A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
As we read the section of Genesis about the Flood, we see the world being destroyed and recreated. Noah is the man who lived through the recreation. When he left the ark, he emerged into a world that was fundamentally changed from what it had been before. Unfortunately, Noah himself was also changed through witnessing the horrific destruction. Noah, who before the Flood was an Ish Tzadik, a man of righteousness, was now an Ish Adamah, a man of the earth. Noah got derailed. He wasn’t able to adapt to the new world with resilience and he fell from his original great height.
Ancient Jewish wisdom draws parallels and distinctions between Noah and Abraham. Rabbi Berel Wein points out that this is one area we see the difference between them. Noah couldn’t move past the flood. He entered the new world, planted a vineyard, and drowned his sorrows. We don’t see him re-emerging to build and recreate. Abraham had ten challenges each of which could have derailed him. He kept going forward regardless. Abraham had resilience. He looked forward with hope and optimism, not backward at difficulties and destruction.
Yesterday I read an article discussing how society is changing because of corona and the author gave a prediction of how long it will take until life is back to normal. The author claimed that this will take several years. I realized then that we have a choice. We too are witnessing a changing world. Thank God, not anywhere close to the level that Noah witnessed, but we are living through an upheaval, and we suspect that our world for at least the next year will be unlike the world last year.
We have a choice. We can look backward and feel stuck because life doesn’t feel normal, it doesn’t feel comfortable and it’s not what we’re used to. Or we can look forwards like Abraham and focus on and embrace the reality we have been given today with optimism and energy.
On Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), I took my young son to an outdoor farm festival. It was not crowded, we were outdoors and in masks. At one time, he and two other children were playing in a big sandlot and I noticed that each of the three children was playing totally independently. They weren’t chatting or creating a make-believe game. They were far apart and ignoring each other. It felt surreal to me. When my other children were this age and in a public park or play area, they naturally started interacting with other children, playing with, and talking to them. I felt saddened that this was the new reality for little children, but I realized that the three kids were perfectly happy. They may not even remember it being otherwise. I was the one that could stew in the past and feel upset that today was different, or I could accept the beauty of today’s reality and face the new situation head on without contrasting it to last year’s scenario.
Weddings have changed. Bar Mitzvahs have changed. School has changed. Our relationship with screens has changed. And so much more. And yes, change is difficult. But the choice is ours to learn from Abraham to choose to look forward with hope and resilience. Our children won’t benefit from hearing us bemoan how different everything feels. They will benefit from us making the best of our world as it is today. We need to find the blessings and overcome the challenges. It is on us as mothers to not to complain in front of our kids about what is currently gone and different, but to see with clear-headed eyes what our reality is today and make the right decisions to make the most of today’s opportunities. This is resilience – switching our focus from what once was to what is today and what we look forward to tomorrow.
2 thoughts on “Are You a Noah or an Abraham?”
As adults, we are all struggling to make sense of a world turned upside down. Small children seem to be adapting because they don’t know another way. They don’t compare this situation to the past. While we all must be resilient in the reality of today, it would be unfair to our children for us to embrace the masks and other “mandates”. We have been discussing with our children how quickly the government has taken away our freedoms, and that this is something that Americans must always be on guard against. We must always have optimism – we are Happy Warriors, after all! – but I don’t think G-d would want us to stand by and watch as churches remain closed, our ability to connect with His other children is severely limited in business and pleasure, and a great amount of our human communication (facial expressions) is cut off. I’m not sure how you feel about all that, but moving forward in this challenging season may be very much about good people standing up and saying “No more.”
Thanks to you and Rabbi for everything – you are helping to keep us grounded and focused on what’s important.
Tara, I can’t speak for Rebecca, but I think she would agree completely with you and I know that she and her husband have these discussions with their children. I think that in this piece, she was recognizing that while we are fighting, we still have to live in the present and adjust to the facts on the ground. She can recognize that the park visit provides less than her other children got and vote and advocate to get back to that place. But, she still should take her son to the park and not take from his pleasure because she knows it should be more. It is a difficult balance. Thanks for making this point.
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