Imagine This

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

ImagineQuestion:

I don’t want my children to be small-minded or fundamentalist, so I haven’t given them a Jewish education. They have been brought up without any religion; they are free to choose whatever beliefs they like. I try to live by the words of John Lennon:

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Is there anything more important than that?

Answer:

I admire your passion and idealism. You have obviously given some thought to your children’s moral future, which is a credit to you. But I don’t see how the philosophy you have espoused is any less closed-minded than fundamentalism.

You don’t want to force your ideals on your children. But by denying them their spiritual heritage, you are forcing your ideals on them. They are missing the chance to explore their Jewish identities during their formative years. They didn’t choose that, you did. You have decided their religion for them. They are Lennonists whether they like it or not.

And if that song is your bible, then they are being brought up in a much more closed-minded religion than Judaism.

You have only quoted one verse. But I think the last verse of the song is the most revealing. It proclaims a worldview as closed-minded as the most narrow extremist:

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.

In other words, there is “you” and there is “us”. You are the unenlightened ones. We have found the truth. But hopefully one day you will become one of us too. Only then can the world live as one. Sound familiar?

Contrast this with Judaism’s view that not everyone has to be Jewish. A non-Jew can live a perfectly fulfilling and meaningful life while remaining a non-Jew. They don’t have to join us to be considered a good person. If anything can make us truly live as one, it is the recognition that we are all created by the same G-d, but we don’t all have to serve Him in the same way.

We each choose a value system to live by and to teach our children. Whether you call it religion or something else makes little difference – it is a particular way of looking at the world. But can you imagine a religion that isn’t so narrow to believe that everyone has to join it?

It’s easy if you try.

All the best,
Rabbi Moss

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