Posts in Practical Parenting

Come—Even When You Go

January 20th, 2021 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

The third section of the book of Exodus, starting with Exodus 9 begins with God telling Moses, “Come to Pharaoh.” The obvious question is, why does God say, “come to Pharaoh” instead of “go to Pharaoh”?  Surely, “go to Pharaoh” is what we expect to hear!

The classic answer is that God is telling Moses and all leaders of the Jewish people after him, “You are not alone.  I will be right there in the throne room as you approach, supporting you and guiding you.  I’m not sending you on a mission with the word “go,” I am calling you to come to me as you fulfill this mission. Come— I’ll be there with you; you are never alone.

Sometimes mothers feel the responsibility of parenting until it feels like a burden on our shoulders.  We need to remind ourselves that parenting is also a “Come” mission from God.  He doesn’t send us off to parent on our own, He is right there alongside us.  We know that there are three partners in every child; a father, a mother, and God.  God’s role doesn’t end at birth.  He remains an active partner with us and fortunately, His role in parenting is infinitely more powerful, loving and effective than ours.  God is present as our partner.  The burden is not ours because the mission is  come rather than go. 

There is another aspect here that I want to share with you and it is how we can use this message in raising our children.  There is a world of difference in sending our child to do something as a “go” mission, versus  a “come” mission.  Challenging our children in any way works best as an, “I’m with you,” message rather than a, “go off alone,” message.  I recently heard a great line, “The only direction I can push someone is away from me.” Whether we are encouraging a young child to do something small or asking an older child to stretch beyond their comfort level in a larger way, we too, can learn from God and give a message of “come,” I will be with you as you do this.  You’re not alone.  

Most frequently, when our children know that we support them and are there to help them if needed, they run off independently, and happily do whatever the current challenge is.  Pushing them to go off and do something hard because we think it’s good for them as a push, a “go,” “go on your own,” isn’t nearly as effective as a message of “come”.  The task is still a mission—Moses still had to do something difficult, but he knew he wasn’t alone.  The awareness of constant, unwavering, generous love and support enables all of us to be independent and reach higher.  The message of “come” isn’t one that God only gave to Moses, or to all future Jewish leaders, or just to parents. It’s one that we can internalize and offer to our children as well when we remind them that we are unwaveringly committed to being there with them as they grow.

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When Things Fall Apart

January 6th, 2021 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

After 210 years of enslavement, the Jewish people are finally about to be redeemed.  God gives Moses his mission to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  What happens at the beginning of Exodus when Moses and Aaron approach the king of Egypt with their request? (Exodus 5)  Not only did Pharaoh famously say, “No, I will not let them go,” but he actually increased the servitude.  He made the Jews’ lives more intolerable than they had been before!  Forget about redemption, there was greater suffering!  Not surprisingly, the Jewish people were unhappy about Moses’s interference in their lives.  The Jewish taskmasters came to Moses and Aaron and spoke harshly, accusing them of antagonizing Pharaoh and making things worse.  

What happened next?  Moses turned to God and asked,” Why did you send me on this mission if it was going to make things worse?”  Listen to this amazing next verse, Exodus 6:1— “And God said to Moses: ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand he will let them go and by a strong hand will he drive them out of his land.’”

The first word  of that verse in Hebrew is  Atah,-now. Now you will see!  Rabbi S.R. Hirsch (1808-1888) says that God’s response is, “Finally!  This is the moment I was waiting for.” This is  the moment of utter desperation, when it is abundantly clear to everyone that Moses and Aaron as representatives of the people can do nothing.  Every intervention is futile.  They have tried and failed. Now no one can think that there is any natural way to redeem the nation.  Atah -now everyone can see that the redemption begins as the supernatural work of God.  It had to  be made abundantly clear first that even Moses and Aaron were nothing but the instruments of God.  Everyone had to feel the despair of knowing that nothing was working, no human, even the ones picked to be saviors, could save.  And from that moment of despair, “atah,” salvation was born.

Listen to this truth.  We think salvation begins when situations turn around and begin to improve, but the lesson here is that the beginning of redemption is actually when things deteriorate and seem to become hopeless.  The downward spiral wasn’t a prelude to redemption; it was step one to redemption.  It is only “atah,-“now!” that the second stage can move forward.

There are two parts to this message that resonate with mothers.  The first one is the realization that sometimes the beginning of solutions look messier than the problems.  Think of a mother trying to introduce a new routine for her family. Maybe the kids used to eat when and what they wanted, and now, mom is introducing three healthy meals a day, served and eaten all together.  The first week of this new routine will be painful.  You can just imagine the scene at each and every mealtime!  It will feel way worse and more unmanageable than it used to be.  But that is stage one of the solution.  By the second week, everyone will be used to it, and the benefits will begin to accumulate.  

