In the first two parts of this four-part series, we discussed the need to validate someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one. Utilizing a Rabbinic illustration, we presented the story of Rav Yochanan ben Zakai when he sat shivah for his son. The focus was on his receiving consolation: why he received comfort from his one student, Rav Elazer ben Aruch, and not from his other four students. Now let us move to a Biblical backdrop as we continue.
In the Book of Breishis (Genesis), validation, as a theme, surfaces several times and in different scenarios. In this segment, we will observe a perfect modeling paradigm as Hashem parents Adam, the first “child.” While the text itself does not spell out the subject, as we look to Rashi and other commentaries, it should become apparent how validation manifests itself within the following two verses: “Vayikrah ha-adam shaymos l’chol ha-b’haymah u’l’oaf ha-shamayim u’l’chol chayas hasadeh u’l’adam lo matzah aizer k’negdo. Va-yapel Hashem Elokim tardemah al ha-adam vayishun – The man gave names to every animal, to the birds of the heaven, and to every beast of the field, but the man did not find a helper for himself. And Hashem caused unconsciousness to fall upon the man and he slept (2:20-21).”
Rashi tells us that when Hashem brought all the animals to Adam to be named, He brought them in pairs, male and female of each species. Noticing their pairing, a light must have gone off in Adam’s brain, as if to say, “Wake up sleepy-head; this ‘pairing’ system sounds like a great idea! You’re lacking it right now, and it appears to be something that can work for you!” Acknowledging this need for himself, we are left wondering why did he not simply ask Hashem to fulfill this need? After all, a “program” pertaining to asking had already existed in his brain; the data had been entered prior to this point. Shouldn’t he know the ropes by now?
Note: This “asking program” mentioned in the previous paragraph is referenced by Rashi in an earlier segment. We are told (Genesis 1:12 and 2:5) that the herbal vegetation had not yet sprouted. Rashi explains that on the third day, the vegetation had not yet “protruded.” Remaining at the surface of the ground, it waited for the rain to come and complete the job. However, Hashem had not brought the rain because there was no one yet to work the soil. Nor was there anyone to appreciate the rain that would be required for the vegetation. Once man appeared (on the sixth day), and he recognized the need for vegetation as well as rain, he asked for it (read: prayed). It descended and, the trees and vegetation sprouted.
So what did Adam do once he noticed the pairing of the animals?
Based on Rashi’s clarification, Adam did not exactly speak to Hashem and “ask” in, what should be, an appropriate (read: mature) manner. Yes, Adam did speak up however it was done in a discourteous way. According to the commentary, Nachalas Yaakov, Adam had an attitude issue. Referring to a specific tone of complaint, the commentary presents Adam’s style of language as, “They each have a mate and I have no mate.” Does this tone not sound familiar?
Think about it! When a child wants or feels he needs something he notices another child possesses (especially when it’s a sibling), the child’s reaction usual reaction is, “How come s/he has it and I don’t?” As a matter of fact, children are not the only ones who convey their thoughts in such a manner; let’s take a look at some adults!
How many of us use similar language and tone when we “perceive” certain circumstances are unfair or unjust? How many of us look at what others have and wish we had the same, such as, a better job, more financial security, a nicer home, or a less stressful family relationship. However, due to our sophistication and polish, the words we choose to use may not necessarily duplicate the language used by our children. Nor might we think of adopting Adam’s language as suggested by the Nachalas Yaakov. That would be too child-like, right! And yet, how many of us, in fact, are “thinking” just those words?
Getting back to our storyline here is the interesting part. Considering Adam’s ungracious, rather direct style of communication, as suggested by the Nachalas Yaakov, Hashem did not rebuke, criticize or lecture him for his (immature) tone and attitude. Rather, as the next verse states,Hashem put Adam to sleep and created a mate for him.
I wonder how many of us might be thinking, what is the sense in this strategy?
According to Rashi, once Adam recognized a need to have a mate, he shared his thoughts with Hashem (his Father), albeit through a childish inflection. Based on Hashem’s response, it would seem Hashem listenedvery intently and deeply to Adam’s words, or shall we say, “complaint.” And that might include any possible emotions lurking behind his words (i.e., feelings of loneliness). We might also assume that Hashem understoodAdam’s situation, that there may, yet, exist some degree of immaturity about him. And finally, having this understanding and empathy, it is possible to conclude that Hashem validated Adam’s predicament and need at a profound level. Not only did Hashem ignore Adam’s intonation, immature attitude and language, He also took Adam’s complaint into, what seems to be, immediate consideration. In the final analysis, Hashem took care of Adam’s most imminent need: that of providing him with a mate.
So what compelling parenting lesson can we extrapolate from this segment?
When it comes to a child’s complaints, most parents do not take well to being on the receiving end. In the case of an adolescent, when a teen’s complaint intensifies, as does the accompanying language, parents may react by pulling rank. Do these statements (and threats), spoken with a harsh tone, sound familiar? “How dare you speak to your mother in that tone of voice!” or “Don’t you dare talk to your father that way or else I’ll____!” or “I don’t like your tone of voice/attitude; you better change it or else_____!”
In many cases, such interactions often end up with a fight or flight outcome. Either a power struggle will ensue (with enraged voices) or one of the parties will run out on the other, often harboring ill feelings; and then what?
Perhaps this illustration can move us toward a healthy perspective when it comes to complaints. Yes, we must always take the time to listen carefully to a child and to try to understand any underlying feelings and issues that are present in the child’s life. And sometimes, it would be more beneficial for the child and to the relationship to disregard a child’s attitude, tone of voice, language – and possibly even behavior – and first and foremost to take the child’s need/s into consideration. Attitude, language and behavior can be addressed after the child’s needs, predicament and/or feelings have been validated, and both parties reach once a calmer state.
In Part Four, we will look to the patriarchal relationship of Abraham and Sarah as we continue discussing this topic. We will give some due space to comparing and contrasting thoughts on validation and invalidation.
Debbie Brown is a certified life coach specializing in parent coaching, and is an NLP Master Practitioner. She is available for private, confidential phone coaching sessions as well as lectures and group workshops. For further information or to express feelings regarding the Parental Perspective topic, Debbie may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.