There's a famous stanza in a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


For many years I thought that an excellent concept: to walk unfettered by the crowd, boldly taking a path few followed. Yet coincidentally, as my faith reawakened, I stumbled on an essay in a Jewish magazine - don’t recall which - about the benefits of following the popular path. The path of tradition, and the article argued compellingly for the comfort of taking the same path that generation upon generation has successfully walked before.

In my daily prayers one of the things I pray for is that my line be fruitful and multiply, and that each generation move closer to Hashem* than the one before. This I have already achieved in my own life. I do religious observances that my parents never did, include lighting the Shabbat candles, saying Modeh Ani (the morning prayer said when you first wake up) and the Shema (e.g., when I touch the mezuzah on our front doorpost whether coming or out), attempting to keep kosher (very difficult to do properly where I live but I make a “spirited attempt”), saying the prayers over food, and so on.

I wear a kippa routinely, something that astonishes people who knew me when I was growing up. I wear tefillin for my morning prayers – at the very least on Friday, the day before Shabbat, and on Sunday morning, the day after Shabbat. This would have been unthinkable to my parents.

I’m learning Hebrew, which I fought tooth and nail when I was growing up, and making progress. I have surpassed a year’s streak of daily lessons. Now when I read Hebrew articles for practice it’s not blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, but blah-hey words I know-blah. Same for the CD of Hebrew songs in my car. In another few months I may actually understand simple things I read. I have my kids on Duolingo for Hebrew too.

So one day my daughter, the older child, started to call me Aba – Hebrew for father. I think it was just an affectation initially, spurred by a session at Hebrew school plus our first trip to Israel, but now it’s her standard reference to me most of the time. And I could not be more thrilled!

Both my kids can say the Shema by themselves at bedtime, but I stay with them and hold their hand when they do. Tradition. That daughter already says Modeh Ani when she wakes up without prompting. Tradition. My son, younger, warms my heart when he comes downstairs and not just wants to say it with me before anything else, but says that G-d is the most important.  Tradition. He has discussed wearing a kippa like me all the time, but thinks that given how active he is he may wait.  Still, that he even thinks about it… Tradition.

She calls me Aba. He knows how to ask for chocolate milk in Hebrew. Both know all the prayers for food, and the prayers for lighting the Shabbat candles. And one day, a few years ago, he came downstairs on a weekend at 10 AM or so. I looked at him and said “You are not a morning person” to which he replied “I am not a morning person, I am a Jew”!

Having my next generation be closer to Hashem than I was when I grew up? You tell me – mission accomplished?

NITZAKHON is the pen name of a capital-C conservative, Zionist Jewish once-and-future blogger based in New Hampshire. He is a born Yankee with roots to the Revolution and the Pilgrims on his father’s side, but toys with moving somewhere warmer, and is torn between Israel or Texas.

* Hashem – literally “The Name”, what deeply religious Jews call Him.

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