Explaining Judaism to a Child

Explaining Judaism to a Child

Children ask questions. That is how God created them. The interaction that is generated by the questions children ask is a key component in the education of the child (- adults can learn a lot form these interactions too).

So what do you do when a child asks you: “how can I know that we are right? If I would have been born into a family of a different faith, I will probably believe as they do. Does the fact that I happen to have been born into Judaism make it right?”

How do you explain the foundations of Judaism to the child?

You always have the option of pointing the child to books like the Kuzari or the books of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, and encourage him or her to read them. However, in most cases, the child is capable of asking the questions before he or she is capable of understanding these books.

You could point to the experiences of Judaism; the sanctity of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13), answered prayers and connecting to God through the observances of Judaism, but for some children, this answer will not work. Some children will continue to press you, they will ask: “don’t the members of other religions also claim to encounter deep spiritual experiences in the context of their respective faiths? Do I have to taste the experiences of every faith and compare them to each other before I can be confident that we have the truth?”

Here is one way of presenting Judaism to a child:

“You know my dear how much I love you. You can surely recognize that all parents love their children. The love that parents have towards children is one of the most powerful forces that exist on this planet. It wouldn’t make sense to assume that a nation of parents will knowingly teach their children to live and die for a lie. Perhaps one or two crazy people out of a million may intentionally mislead their children, but we cannot believe that a nation of parents would deliberately deceive their children.

We can therefore be confident that Christian parents and Moslem parents are telling their children the truth. And they are. The Christian parent tells his or her child that 2000 years ago some men came to our country and taught us a teaching that we accepted and believed. And this is indeed true. 2000 years ago the apostles of Christianity came to the world and delivered their message, and by and large, people accepted their message.

The Moslem parent is telling his or her child the absolute truth. About 1500 years ago a man came out of the desert and taught us a teaching and we accepted that teaching. This is indeed absolutely true. 1500 years ago a man did come out of the desert and he did present a teaching that many people accepted.

The Jewish parent is not telling his or her child that someone presented a teaching to them. The Jewish parent is testifying – this happened to us. WE were taken out ofEgyptwith signs and wonders, WE wandered in the desert for 40 years while God sustained us with open miracles and God spoke to ALL OF US at Sinai. No one told us the story, it happened to us.

If you want to reject our testimony you will be saying that the Jewish nation is the only nation in the world that knowingly passed on a lie to her children. It doesn’t add up.”

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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13 Responses to Explaining Judaism to a Child

  1. QWAL says:

    Hello rabbi, does not this line of reasoning assume at the onset that indeed, the reveleation did indeed occur? My thinking is that the problem with this reasoning is that as with the others, we were not present there. Spiritually, I understand Judaism says this, but I know that I was born in the 20th century, and was never at Sinai.

    Now, with Sinai, perhaps it did happen, but I only know of it because someone else (or the bible) told me about it- so my grandparents & great-grandparents, etc., were not living a lie at all, either.

    I know the kuzari argument, for example, but even that assumes that one cannot fabricate such a claim as Sinai (because people will ask their grandparents about it), but that says one cannot fabricate this claim- it doesn’t say anything about the group other than the very FIRST being actual eye-witnesses.

    So my point is that this line of reasoning about dying for a lie only applies to the very first generation at sinai (assuming it happened). But Certainly not to a peasant in the 1800s ghetto.

    • Tsvi Jacobson says:

      Hey Vas you there Charlie???
      Well I understand the dilemma. But There is a way one can truly confirm the Tanakh. Let us examine a few unbelievable statements in the Tanakh. In the book of Job we find that God speaks to Job (did he? lets check it out) in Job 26:7 We read “He hangs the earth upon nothing? Also in Job 36:27,28 “He draws upward the the drops of water,
      which distil rain from his vapor; which the skies pour down and drop upon the multitudes of men.”
      Hey do you recall reading the ancient philosophers who said that the earth rested on the back of a huge turtle or some other animal. Well according to God via Job the earth is suspended in space, and that before we sent up the first rocket to confirm the word of God. Secondly to this day when we go out after a rainstorm and we see a puddle which we still say when it is gone it has dried up even though in the1800’s science said “Not True” For in the study of meteorology testing proved Job to be true although Job didn’t guess at it he had REVELATION FROM GOD. and yes the water is drawn up as vapor into the clouds and comes back down again. Yet we all still say it dried up. Remember Job had no study of meteorology in his background.. Let us not forget also that the Prophet Isaiah 40:22 has God saying that he sits upon the circle of the earth. Another revelation proven during our lifetime.
      Just cause you weren’t there Charlie doesn’t mean we have no evidence. In fact there is so much evidence available to show us that this book isn’t just a hand me down from who knows whom. It is the word of Hashem. Hope you investigate. There is so much to lose if we don’t.
      Tsvi here!

