Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Well The First Days Are The Hardest Days, Don't You Worry Anymore (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Uncle John's Band")

Well it was election night in the United States. As I did some work, I left the news of the election results on in the background. I found myself listening for the results of Washington State.  Before the polls opened that day,  I had texted our eldest daughter. She had been working on a ballot initiative in Washington State for several months and moved to Seattle for the last 3 months of the campain. Anyway I texted her wishing her luck, and asking her about the chances of success. I wasn’t just interested politically, I was genuinely nervous for my daughter who has worked so hard on this campaign. Like a typical parent, I was worried about my daughter. I wanted her to be successful in her goal of getting the ballot initiative passed. It was. However as the hours passed and the polls finally closed in Washington State, I realized how much anxiety I had spent worrying about our daughter’s being successful in her job, a job in which success is easily evaluated. Did the candidate win or lose? Did the ballot initiative pass or not? Sure, I understand my worry and anxiety about our 14 year old getting to play in the basketball game, or our daughter successfully completing her gymnastics routine or our son doing well on a test. I understand when our children come home upset from school or a party. They are kids going through the process of growing up. However this a young woman who is almost twenty four years old, who works for a living. This is a young woman who runs political campaigns. Yet, the same anxiety, and concern I had for her when she was her sisters and brother’s age is even worse now. I have much less control, and much less ability to help than I did when she was younger and living at home like her younger siblings.
This Shabbat we read from Parsha VaYeira. The narrative and adventures of Avraham the Patriarch continue. While healing from his ritual circumcision, he fulfills the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, hospitality. He negotiates with God and reduces the number of righteous people that must be found in S’dom and Gomorrah in order to prevent its destruction. The narrative of Avraham is interrupted as we read the narrative of Lot, the two Angels (the same two that had visited Avraham at the beginning of the parsha), the destruction of the city, and the impure relationship that results when the survivors think that world has been destroyed. The narrative returns to Avraham as its focus and he and his wife Sarah give birth to a son (Yitzchak), the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael (Avraham’s first born son and his concubine) and the final test of his belief, the Akeidat Yitzchak – the Offering of Isaac.
Throughout the Parsha there are several examples of “questionable” parenting moments as well as “childing” moments. These moments include Lot offering his daughters to the mob of Sodom and Gomorrah in order to the save the guests that the mob wanted to harm. The daughters don’t say a word about it. These moments include, Ishmael being sent away along with his mother. As Ishmael lays dying of thirst, Hagar leaves him so that she doesn’t have to hear him whine and walks out of earshot. God hears Ishmael’s prayer and saves him due to his merit. However nowhere do we read that Ishmael tells his mom to stay with him so he shouldn’t be alone. Finally, we read of the Akedat Yitzchak, the offering of Isaac as a test of Avraham’s faith in God. In the text we read that Yitzchak asks Avraham about the offering, Ayeh  HaSeh L’OlahWhere is the lamb for the offering? (Gen 22:7)  From this question The Midrash Tanchuma shows an Avraham that was unsteady, shaky, and nervous about making the offering. The Midrash portrays an Avraham in a much more human and troubled manner. He worried about his son’s welfare, he worried about Yitzchak. Yitzchak offers him support and strength and tries to mitigate his father’s anxiety. Yitzchak tells him not to worry and that Yitzchak will do everything he can to help his father.
When our children are younger and we worry about them, we still have more control to “fix” the problem. Whether we fix it or not, the only thing our children can do is to thank us.  However when our children are older and we have little or no control to “fix” the problem, it is up to our children to ease our anxiety, to tell us that “it will be OK,” “not to worry” or “I can handle it”. Then we realize that all the hard work of raising them, all the worrying as they grew up wasn’t a waste because they really can handle life.  No, I don’t stop worrying about our kids as they grow older. Rather the test is that as they grow up and mature they are able to ease my anxiety and concern by the effort they exert in striving for towards their goals.
Rav Yitz

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