God and Magic

I was looking back through some of my favorite article clippings and web links this past week from the past decade or so and I ran across one, from which I just had to share an excerpt.

It is from an interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner in the January 1999 issue of Educational Leadership magazine. Some may recognize Dr. Kushner as the best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People and other popular works.

In the article, the interviewer asked Kushner how a parent rather than a teacher can “help a child experience God?” Here is Dr. Kushner’s answer:

“Somebody once asked me how to convince a 9-year-old to believe in God. I answered that you can’t convince someone to believe. The question is: how can you teach a child to recognize God?

A task for parents, not teachers, is to create a catalog of moments in which children can recognize that God has intervened in their lives. When they have been sick and they get healthy, when they have done something naughty and they are forgiven for it, when they have gone out of their way to do a favor for somebody else and they feel good, when they see how beautiful the world is on a sunny day or after the first snowfall of winter, those are experiences of God.

Children need two things to nourish their souls. They need a sense of ritual and they need a sense of magic. If parents don’t give those basics to their children, it is the same as not giving them basic nutrition. I consider it a form of child abuse.

A child’s world is overwhelming and out of control. Doing things in a prescribed way gives them a sense of reliability. Whether it’s church every Sunday, candle lighting on Friday night, or certain prayers, they need predictability.

And they need the magic, the sense of specialness. In my own tradition, it might be just holding a child up to kiss the Torah as it is carried through the congregation. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, it might be the incense, the robes, the mystery, the music.

The sense that there is a reality beyond the reality of everyday life and that there is something wonderful about this – that is what nourishes the soul.”

Of course, you can gather why this resonates so much with us at Faithkeepers. Because at our core, our mission is to provide you with resources – ideas, encouragement, symbols, and more. It’s all about helping each other ensure that a strong faith takes shape in our children and young people as they grow up, through habit (practices) and through a sense of personal discovery (the “magic” Kushner speaks of).

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