  2. QWAL
    It is not an argument about “dying for a lie”. It is an argument about the uniqueness of Judiasm’s claim. Please read this article together with the previous one (Exodus vs. resurrection) and the next one (explaining Judiasm to a teenager).

  3. Sharlee says:

    QWAL,

    I get your point, totally. It is hard to grasp the difference between the religions because none of us were there and we are reliant that those that have come before us are telling the truth. Ultimately the first generation that lived it.

    I would point out that this is not just a matter of religion, but a matter of history as well.

    Christianity was revealed to one man and everyone that believes Christianity, believes this one man was telling the truth. But there is no corroborating testimony to what Jesus said was “truth” or even where he came from. Faith must be applied to take what he said to be the truth.

    It is the same for Islam. One must chose to believe in what one man said he experienced, as no one else was there to witness it.

    The difference for Judaism is that an entire nation was there to witness the revelation. So, could Judaism be made up? All the miracles, the spiritual revelation, etc? I suppose. But it is far less likely because over a million people were a witness to it all. It would be a hoax of epic proportions to try and pull off. That is why a Jew says they don’t believe there is a God, they know there is a God. No belief or faith is extended or needed as they were a witness to God.

    I suppose anyone can be a skeptic and not believe anything they don’t personally experience or witness, but there is a documented history here that is unrivaled. I mean, none of us were in the Holocaust, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There were thousands of witnesses to the fact that it did happen. That same kind of witness is what gives credibility to the Jewish story over the Christian or Islamic story.

    • QWAL says:

      Hi Sharlee,

      Thanks for the response. But the question is: how do we know there were millions of witnesses? We only read the bible’s description of the event.

  4. QWAL says:

    I should clarify that I know, thanks to yourphariseefriend’s comment, that he is not trying to historically prove the event, but trying to say why it is more theologically sound than the others. As for the proof, I am familiar with some of the arguments, and I find them a little more convincing than not, but I think other, stronger points can be made for Judaism.

  5. QWAL
    We don’t “know” – but we have a nation who claims to be witness-partcipants, a phenomena unparalleled in the competing faiths. It is not “absolute proof” – as Sharlee pointed out – you could always choose to be a skeptic – but it certainly is the most credible claim – and the fact that it was never duplicated only makes the claim more weighty and worthy of our serious consideration.

  6. QWAL
    Go ahead – what are the other points? – I am willing to hear.

  7. QWAL says:

    I suppose a good line of reasoning might be the following (although not fit for children, clearly)

    – Theism v. Atheism, then:
    – In Theism, polytheism v. monotheism
    – In monotheism, examining the various options

    If one is examining the various Abrahamic faiths, it is noteworthy that they all not only trace themselves to Judaism, but recognize that Judaism (or more specifically, the Jewish people) have a special and unique relationship with god. Therefore, if examining monotheism, one can reasonably (in fact, one ought to) start with Judaism first. And then, I don’t see a logical reason to move past Judaism and into a successor religion (Christianity, Islam, Bahai, etc.), unless there is a compelling reason why they have a valid claim of succession. In other words, if examining monotheism, the first one examined should be Judaism, and if Judaism doesn’t pass the smell test (historically, theologically), then none of the others will either, since they rely on Judaism for this.
    If, however, Judaism does pass the smell test, then one has to ask whether the other religions have a valid claim of succeeding it. They have to show why their faith is the necessary and logical next step for Judaism, and that the initial faith of Judaism makes no sense without them.
    It’s a long process, but I do think it is compelling.

  8. QWAL
    Thanks for your thoughts. The thought process that you describe is partically articulated in Rabbi Yehuda HeLevi’s “Kuzari” – Thanks

  9. Annelise says:

    Parents do exaggerate to their children… they do tell their children things that they personally believe might have happened, and are important values for them, and they tell them as if they did happen.

    The question is whether a story could change that much in the period from the exodus to the exile.

  10. Pingback: Where is his Birth Certificate? | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

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