This is true in so many areas.  When a baby learns to walk, he initially falls down and tumbles way more than he did when he was crawling.  He may have more tears and more black and blue marks than before!  But that is stage one of this huge development.  He needs to fall and tumble to be able to be a sturdy walker for the rest of his life.  It’s very important for mothers to have the awareness and perspective that the beginning of redemption involves a deterioration so that we don’t give up or give in when the going gets tough and so that we can encourage our children when they hit these inevitable setbacks that are part of the process of moving forwards. 

The second aspect I want to mention is that the first stage of redemption that brought increased desperation and suffering was for the purpose of making it abundantly clear that no human being held the solution in his hands.  We all had to clearly know, that Moses and Aaron were powerless; only God can redeem.  And once the Jewish people reached that point of acknowledging human futility, God stepped in and brought the Redemption.  Again, if there is one truth that mothers end up facing again and again, it is our own futility.  When we try to power through alone with our solutions and plans we often fail.  It is only when we recognize our powerlessness and ask God to take the lead in showing us how to parent, how to bring out the best in our children, that we are able to move forward.

It isn’t a coincidence that the early chapters of Exodus end with deeper enslavement than with what it began.  We all need to learn this message, that the first stage of dawn begins when the skies are at their darkest.  Despair isn’t the end, it is the beginning.

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Facing Fear

December 28th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Anxiety in children was on the rise way before COVID but, unfortunately, it is even more prevalent now. Fear itself isn’t a problem—it’s an opportunity to either become empowered and take action or, God forbid, to take the opposite path and become anxious and fall into dejection.

Let’s take a lesson from Jacob as he prepares to meet his brother, Esau, while bringing his family home after years of living with his father-in-law, Laban.  Genesis 32:8 tells us that when Jacob heard that Esau was advancing towards him with 400 men, he was very frightened and distressed. Immediately after the Torah tells us this—in the very same verse—it continues to tell us that he split the people that were with him into two camps to prepare for battle.   His fear also spurred him to prayer and earlier, worried about a hostile encounter, he had sent presents to appease Esau.  Fear that is overwhelming and leads to despair isn’t good.  But fear can also be a motivator, a force that inspires us to act decisively and turn to God in prayer.

Mothers are known for worrying.  Some of us even become specialists in the field!  So I think it’s important for us to ground ourselves in this message.  Fear is okay, but we want to learn to use it as a tool that drives us to prayer, to cast our burdens on God and put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives, as well as to take whatever action is within our control at that time.  Once we’ve done those two things, we need to drop the fear.

There is nothing wrong with even a righteous person being frightened, but the important thing is to know how to react when we feel fear.  Jacob’s fear inspired him to connect with God through prayer and to act productively with gifts and battle plans.  Interestingly, that’s the last we hear of Jacob’s fear.  Once he’s prepared in those three ways, he is no longer afraid, not even when he’s left alone and wrestles with an angel. 

Out of all the lessons our children can learn from us these days, using fear positively is very timely and valuable.   It is easy to catch ourselves fear-mongering, worrying, predicting, discussing negative possibilities in ways that build anxiety or fear.  Instead, let us model the positive use of fear and discuss it with our children.

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COVID Victim or Victor?

December 21st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

We human beings habituate very easily to new ideas and actions. Growing up, my mother taught me to grease a pan by dipping a paper towel into Crisco shortening (hydrogenated oil was not a phrase we knew) and smearing it over the pan. Years later, when I set out to bake some cookies and realized that I didn’t have any Pam, I almost aborted my effort before remembering that women managed to bake before the invention of spray oil.

In that vein, a young mother told me that she needs to tell her son to take off his mask when he is home from daycare. In his four-year-old life, wearing a mask has become a norm. He doesn’t question it; instead, he questions when he is allowed to discard it.

What else are we being led to think of as normal? I am hearing refrains of low expectations for today’s students. Having missed so much school and with so much of school taking place on ZOOM or in classrooms with masked teachers, we should expect little of today’s children. They will lose math skills, have fewer communication skills, they will be behind— maybe we should just sign them up for years of government support because they aren’t being given the tools to succeed.

What a twisted and nefarious prediction! We used to highlight stories of success for our children. Today’s educational establishment and too many parents instead highlight stories of victimization and failure. There is no quicker way to turn our children into failures than to expect them to be so.

Each and every parent has the sacred responsibility to provide a path to success for his or her children. There are true stories, not of one unusual person, but of many people who triumphed over grueling circumstances. Are we actually going to use COVID as an excuse for failure when thousands of enormously successful people came out of slavery, arrived on these shores penniless and not knowing English, spent their formative years hiding from the Nazis, or fought life-threatening and debilitating childhood illnesses?

This pandemic continues to present challenges to parents. It has also made one of the overarching conflicts of our culture even more clear.  Each of us must choose to stand, and to have our children stand, in the line labeled “losers/victims”  or in the line labeled, “strivers/victors.” It is absolutely a choice, not a pre-determined reality.

