren't impressive in any way, you twit.
Really, honey, get a degree, grow a brain, and then get back to me. You're a bore beyond boring, dimwit.
Enlightened parents should NOT introduce their children to any religion. Rather, they should let their children decide on their own (when mature enough to do so) whether to join, or practice any religion.
Same as: Children should not be thought right from wrong until they are old enough to make decisions (and I do not mean this in a religious argument) but its the same logic.
Cheers to that. It turns my stomach when I hear about parents indoctrinating their children with philosophical, religious or political views. Though this probably only scratches the surface of what I find appalling about most parents.
@Moncada – no. Religion and morality are not the same thing.
Religion teaches some very immoral principles. I great deal of hatred and segregation result from religious indoctrination. Religion teaches good and evil simultaneously and blurrs the boundaries between the two.
Is it "immoral" for a religious person to comfort others whose heart felt and weakened mind is in distress? Is it "immoral" for a religious person to practice a mostly moral lifestyle knowing well their thoughts dare convict them? Is it 'immoral" for 0ne of religious depth to believe in a God Being? Is it "immoral for the religious to believe in an afterlife once one dies after living a most perplexing life here upon a planet that has manifested millions upon millions of multi-diversities in living embolisms of Life sustaining forms and formations that permeate the grounds and the waters and the air? Who then are the Atheists and why do they resist believing in a God of salvational conformities and make temptations against many noble people of religious persiverances? I Love God's Spiritual comforts and yet I fear God's wrath against my past indignations against others whom I've spiritually antagonized and done wickedness towards! I know I am forgiven by God my past Acts and actions of sinfulness and yet still, I remain in perdition and purgatory awaiting my Life's finality and last breathe! I must die for my sins and only thru dying may one find God! I shall ever try to remain faithful to my repenting way and shall try mightily to spread that whcih has now become a life-long desire to just write whatever comes to me thru the Holy Spirit's guidances and as I so write, I am found a new meaning for living until death becomes me! As Love and Hate meaners my Will, the fruits of the Word will never remain still!
I'm an atheist, pure and simple, but i love the topic of religion unlike some other non believers. It is a quest for meaning and purpose, a finding of answers to questions. My own searching led to my answer, that no god exists or has ever. The trolls on this blog will forever be trolls sad to say, they are lost souls to me. The article was wonderful, expressful of the author's thoughts and struggles with her own self truth and her need to be authentic mindful of the respect needed for others and greater ideas. If all religious people felt the same way, maybe there would be less hate, fear, and ignorance in the world.
Making one the suppositor or the supposition is where lines need to be drawn! It is much easier to label someone the fool for foolhardiness sakes and fooleries of the atheistical mindsets! Before matter became an "existainable" commodity of spatial regularities, the Cosmos was a "Plaination" of Nothingness, a great void of compassionless Cosmotic Chasms! To believe without question that all knowable materials in the formidable universe we reside in was once compressed to the size of a thimble full of all this universe's matter has aspired to be and become but a most popularized yet, pure looney tunes logic! The universe or our section of the Celestial Cosmos may well have come from the steadiness of inward to outward schizms of a breathe-right psychosis of technocratic euphanisms dependent upon the quarkiness states of relative resoundings much the way pure energy is sublimated via the smatterings of materials forever entrailing thru and throughout the fundamentalisms yet unknowable to the logic-rythmed habidasheries of theoretical Life and Life essences in regularisms' denotations! Life truly is the stuff dreams are made for!
@Phosphorous- I can give you the same argument. Maybe many theories have not been dis-proven because they haven't used the correct tactics to give a counterexample while there could be one.
Disproven doesn't have a hyphen, you fuckwit.
It could Tom, Tom. Just like cooperate can have a diaereses on the second "o."
Okay. Perhaps our models of some of the most popular theories will be modified as new data becomes available and our analytical tools become more sensitive, but that hasn't stopped us from building computers, vehicles, and machinery of such diversity, spanning the realms of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc. Our understanding of these explanations and models allows for us to predict the likeliness of outcomes, increasing our certainty of systems, resulting in...you guessed it, TECHNOLOGY. We don't claim our answers to be infallible, nor do we invoke the ridiculous position of, "well, if you can't explain it, then gawd must have done it!" That's not even bronze-age thinking that you are holding close to your chest. That was some of the most primitive logic for describing anything at any time. "Where do babies come from...gawd did it! Where to rocks come from...gawd did it! Where do Bibles come from...gawd did it!" With that last one, gawd actually did fax over the copies of the Old and New Testament. They were received by holy fax machines in no less than six different locations, on six different days, and verified by six different independent sources. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. You can't disprove it, so it holds just as much value as your story.
The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from iron age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.
Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you live your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.
The Jewish God Who is the God of all – is a God Who has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind, in the way He chooses. We are not at liberty, if we claim to Honor Him, to choose our form of obedience. That is rebellion, which is equaled to withcraft and idolatry, by God.
My advice to this mother is to go back and study her Torah and the Oral Law....and then seek Hashem to find out if the Messiah has come and if He has, Who He is. What the so called "Christian church," which has been contaminated by paganism from the times of the roman empire, says is irrelevant. Thank God for His Chessed or Mercy and abundant Love and Patience. I was healed through the authority of the Name of Mosciah – Emmanuel, Yeshua, Jesus. However it is for each person to seek Him individually and experience the Joy unspeakable and Peace beyond human reasoning that Jesus Mosciah spoke about...
There is a serious problem with that Liz. One that, to me, disproves religion.
Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the SAME God. There is no dispute on that point. It is a historical fact.
The problem is that each of the three major religions all have their own rules for the "right" way to worship God. And they are all steadfast in their respective belieifs...so much so that they each believe the followers of the other are all damned and cannot be "saved." Some even kill those who don't worship the "right" way. And, accoding to their respective teachings, ONLY those who worship the "right" way can be saved.
So here's the rub...since Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God, and only the followers of one of these religions is worshipping the "right" way and can be saved (leaving the followers of the others left to eternal damnation), who does God save?
They all worship him, and only him (worshipping Jesus is nothing more than the worship of God, since Jesus is beleived to have been God incarnate). Some of each faith are undoubtedly more devout than some of the other faiths. Sooooo, which followers does God save, and which ones does he smite and punish with eternal damnation?
And, you can't equivocate and state that he's a loving God who will save followers of all religions who believe, because that's not what they teach (as clearly evidenced by your own post).
So, who does God save? And, if he doesn't save all of them (even the most devout of each group), seems to be quite unfair, doesn't it? I mean, they worship him in the most devout fashions possible, but he won't save them because....because why? They weren't "doing it right?" Even though they likely strictly followed their own religious teachings about him?
Doesn't seem quite right at all, does it? Actually seems down right evil.
Oh good, thanks Liz...I was hoping to read a comment from the "crazy" perspective.
AJR, Jews do not believe we have the one right way. We think that other people who are not Jewish should be whatever they are and that there are many right paths. We do not try to convert people to Judaism. YOu are making big statements that are not accurate. We also do not have the concept of being 'saved'. that's a Christian concept. We don't believe in hell or the devil or having to do anything to go to heaven. We don't concern ourselves with heaven. We are supposed to try to do good while here on Earth. You are taking Christian beliefs that SOME Christians believe (not even all Christians believe!) and putting them on Judaism and Islam. Maybe learn a bit about a topic before posting and making big generalizations.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.