Why I Let My Kids Skip Religious School
[This was published on motzei Shabbat]
Or…Why I Would Have Let My Kids Skip Religious School Had It Not Already Been Cancelled. [Why it was cancelled is another post altogether.]
I was not in class the day after I became Bat Mitzvah. While that might seem counterintuitive in a a household that viewed Bar/Bat Mitzvah as the age of reaching ritual responsibility rather than a very pricey Hebrew School gradutation, that absence was a privilege granted us on that one day, and one day only, during our education. Never were we allowed to miss Religious School for any reason other than illness. And not the “I’m not feeling so well” type. As was the benchmark for secular school, absence was permitted only if the patient could produce a fever or vomit. Stayed up too late at a sleepover? Too bad. Relatives in from out-of-town? They can wait til school’s out. These wouldn’t be reasons to miss secular school so they wouldn’t be acceptable excuses to skip Religious School.
I bring this up because I am letting the kids skip school tomorrow.
That’s right. I am keeping my kids out of class. Up to late tonight? Yes, but that is not why they are skipping class. Relatives in from out-of-town? Yes, as it so happens, but that is not the reason either.
Halley’s Comet is the reason the kids are not going to school tomorrow.
The Comet is not expected to make a return visit until 2061 so this has nothing to do with the kids seeing the comet.
One night, in 1986, my mother decided to pack up the family and head up to Griffith Observatory to see the Comet. It was a wildly-crazy spontaneous decision; one that met with not a small amount of disapproval from the other custodial parent. Into the station wagon did we pile. We made the drive only to discover that the cloud cover in the Los Angeles Basin made any sighting of the comet impossible.
Rather than cut our losses and head home, back into the station wagon did we pile. And headed east. One hundred forty miles east. To Joshua Tree National Park, though we knew it as Joshua Tree National Monument in those days. By the time we schlepped out to the desert, witnessed the historical event, and schlepped back home, we were zonked. The other custodial parent, predictably, saw no reason why we should not continue on to school. Fortunately, my mother prevailed.
The takeaway? There are, sometimes, major events that trump school. Do I recall seeing the comet? Fuzzily. More importantly, I was left knowing that sometimes a life experience can shape us in important ways. Even at the expense of a day in the classroom.
Instead of sitting in the classroom tomorrow, we will be heading out to hear author, Amy Meltzer, lead a program on her latest work, The Shabbat Princess. To meet an author whose writings portray a recognizable Judaism is, I believe, one of those experiences.
I. Can. Hardly. Wait.