Aharei Mot: Offering our Offspring to Molech

“Do not allow any of your offspring to be offered up to Molech.”  Leviticus 18:21

The many biblical references to child sacrifice to "gods" indicate that this was once a common practice.  Perhaps it still occurs in some cultures, but, thankfully, Judaism isn’t among them.  Or …. is it?  

Not in the conventional sense, of course, but do we nevertheless offer up our offspring to modern “Molechs?”

Some years ago, I heard several couples express pride in their children’s accomplishments.  Doctor, lawyer, professor, scholarship winner, money manager, etc.  Suddenly, a woman listening to this kvelling (and who had “accomplished” children of her own) strenuously objected.  Not one parent had even mentioned their child’s character.  “What’s important to me,” she pointedly observed, “is that we raised our children to be mensches (ethical, caring, and honorable people), regardless of what they chose to do for a living.”  

This week, I had three further reminders of how we seek to influence our children and grandchildren with our priorities, consciously or otherwise.

First, I attended a shiva minyan (memorial service) for a friend’s son who was tragically killed in an accident.  In a moving eulogy, his father noted some of son’s impressive accomplishments – including international acclaim and awards for technical innovation.  Clearly more important to his parents, though, was how their son had treated people.  We heard how he frequently befriended strangers, missed classes to comfort a distraught friend, and literally gave a needy man the coat off his back. 

Second, I read a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed written by two college Presidents about the career “dreams” of graduating students and their parents.  It ended:  “A word for parents who find themselves in bleachers listening to bromides about following one's dreams: You didn't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Why would you want their latest ambition to be their last?”  I was reminded that we should do what we can to mold our children and grandchildren’s “ambition” to be good people.

Third, while “digitizing” some old videos, I watched my eldest daughter’s Bat Mitzvah service from 25 years ago.  Speaking too long as a proud father, first during the Tallit presentation and then again when passing her the Torah, I told my daughter (who surely was silently rehearsing the words of her imminent Torah reading rather than listing to Dad drone on) how her mother and I hoped that, whatever our mistakes in raising her, we had succeeding in teaching her the importance of Jewish values. (Okay, my turn to kvell: she is a mensch).

Parents and grandparents, Leviticus 18:21 still applies.  We must not allow any of our offspring to be sacrifices to “Molech,” by whatever modern “success” incarnation that false god may be known. 

Shabbat shalom! 



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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb