Religious life, by definition, demands high religious standards. Growing up in a rabbinic home, however, puts children squarely in the center headquarters where those standards are shaped and regulated by the community:
When we think of children who carry the burden of having famous parents, we often think of the offspring of movie stars or politicians. But in the Religious Zionist sector of Israeli society, being the child of a prominent rabbi comes with some very heavy baggage.
Filmmaker Racheli Wasserman, herself the daughter of such a rabbi, carries this load, and decided to unpack some of it by making “The Rabbi’s Daughter.” The short documentary, which Wasserman made as a student at the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film & The Arts in Jerusalem, is an intimate and sensitive portrait of three young women who not only live in the shadow of their revered fathers, but who have also made the fraught decision to leave the religious life behind and forge new paths for themselves.
The Rabbi’s Daughter” has caught the attention of Israeli film critics and the Israeli movie-going public alike. In December, it was awarded the best student film prize for the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum, and earlier last fall it won the award for the best short documentary at the 2012 Haifa Film Festival. In 2011, the film was awarded the Aliza Shagrir Prize for outstanding documentary. Exceptionally for a student film, “The Rabbi’s Daughter” has been viewed more than 45,000 times online.
The half-hour film follows three young women as they interact with their rabbi fathers and expose their previously private thoughts and feelings about their complicated relationships with them. Tamar Aviner, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City (and who recently declared that women should not engage in politics or run for seats in the Knesset), is a free-spirited artist and sensitive soul who struggles with being thrust into the public eye. Still clearly a spiritual person, Aviner has adopted a hippy-like peripatetic existence, living in a van and working as a street artist...
However, the loneliness and isolation created by the religious expectations within the rabbinic home are, of course, nothing new. The Talmud was not oblivious to the phenomena of rabbinic children struggling with their religious affiliation and expression.
Of all of the explanations, Ravina’s seems to be the most puzzling. What does the Blessing on the Torah have to do with the religious outcome of one’s children? And are we really to assume that great rabbinic scholars all skipped the Biblically mandated Blessing on the Torah made each morning?
In order to better understand this whole concept, let us start with examining this Blessing:
The text of the Blessing of the Torah contains a reminder that our personal pursuits of religious perfection should not come at the expense of our appreciation of others. The Blessing reads:
Let us begin with a thought: if it were up to you to formally choose and institute a piece from Torah over which we would making the blessing of the Torah over what you choose? Maybe shema or the 10 commandments? Something really fundamental.
But Tosafot here records the tradition, which we practice still, to recite the blessing regarding the receiving of the Torah before reading birchat kohanim - The Priestly Blessing. What message does the Priestly Blessing contain concerning our daily affirmation of our obligation to study
Why was birchat kohanim chosen to be instituted as the piece of torah we learn after reciting the blessing on the torah?
For many Jews, birchat kohanim evokes memories of listening quietly to the Kohanic chants while under a tallit or with their faces buried inside of their prayer book. But the Priestly Blessing is not just an obligation for the Kohen to bless—it is also an obligation for the people to feel blessed. Before the Kohanim recite their blessing, they say a blessing of their own, “to bless the people of Israel with love.” No other blessing ends with this particular formulation. We do not recite the blessing on the lulav to “take it with love” or a blessing on matzah “to eat it with love.” Only birchat kohanim ends specifically with an acknowledgement of love, because inherent in the obligation of the blessing is that the recipient, the people of Israel, feels beloved.
Birchat kohanim is an acknowledgement that the Jewish people are blessed and beloved.
Here lies the connection between the blessing of the Torah, and Ravina's suggestion that this practice is related to the religious outcome of one’s children.
With Torah learning, it seems that one can become so involved with Torah learning, that everything else fades to background. This is a danger, when Torah learning instead of bringing you closer to God, makes you "zone out" God's existence!
The love for the ideals contained in Torah can easily distract one from loving God or even from loving other people.
Thus, birchat kohanim, a blessing that engenders love of ones fellow is the perfect introduction to ones' pursuit of Torah because it highlights what is truly important: the love of people in Torah!
In order for personal religious achievement to translate into interpersonal success we need to recite the Blessing on the Torah. The Blessing on the Torah is not a typical blessing that one makes, for instance, on food or even other commandments; it is a prayer that our love for scholarship should not obscure our love for people.
This, in turn, may be why the Priestly Blessing follows the Blessing on the Torah. As we begin each day recognizing the centrality of our obligation to pursue our attainment of Torah, we pause to acknowledge the possible dangers inherent within. a singular focus on Torah study. The ideals of Torah study cannot be achieved at the expense of the appreciation of the people. Our study of Torah, like birchat kohanim, should leave those in our lives feeling more beloved and more blessed. The Priestly Blessing and the Blessing on the Torah preceding it dually ensure that ourTorah study is not just the fulfillment of a commandment, but an endeavor that is sweet for all those around us.