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?
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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.
As you can see in Leo's comments below, believers will go on defending their delusions because they lack the courage to accept reality, but the bible provides some pretty clear directives supposedly from god, to do some pretty evil stuff, and that can't be denied. Like this:
17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
Now, since you keep spewing about your bible, note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes your sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.
Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.
So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.
Look into the eyes of a suffering victim of any of the multiple disfiguring, debilitating, painful diseases that your "loving" god has purportedly created. Then you might understand that Christian god as described in the bible is not loving, doesn't give a hoot about human suffering, and in fact does not exist.
Please, stop referencing that Christian book of nasty, AKA the bible, as a guide to, well, anything. Humanity has suffered enough already from the horrid, evil cr@p that people like you shove at them.
Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
It is interesting that people's gods are only capable of curing exactly what today's medicine is capable of curing.
Bob Bob Bob
Bob, Tell me what great hope do you have for yourself and those you are leading astray?
There is hope in the end, for the last days are upon us and we will see clearly (IE Israel Gathered is just one great super sign) the prophesies of the end unforld before your eyes so that you will have no excuse
What a strwman your words tend to! Can't you among others learn to do what scripture tells us all to do when we read the Gospel? Even within the Gospels it is so written to "rightly divide the word of truth"! I am not only mad at people who tend to make insindiary insults on Gospel "legends" and Gospel "truths" and even Gospel "revelations", it is those preachers and the like who I do realy hate for their Acts of smugness and unaltering manifestations meant only for the bewilderments sakes of their flocks! To Hell with the morbidly religious who use their religious precepts as being but blinders and they can only see where they want to and they dare not turn their eyes to the left or the right for frearing they might stumble and fall down! I am a firm believer in the theology of Christendom's "moral" revelations and while I do so believe in God, the Father of All Cosmologic Creation(s) and I am bound by my Faith in God's Sons and Daughters who do wherever possible in the wholeness of the Cosmos make manifest all the living Life Formations as are here upon and within this earth! I have much proof about my beliefs but the justice leagues here in this "Belief" blog are but as animals seeking whatever fodder that just suits their sensations! May God damn all of you who only fend for fodder's sakes their ownliness mindives and can't even dream a good dream! Where is one's imaginative spirit at? Where are the souls of imaginabilities?
As you can see in Bob;s comments below there are many that come against the Almighty God due to the fact that they simply do not understand the Bible in Full Context. Here is a really good website that provides responses to the Atheist\Antochrist websites that were noted by Bob.
People read in the Bible that God will deliver us anything we ask for in a heartfelt prayer. This view of prayer is a childish and man-centered way of thinking. God is not a gumball machine: we cannot just pop in a quarter (prayer), turn a crank, and receive a gumball (the answer). There are a few prerequisites.
Marshall Brain’s website asks us to pray the following prayer:
Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
There are a few things that must be noted about prayer before continuing with this discussion that our friends at this website have neglected to factor into their test.
First, there is an obedience component. Look at Job 22:27: “You will pray to Him, He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.” Or “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4). What about Psalm 66:18? It says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Consider Proverbs 28:9: “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.” Proverbs 15:8 and 15:29 say that “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases Him” and “The Lord is far from the wicked but hears the prayers of the righteous.”
B O R I N G ......ZZZZzzzz....
So no amputee has ever been good enough to satisfy God? Children who can't even understand the concepts aren't good enough? And for those of us who don't believe in him because there's no evidence, we deserve all the bad things that happen to us? If god agrees with that, then he's evil. If you agree with it, then you are, too.
Why won't god heal amputees?
If he is powerful enough to create the universe, surely he could grow a finger or a toe.
Leo, I admit that those arguments probably wouldn't compel me to disbelieve, either.. There's thousands of better reasons to disbelieve.
How do you know the Bible is true? Because it says so in the Bible stupid.
How do you know the Bible is right? Because the Bible is the word of God.
How do you know it's the word of God? Because it says so in the Bible.
How do you know the Bible is true? Because it says so in the.....,
Wait a minute here. Do I start thinking now? Is this rational? Oh wait, the Bible says I'll be tortured forever for thinking this way. Yessirree, the Bible says, blah, blah, blah .....
Got science? Please get some. Learn logical thinking first.
Jesus came and healed the sick and the lame, and he will do so when he returns the second time on the Day of the LORD.
Bad things are already happening to many of you, for that is why you are here to try to turn people away from their faith.
We know the scriptures are true for they tell us many events ahead of time IE Jesus the Suffering Servant, and then latter they are fulfilled. Only God can tell us the future via prophesy for he is beyond time and space.
Well done. Fine response but I fear you will not change the wonded and unhappy minds. A mind must be openeed from the inside, you cannot pry it open.
Great article wasn't it?
You can not sell salvation without convincing condemnation.
If you want to be burning in a lake of fire and acid like Gandhi is right now, ignore Christianity and just live life being a good person. God will punish you accordingly.
If you want to be sipping margaritas pool-side with Jesus like Hitler is right now, become a Christian. God will reward you accordingly.
Like Hitler?? are you trolling to act like a Christian???
Horray for the vengeful god.
This style of attack against Christianity once again shows what happens when there is no moral compass, and people think they can do whatever they want without accountability.
Nut Job Central
Prayer changes things .
