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Why I Let My Kids Skip Religious School

Saturday, 19 November 2011

[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.

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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sunday, 20 November 2011 8:47 pm

    Kol Ha Kavod. Well done. As a returning parent, actually, we are raising my wife’s seven year old granddaughter. (See “”). I heartily approve of special events trumping everyday schedules. These special occasions are the ones that fill our memories and the dross and dullness of regular classes are left behind.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 21 November 2011 12:42 pm

      Thanks, Norman. It certainly doesn’t happen often here at Beit Frummie. But once-in-a-while, something worthy comes along 🙂

      Welcome to FSW!!!

  2. ZaydeGiraffe permalink
    Monday, 21 November 2011 2:28 am

    I hate to challenge my child whose memory is as prodigious as an elephant’s (this is certainly NOT a political description!), but I must. In fact, we viewed the comet at Desert Center (which is even further away from home than Joshua Tree). It was, again, the other parent who, after insisting that viewing the comet should simply not be missed, further argued that since we were “in the neighborhood” it would be a shame to pass up seeing sunrise at Joshua Tree. So we drove through the monument en route (sort of!) home.

  3. Frume Sarah permalink*
    Monday, 21 November 2011 3:40 pm

    That’s RIGHT! I had forgotten, obviously, that the sighting was in Desert Center. Thanks!

  4. Monday, 28 November 2011 6:49 pm

    That is so weird. I always thought we were in Joshua Tree when we saw that. It was totally worth it though. Here is the odd thing: I remember the pants I was wearing. They were pink stirrups that were slightly fuzzy and I remember because after the sun rose, and I fell asleep in the back-back, I sweat through them and they woke me up.

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