When to let them fall
I posed a question to Gesher students after the Torah reading this past Thursday, and it was one of my favorite kinds of questions to pose to students: one to which I truly don’t know the answer. The question comes from Shemot (Exodus) 6:5 – the last three words are, “and I’ve remembered my covenant.” I’m perplexed and troubled by the notion of a deity that forgets things like covenants. Luckily, some Gesher students helped me understand these words in new and different ways.
So how are we meant to understand these words? Surely an omnipotent being doesn’t have any trouble recalling anything at all, particularly the only human beings on the planet with whom the divine has a contractual relationship. Among the answers I heard from our students was the idea that “remembered” isn’t meant to be taken literally, but that it indicates the resumption of a relationship in which the partners were temporarily separated. OK, so why would G-d separate from the children of Israel (I asked)?
Well, sometimes a parent needs to pull away from the their child. Not permanently, but a certain amount of TzimTzum (creating room or empty space) was necessary for G-d to even create the universe, and further pulling away was important for the growth of humans towards their potential. This is pretty insightful for a 13 year old, as it is one of the most challenging things (at least for me) in parenting. Knowing how to walk the line between protecting and providing for my children and letting them fall and get hurt is SO HARD!
The exodus from Egypt is considered the birth of the nation of Israel, and I know that as soon as my own children were born my wife and I began this challenging dance of best-guesses, intuition, and the occasional moment of confidence in making decisions about when to hold them up and when to let them fall. Guiding these decisions is our long-term intention of raising children who are resilient, and who have the tools they need to make their own meaningful decisions.
These are the same core goals guiding the decisions made by the outstanding faculty at Gesher every day. It is a source of great joy, fulfillment, and occasional frustration to share in this dance with our entire community.
Shabbat Shalom, Dan