Ruttenberg Looks at Jewish Texts Dealing with Parenting

Is there a halachik way (in accordance with Jewish law) to respond when you are reciting the amidah (the central prayers of a Jewish worship service) and a child demands your attention? Is there a blessing for nursing a baby or changing a diaper?

These are some of the questions Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg considered when she spoke at a community Shabbat dinner on Friday, January 23, at the Jewish Community Center.

While there are several volumes of Torah dealing with women’s issues, Rabbi Ruttenberg said, there is no tractate dealing with children. Questions like where do you put the Shabbat candles so young children do not upend them are just not addressed.

She attributes this dearth to the fact that most of the men who wrote the commentaries were scholars who left the child rearing to their spouses and had very little contact with the little ones. There are some places where tradition gives women their own voice, but they are limited.

Ruttenberg, the author of Holy Frustration and Radical Amazement: Parenting as a Spiritual Discussion, said, that sometimes all that is required is building a little bridge to find something relevant in existing tradition.
She also noted that there is precedent for the creation of new traditions. Citing Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ruttenberg said the revelation of Torah is ongoing therefore our generation has to receive it anew.

Rabbi Ruttenberg came to Louisville as part of the Jewish/Israeli Author Series. This dinner was sponsored by the Jewish Community Center and Keneseth Israel. She also spoke the next day at Keneseth Israel at a program sponsored by that congregation.

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