Guest blogger Rabbi Jennifer Krause is the author of The Answer: Making Sense of Life, One Question at a Time.
By now you may or may not have noticed a bestselling book designed to look like a lost, secret tome called The Dangerous Book for Boys.
The brainchild of two Scottish brothers, Conn and Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys is the grown Igguldensâ€™ attempt to reveal the all but vanished details of their typical rough-and-tumble boyhood to a technology-inundated audience living in a time where finding a plug is far more important than making a square knot.
Whereas a young boyâ€™s fancy once may have been roused by constructing a go-cart in the yard and racing it down his neighborhood street, inducing a few bumps and scrapes along the way, these days the racing is virtual, injury-free, and only mildly aerobic if the child in question happens to have Nintendo Wii. The Dangerous Book‘s popularity only increases with each passing day, most likely fueled by a combination of parentsâ€™ longing for real or imagined by-gone days of youth and a desire to get their children away from the glow of the television and into some natural light.
The Dangerous Book for Boys got me wondering what the equivalent might be in Jewish life. The Igguldens want kids to experience the joys of building treehouses, making water bombs, constructing the ultimate paper airplane, and skipping stones, yet they are also aware that the finished products are all a means to celebrating and cultivating courage, daring, energy and curiosity: the makings of strong, productive, resilient adults.
As a People, we, too, have a desire for future generations to experience the joys of Jewish life, and yet it seems that most of our â€œinitiativesâ€? — the ones that often invoke phrases, like renaissance and renewal — are missing one of the greatest joys our ancestors have bequeathed us: adventure.
If we were to create a Dangerous Book for Boychiks and Girls, somewhere amidst the how-to pages with instructions for lighting Shabbat candles, building a sukkah, or visiting Israel there would be space for the adventure of living a Jewish life itself â€“ an Igguldenesque awareness that the reason we have the beautiful rituals and ideas to offer our children as their inheritance is because all those whoâ€™ve come before us had the freedom to find their place, discover new truths, alight upon the things they deemed meaningful, joyous, and even redemptive, with a great deal of falling down, getting bumped, scraped, discouraged, and viewed in their time as slightly meshugenneh along the way.
The Dangerous Book for Boychiks and Girls would trust people with their inherited traditions and let them experiment, generate ideas, challenge long-held beliefs, chafe, celebrate, and ultimately find their place and make their contribution courageously without being told in advance what that contribution should be, or how it should feel to be a Jew today or tomorrow or the next.