How I Plan to Talk to My Daughter about God
Kids ask questions. A lot of questions. My 1-year-old daughter hasn’t entered the inquisitive phase yet, but she will. I can already see it in her impish grin, her mischievous giggle, and the way she instinctively crawls toward things in the house that she’s not supposed to crawl toward. This kid is a challenger, a questioner, and a seeker of truth.
My wife and I have made a commitment to raising her in the Reform Jewish tradition and having her attend preschool at Shaaray Tefila, become a bat mitzvah, and generally be immersed in a world of Jewish learning and Jewish experiences. As she will be part of a temple community, it’s only natural that sooner or later, she’s going to want to talk about God.
I want to have an open and meaningful dialogue with her, even though I don’t believe in God myself. I’m a proud cultural Jew, yet a committed secularist. I accept science’s account of how the universe and our planet came to be; I believe that the best path to discovering truth is through rational inquiry; and I don’t think that anyone can or should be commanded to believe.
Reform Judaism speaks to me because of its tolerance for and celebration of all forms of Jewish identity and expression, its unwavering commitment to pluralism, and its celebration of the pursuit of knowledge. We don’t all necessarily believe in a singular entity or creator, but we do believe in working with one another for the greater good. To me, Reform Judaism isn’t about instilling dogmas – it’s about challenging them.
I see these conversations with my daughter as an opportunity to explore and connect with my own Jewish roots. So when she asks, my wife and I will tell her what we think.
We will tell her that God is many different things to many people, and no one’s ideas about God are wrong or better than anyone else’s.
We will tell her that the concept of God can be a compass, a lodestar pointing her toward becoming the best version of herself, and that this kind of faith should empower her to create a more just world in the here and now.
We will tell her that God, if she chooses to believe, should be a source of hope and inspiration, not of fear. God does not seek to punish her or monitor her behavior, nor is God tallying up her “rights and wrongs” on a ledger for which she will someday need to be held accountable.
Lastly, we will tell her that as Jews we believe in b’tzelem Elohim – that we are made in the image of God. That she has some of that spark of divinity within her. And that she must use that bit of God hardwired within her to reach her utmost potential, to serve a cause greater than herself, and to extend to all her fellow human beings – not just Jews – the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood that are owed to all who are made in that image.
We look forward to watching our daughter inquire, explore, and grapple with these issues for herself as she grows older and starts crafting her own Jewish experiences. There is no wrong path she can take, and there are no wrong questions she can ask.
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