Putting family first

  • ChiefRabbi
What is the key to the strength of our South African Jewish community? In life it is impossible to focus on everything. We need clarity of vision. Where should we focus our efforts? Let’s go back to the moment of the birth of our people to find the answers to these questions.

Every year at Pesach, we celebrate and remember the moment when the Jewish people were born as a nation – when G-d took us out of Egypt. And in the days before the liberation from our slavery, G-d gave a crucial and significant instruction to the Jews.

He asked our ancestors to come together as families and to set aside a lamb to be eaten together by each family. This instruction was repeated to later generations when we had a Temple – that families should come together for the Pesach offering.

To this day, even after the destruction of the Temple, when we gather at our Seder tables, we do so as families coming together to eat together, to share together, to be inspired together.

The entire structure and energy of the night of the Seder is experienced as part of a group, as part of a family, as parents handing on the vision, values and history of what it means to be a Jew to the next generation. This is one of the key insights of the Pesach experience.

At the heart and soul of the enterprise of the Jewish people are families, are parents handing on the heritage and the legacy of what it means to be a Jew to the next generation. So, if we are looking for a formula for the future, the answer lies in the Pesach experience.

If we are asking, as a community, where we need to put our focus, a vital part of that answer is that we must strengthen our families.

The pressures of modern life have caused the bonds of family connection to be seriously weakened. We need to teach our children the importance of marriage, of building a Jewish home, of marrying within the Jewish faith, of continuing the proud legacy of our forebears and being connected to the Torah values that we received from our parents and grandparents.

We need to ensure that our children go to Jewish schools and we need to support these schools in every way possible because they are the guarantors of our Jewish future. We need to learn Torah with our children as a way of connecting with them and with the generations of Jews who came before us. On Seder night, we learn Torah together as a family. Let us take that energy and inspiration with us into other parts of our life.

The Torah has principles and laws which bring husband and wife closer together and which allow for families to remain connected. They give a person a rooted sense of meaning and spiritual connection in an increasingly materialistic and lonely world, often empty of meaning and significance.

The mikvah is an important part of Jewish marriage and enhances the bond and connection between husband and wife on a physical and emotional level. Shabbos is a powerful, uplifting day for families to reconnect with each other and with Hashem.

The values that our children grow up with in our homes are the values that they will take with them into their lives. And so, at the moment of birth of our nation, G-d ensured that families would come together in preparation for the crucial moment of freedom, and that for all future generations families would come together to bond through the values that have sustained us since we stood united as one at Sinai to hear G-d’s words – words which changed forever our history and the history of the world.


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