I love my kids’ school. I know we have conversations about Jewish belief and practice that we may not have had, had they not been students at a Jewish day school. This is what I value the most. I don’t send my children to day school so they can memorize texts or rituals. I want them to question and challenge and be thoughtful about their beliefs and practices. Our sages modeled this method of Jewish learning in the Talmud. They didn’t just state a question and provide an answer. They recorded the entire debate! Multiple views are preserved and there is value in this type of discourse. Not only does it show us that by asking questions and engaging in conversation with others our eyes become open to new insights and perspectives, it also teaches us to respect diverse views.
But, when I was helping one of my sons with his homework recently, I was disappointed to see that the teachings selected by his teacher were so dissonant with the Jewish teachings that I know. The sages he introduced to my son focused on destiny and events being out of our control. All we need to do is have faith in God. Our choices have no impact. God is in complete control. Well, these sages got it wrong.
Judaism teaches that we have free will. Our choices do matter. We have an entire instruction book guiding us how to make good choices that will benefit us and positively impact our world. Why would we need the Torah and the mizvot and values it teaches, if we had no say? If our actions had no meaning?