koldmamahdakah (kolraashgadol) wrote,

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Murder, betrayal, and the tooth fairy

Every year, as part of my rabbinic responsibilities during the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur), I give one of the sermons at the synagogue at which I work. These sermons tend to be a rather big deal, because these days are the ones at which even Jews who have pretty much lost any other attachment to Jewish community life come out. This year, I gave the sermon on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Which makes it somewhat less of a big deal - hard to predict weekday crowds of second day of the holiday. Technically, one is supposed to not work, but most people would rather skip a day off than spend the day at shul; who can fathom?).

Anyhow, the topic of the sermon was based on the day's torah portion: the Akedah, or "The binding of Isaac" - you know that story where Abraham drags his son up a mountain and almost murders him? Isaac is saved in the nick of time by God, who is the one who put him in the position in the first place, which makes the whole story rather difficult to do anything sensible with.

But I gave it a go. Instead of focusing on the story itself, I focused on the aftermath: what happened when Abraham and Isaac went down the mountain. That is, in fact, more interesting than one might think. From a close reading of the text, one sees that in fact, Abraham goes down by himself, and there's no evidence that he and Isaac ever speak again. The midrash says that Sarah dies of horror at Abraham's actions (there are several variations, one in which Isaac tells her himself what his father did), but even in the plain text it's clear that Abraham and Sarah are living apart at the time of her death.

My point (I may post the sermon elsewhere later, but for now just go with the summary) was about what the reason for the Akedah - for betrayal by a loved one, and maybe even the necessity for "betrayal" by God- might be. To do so, I mentioned a study that came out last year. The study was about the lies that parents tell their children. I used as my example the one about the existence of a tooth fairy, pointing out that my own son knows that I am the tooth fairy, and is pretty blunt about telling others so.

After I finished the sermon, the other rabbi got up and said that he had noticed people looking concerned about the tooth fairy thing, that it was okay if people told their children that there was a tooth fairy, that people had been looking worried at that point, and that in his house, he himself told his children that there was a tooth fairy and it was fine for different families to do things differently.
I totally trust my colleague, and if he felt he had to mention it, it meant that people really were looking very worried.

At the end of the services that day, no fewer than five parents came up to me, leant over and said that it was a great sermon, but that they had told their child who had been in the room and listening, that *I* (Rabbi Alana) was the tooth fairy.

So, let me get this straight, you brought your young children in to hear a sermon about near murder for no obvious reason, betrayal of a child by his father, and about betrayal of people by other people they love, and what you're worried about is that your child might not believe in the tooth fairy anymore?

And your solution is to pick up on the mention that my child knows that I'm the tooth fairy, so you tell them that I'm the tooth fairy?

Need I mention that I went into my office and laughed myself nearly ill?
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