We often forget, I think, that our relationship with God is two-sided and interdependent. The imagery of covenant represents that vibrant "give and take" that has animated the history of the relationship between God and the Jewish People. Sure, we have pledged in every generation to try to do our best to uphold Torah. In exchange, we have been left to believe we get something in exchange....a sense of divine protection? Some kind of VIP status as the Chosen People? Eternal land rights to the Land of Israel?
Each of these is incredibly controversial and philosophically complex. The reality is that each generation of the Jewish People has redefined the covenant on its own terms, to renew it and insure its relevancy. Our young people are perhaps not quite ready to engage in the philosophic complexity. But they were most certainly able to articulate the value of covenantal relationships at home with their parents (pertaining to chores that are expected of them, and rewards like allowances and the like in return), with their teachers, and with others in our community like our doctors.
Moving forward: the class is going to try their hand at drafting a new sense of their covenant with God. Parents: ask your kids about this, and grapple with them on the hard question of measuring whether God has upheld God's side of the covenantal bargain. Sit with them and share some of your own God struggles so that they realize that believing in God isn't always an easy, fairy-tale-like enterprise. As teens and adults, sometimes our God concepts are challenged by seemingly-conflicted study that we do in the sciences, or in rational philosophy. And our belief in God is often shaken during times of loss, or when tragedy strikes. Don't be afraid to share some of this with your young people! This is an incredible opportunity for you to role model what it means to question God/struggle with God in a healthy/affirming way - a value that our Reform synagogue community strongly affirms.
For further reading on the notion of brit in general, check out this article.
For resources on talking to your kids about God, consider:
- Teaching Your Children About God by Rabbi David Wolpe