Monday, September 26, 2016

From You, to You, I Escape

        Have you ever been part of one of those occasions when you were left watching your children by yourself for an extended period of time, and when your spouse returns home, you hand the children off, and with a sly smile say, “Here they are, enjoy—I need a beer?”  For us, tonight was one such occasion: As I entered the serenity of my home after stepping out for Mincha, the daily afternoon prayer service, my wife was attempting to put my 1.5 year old princess to sleep. Not ten seconds after I walked in, my wife lovingly commented, “You are leaving town tomorrow for the day, so you won’t be able to tuck her in tomorrow. Here.” “Happily, Cupcake,” I obliged. I picked my daughter up and placed her in the crib. As soon as she entered the crib, she started shrieking louder than the Carolina Panthers fans screamed when their field goal kicker missed the game winning field goal last week. I immediately began stroking my daughter’s hair in a futile attempt to calm her down—but somehow, this made her even more furious, and she took my hand and pushed me back. For three seconds, I stood back, desperately trying to plot my next move, as we stared each other down. Then, to my surprise, she stuck out her delicious chubby arm toward me. I embraced her hand, and she pulled me closer to the crib, and promptly laid down, and indicated that I should put her blanket on her. As she closed her precious eyes, falling fast asleep, I reflected how like so many other aspects of the parent-child relationship, this was another profound example of how we relate to G-d Himself- our ultimate parent, and how G-d relates to us.
This episode reminded me of the beautiful, cryptic poem we read during the High Holidays by Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabriol: Mimcha, Elecha, Evrach. “From you, to you, I escape.” This might very well allude to the fact that as a result of our fear of judgment, we seek to run away from the Almighty. But then when we realize that it is our Loving Merciful Father that is deciding our fate, we turn around, and escape, and find refuge and serenity in His loving embrace. When we understand, and are real with the fact that our Judge is the Almighty, who has a plan for us and the world, and who is only good, we realize that the fear begins to dissipate. When my daughter first realized that I had come to enforce her bedtime, she was not happy—she wanted her distance. But from that distance, she had a new perspective; I—the one enforcing bedtime—am her father who loves her more than she can fathom. It is I, who she intuitively realized only wants the best for her. With that new clarity, she didn’t want me to be distant, so she brought me close.
Practically, I believe that this beautiful line from Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabriol teaches us a primary goal in parenting. As a parent, my goal is to instill within my children an intuitive, natural clarity that they are deeply, intensely beloved by me. Just as I know that G-d loves me more than I can possibly fathom, I hope and pray that my children understand that I love them more than they can believe.  With this understanding and natural awareness that is implanted within our children– whenever the time inevitably comes to discipline them, at first we might appear distant to our children– but they will intuitively be drawn closer to us during the process, eager for our loving embrace.

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