Why is it so hard to teach our people that
the season of our rejoicing?
Why except for the party after a bar or bat
mitzvah, do so many Jews see so little in
One Sunday morning, many years ago, as
parents came to pick up their kids from
the Hebrew school the following
conversation was overheard.
"How was class?"
A father asked his son.
The child began to cry ,
"I hate Hebrew school.
It's boring and stupid, the teachers are
mean and the kids aren't nice.
I don't want to go anymore."
The father stopped, turned to the kid and
"Listen, when I was your age I went to
Hebrew school and I hated it.
It was boring, the teachers were mean,
the kids weren’t nice, but they made me
go, and now, you're going to go to!"
What a tragedy.
What a catastrophe.
To have raised a generation of children
who associate Judaism with coercion,
boredom, and emptiness.
When my parents’ generation
described the painful condition of the
Jewish people, they would shake their
heads and say:
"Shver tsu zein a yid”
it's hard to be a Jew.
For anything to be authentically Jewish,
so many seem to feel it must be hard,
There was this Jewish person who was
invited to address a community
commission researching outreach to
After her statement, a prominent
community leader questioned her,
"You say that you keep a kosher home.
Don't you find that very difficult these
No," she replied,
"with new labeling of packages, it’s
Well certainly, you find it very expensive."
"No, not really, you just shop wisely."
"Well, doesn't it severely restrict what you
Catching his direction, she explained pointedly,
"Kashrut brings to my kitchen and to my
home a level of sanctity and godliness
that is precious to me and to my family."
"Well, obviously," the chairman said to the
questioner, "you don't keep kosher!"
Shver tsu Zein a Yid!
It's hard to be a Jew!
If it doesn't hurt, it's not really Jewish.
Someone came to a Rabbi and said about
the sermon he had given in synagogue
that Shabbat morning,
" Rabbi, I enjoyed your talk so much,
I had such a good time,
I forgot I was in Shul ."
"Once Jews accepted Judaism as a
privilege, now they regard it as a
This is a twisted, tortured, form of
After all, if Judaism is only a painful
burden who needs it?
Some kids can tell you everything about
the holocaust, but can’t name all the
You know the line,
“Jewish history is they tried to kill us, they
failed, let’s eat!”
It is truly time that we recover Jewish joy.
This holiday of Sukkot,
which as I said before,
the tradition calls
zman simchatenu, our season of joy,
is really a good place to begin.
It is a mitzvah,
a divine imperative to know Jewish joy.
It is a sin to have twisted Judaism into a
We must learn to say to children and grandchildren in the most unequivocal of terms,
"I do Judaism because it brings my life
purpose, direction and depth. I do
Judaism because it makes me happy".
As the Torah reading for Shmini Atzeret
says, (Deuteronomy 16:14),
"You shall rejoice in your festival, with
your son and daughter.....You shall have
nothing but joy.
Don’t worry, be happy!”
One day, still being a kid, I saw the biggest smile on my father's face when a little kid came up to him and whispered in his ear
Rabbi, I feel very sorry for my
"You feel sorry for your neighbors? Why?"
he asked him.
"Look what we get to do today, Rabbi,"
"We get to eat in the Sukkah , sing the
prayers and march with the Lulav and
We're together as a family and with all our
Rabbi for us today is Yontif, but for them
it's just Thursday!"
If we could just get a lot more Jewish
children to feel that joy, we’d be in really