The Nesivos Shalom teaches that in Egypt, Hashem purposefully waited through our generations of slavery for us to finally arrive at our lowest possible spiritual and physical condition before referring to us as “My firstborn son.”
He did so in order to prove to us for all time that He does not love us based on our behavior or our status and so that we would know we are inherently His beloved children. His love for us is unconditional and indestructible, regardless of our debasement or situation.
Your son, whom you so proudly carried to his bris, is always your son.
Your daughter, light of your life from the moment you first held her, is always your daughter.
A parent’s love for his or her child must be unqualified, as God’s is for His people. And yet, we are too often so brutally quick to judge our own children – and too often through the eyes of others, not even our own.
Picture the cherubim. Imagine them with their childlike countenances. Where might you find such creatures? In the holiest city in the world – Jerusalem itself. And not just in the holiest city but in the holiest place in that holiest of cities, upon the Temple Mount, the kodesh kodashim, the Holy of Holies. The spot where God speaks to Moshe from above the aron, His voice emanating not from between the countenance of two elders or sages or tzaddikim but from between the two cherubim, from between the countenances of two babes.
To teach us that to hear and receive God’s awesome messages we must maintain a pure childlike innocence and enthusiasm, one free of preconceived notions and prejudices. We must embrace a child’s delight in learning and experience.
But do we? Sadly, we do not. The passing years have wounded us, made us jaded, cautious, skeptical and hurtful. But such an attitude is anathema to all that is spiritual and pure.
Doesn’t Hosea teach us that God loves Klal Yisrael because we are loveable like a young child? “For Israel is a young lad and I love him” (Hosea 11:1).
How hard it is, as the years turn our once-supple minds and bodies brittle, for us to maintain that innocence and delight. The challenge is even greater for those who are parents, for they experience the most searing of challenges and hurts from the very ones dearest to them – their children. How they can turn us inside out! Our very own children, who have turned their backs on us and all that is sacred and precious to us.
We see it too often. We hear of it constantly. We shed tears as we witness it or experience it. We cry and suffer with our friends. Relationships between husband and wife suffer. Families ache. All because children “fall away.” They become lost children. And from good frum, heimishe homes.
How did they become “at risk”? How did they go off the derech? How did these children, raised in loving, observant homes, come to turn their backs on a Torah-centered life?
We will return to the how, but for now we must examine our reaction when our children become angry, rebellious, and critical. We yell. We demand. We punish. We even remove the “culprit” from our homes – from their homes – and, in the process, create a cycle of ever greater rejection, ever greater distance, ever greater anger.
So many good, decent, observant parents are emotionally torn to shreds as their dear children become strangers before their very eyes. They banish these “strangers” for a thousand understandable reasons – because their own hearts ache, because they wish to protect their other children, because they worry what others might think.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
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