OK, Mr. know it all.
Why is your god is not powerful enough to make me believe?
Mankind's oldest profession – the Priest.
The power of a god on Earth is directly proportional to the amount of money or goods in kind raised from the congregation.
Which leads to the astonishing conclusion – No money, no god . . .
Ah it's so clear now. I always wondered where that money went to.
Chabad.org for all your Jewish questions!
It takes a village to raze a child's atheist mind.
Try to be a good person in life. That is the best most can do.
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.
Can you email Phosphorous?
I just read the address on the comment below, thank you.
I need to get back to my studies. I have a geology, A&P, and microeconomics exam due tomorrow, and I've been blogging for far too long today. Send me an email, and I can promise to remain courteous in my posts. Please understand though, I have my reasons for not connecting with pseudoscience, but I can share some very interesting info on actual case studies and technological breakthroughs.
Time for a poem.
God is perfect, never makes a mistake.
He tested mankind with a talking snake.
Things didn’t work out like he originally planned.
He decided to change his religious brand.
He killed his son to “save” mankind.
From the curse and wrath of his self centered mind.
Now we have hell for those who doubt.
To give fairy tale salesmen a lot more clout.
So.. so, sorry for you.. please open your eyes/mind.
Religion offers the seductive simplicity of certainty, a temptation too strong for many to resist.
@Voice of Reason- Told you it might have sounded far fetched. But do you ever wonder what our minds can do when concentrated?
Obviously not much. Just look at America right now.
I think the more important question was VoR's: Are you under a doctor's care?
Making up answers isn't likely to lead to accurate answers.
I pretty much read about advances in brain science and not wonder. You should try listening to some pod casts they are quite interesting if you find the brain and its components a mystery.
Well what if the mind is so powerful that when focused it creates something?
Imaginary or real?
Moncada, I suggest that you think through your arguments to completion first yourself, and perhaps write down your reasoning and your conclusions as an exercise, instead of burdening us so immediately with your incompletely formed and ill-formed arguments.
I mean in the sense that it can create anything, even the things that seem unreal.
Yes, what if?. Spit it out, already.
OK, you lost me!
Well what if we created our Gods into actual beings, I know it sounds far fetched, but wonder how powerful our mind is.
Are you under a doctor's care?
Yes, what if?. Books have been written on that possibility.. What now?
I can honestly share quite a bit in terms of this; however, from a perspective of augmenting the mind with technology. I've been keeping up on augmentation technology over the last few years, including cognitive and physical augmentation. If you have Facebook, I'd give you a way you can send me an invite on there, and we can discuss this further. Please understand, I can share a wealth of data on the natural aspect of this and the technological capabilities, but as far as the what if scenarios that have no studies of value, that's pseudoscience, and I'm not a player in that field.
Medication might help.
Invite Phosphorous over on this page.
CNN is not posting most of what I'm typing now...it gets frustrating. Do you have Facebook?
No I don't have a Facebook, and I know I get frustrated when that happens too. It's such a disappointment because we had so much potential to exchange ideas.
I check my emails about 3-4 times a week. Feel free to message me. My first name is Jegason. Phosphorus is my middle name.
I suppose we can't expect much more from a 'belief' blog, but I had hoped that a few of the believers would be willing to try a little reasoning. I had hoped in vain.
Phosphorus, I didn't think you could provide that one, so keep on lying! You provide a clear example of what happens when someone does not have any morals, rules, or standards. You think you can do whatever you want on these sites, but you don't understand that you will be accountable some day. There is hope though, for as you see the signs of the end before your eyes, hopefully you will turn in the end and believe.
1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
This entire event is providing a picture of what Jesus would eventually do. No Abraham nor any of the other patriarchs practiced child sacrifice as you said.
Leo, the bible provides some pretty clear directives supposedly from god, to do some pretty evil stuff, and that can't be denied. Like this:
You are absolutely delusional.
I'm supposed to to treat God as a moral guide after he made a man come within seconds of murdering his son in cold blood merely to appease his bloodlust? I consider that evil. The fact that God made Jesus suffer was evil, too.
Bob, You don't understand the scriptures as a whole, for we have the Old Covenant which was tied to the Law, and the New Covenant which is by Grace.
1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED,
BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;
6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.
7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME
(IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)
TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”
8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,
AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”
He then says,
17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS
I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Hebrews 10 Explains this very clearly...
It's informative how debates with believers frequently end up with the believer proclaiming "BELIEVE OR BURN!!!". It shows that in the end, this silly threat is all they have.
One, where did this happen?? Why do you folks always resort to lies and deception? It says a lot!!
a whole alot.. just for you tom...
Well you said "but you don't understand that you will be accountable some day." I take this as buzz words for the following:
2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
One, so you don't think anyone is going to be accountable for their actions? Do you think murderers should walk free? Do you believe in justice?
@leo. Of course I believe in justice. And we have a Secular criminal justice system to address that . But it seems that when Christians say "in the end, all,will be held accountable" they are not referring to our criminal justice system. I take it as a veiled threat that their god will send those that displease him, or don't believe in him to hell.
Thank you Phosphorous for clarifying.
As if you'd understand what was said.
I did actually.
I did actually Tom,Tom.
Only if your God performed a miracle and gave you a brain, you dim bulb.
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.