As Jews, we credit Abraham with being the first Jew. But in reality, there was no such thing as Judaism at the time he lived about 4000 years ago. Rather, we believe that Abraham was the first to believe in “ethical monotheism;” a belief that there is but one universal god whom we serve through ethical behavior.
I had a grandfather named Abraham who died when I was eleven years old. But to this day, I regard him as the most significant Jewish influence upon me as he was a loving model of living his Judaism. Yes, he attended his synagogue every Shabbat, and yes, he was a good, decent and gentle man who believed in doing right by other people. He was a kind, man who was honest in business, and I feel like I still stand on his shoulders, even as he would literally carry me home from the synagogue on his shoulders. (We would always stop in Golden Gate Park so that I could play on the swings and slide which was great fun for this young child.)
Zadda Abbie instilled Jewish pride in me. And today, as an adult, I appreciate just how much our parents and grandparents are our most significant role models when it comes to teaching those values and ideals that become important to us and guide us through our lives.
Edmund Flegg was a French Jew who wrote a piece entitled “Why I Am a Jew.” As I quote a few of his passages, I realize that these are things that I first learned from my Grandfather.
“I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.”
“I am a Jewish because (for us), the world is not completed: we are completing it.”
“I am a Jew because (our teachings) are the oldest and the newest.”
“I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands of me no abdication of the mind.”
What do you value most as a Jew? What teachings and values would you hope to pass to the next generation? Who is your most significant Jewish role model, and what kind of model are you for your children and grandchildren? Those are important questions for us to ask ourselves, as we do have great influence upon those who look up to us.
Rabbi David Greenberg