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Permission to Mourn

December 14th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ by Rebecca Masinter

After Joseph was sold to Egypt, his father, Jacob, was told that his son had been ripped apart by a wild animal. Jacob mourned deeply.  We’re told “vayisabel al bno yamim rabim,” “he mourned for his son for many days. “ Over time, his children tried to comfort him.  Genesis 37:35 says:

All his sons and daughters sought to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.

Rabbi Shimshon R. Hirsch (1808-1888) points out that the Hebrew word to be comforted is in reflexive form— “l’hisnachem”.  Reflexive verbs are ones where the subject does the action to himself.  For example, a reflexive form of the word would be used to describe dressing myself versus dressing someone else.  So when Jacob refused “to be comforted,” Rabbi Hirsch notes that he was refusing to console himself.  What does that mean?  In verse 34, the word for “and he mourned” is also reflexive.

The Lord’s language, Hebrew, reflects the reality that both mourning and comforting are processes, or two points of the same process, that an individual must go through and do to and with himself.  Mourning and comfort are intensely personal processes of reorienting oneself to one’s new reality, whether it’s a world without a loved one, a dream that won’t come true, or a goal that can’t be achieved. There are many events in a person’s life that lead to mourning and comfort, to feeling sadness over what was lost and learning to accept a new reality and live with it.

In the world today, there is great discomfort with grief, sadness, and mourning.  Most especially, it is difficult for parents to watch their children grieving over any loss or disappointment.  We sometimes wonder what our role is when our son or daughter is saddened over something not going their way, or facing a loss of any type.  The Torah is teaching us here that accepting and recovering from a loss, including any disappointment or moment of futility where life isn’t working the way our child wants it to work, is a process each person has to be allowed to go through until he or she comes out the other side.  We may be tempted to distract our child, to explain to them why their disappointment really isn’t so bad, or maybe that it’s even for the good. Maybe we try to draw their attention to all the blessings in their lives. But when someone is grieving, they need to feel that sadness. The only way to the other side is straight through it, as messy and uncomfortable as it may be.  Just like Jacob’s sons and daughters rose up to comfort him, our role is to be present with our child, to make room for the sadness, to allow it to be felt, but ultimately we have to allow our child to go through the process until they comfort themselves by coming out the other side of grief, achieving acceptance and resilience.

Sadness feels uncomfortable and many of us try to avoid it, but it is truly a gift from God that allows us all to adapt to life’s realities with resilience.  We can give our children a gift in allowing them to feel sadness, making it safe and okay to feel sad, sitting with them in their sadness, and allowing them to move through the process from mourning to comfort.  Just as with Jacob, no one else can do it for them it’s a reflexive journey which each of us does within ourselves.

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A Finished Product?

December 1st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 3 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Names in the Bible are not just names, When the twins, Yaakov and Eisav (Jacob and Esau) are born, their names don’t only reflect their physical traits but spiritual ones as well.  Eisav’s name is from the word “asui”, meaning, made or finished. Yaakov was named from the word “eikev,” meaning heel. Yes, Eisav’s name reflected his mature physical features and Yaakov was born grasping Eisav’s heel, but that is not the complete story.

Eisav’s philosophy in life was one of “asui”, “I’m finished, I’m done growing. Whatever I am today is what I will always be.”  Not surprisingly, since he was not future-oriented, he didn’t value his first-born status and was ready to sell it.

Yaakov, however, always saw himself at the heel of life, at the bottom of a growth trajectory, which, throughout his life, he strived to climb day in and day out.  Yaakov knows that even if today he has nothing, that does not reflect tomorrow.

An Eisav worldview is one of complacency and accepting today’s experience as tomorrow’s reality.  No hope of change, no struggle to change.  Yaakov, on the other hand, sees today as only a tiny start, a small step on the ladder of life.  He is always struggling, always growing, always changing.  You’ll recall, that in chapter 32 Yaakov received another name after he struggled and prevailed in the fight with an angel.  The angel gave him the name “Yisrael – because you struggled against angel and people, and you prevailed.”  Wouldn’t we expect his name to reflect the words “you prevailed”!  After all, that’s what was so noticeable about this encounter.  Instead, the name “Yisrael” comes from the word, “sarisa”you struggled, you wrestled.  Yaakov isn’t about the final success, he’s about the struggle to get there.  Yaakov is all about the process, growth, change, never about the final product.

The Yaakov attitude is at the heart of a believing person’s life.  We don’t believe that we are locked into today’s reality or must accept today’s limited position as a given.  We are forward-thinking, always seeing hope, and working towards a beautiful future.  This quality becomes incredibly obvious and incredibly important when raising children.  We have to remember that a stage is just a stage. Our children are works in progress who are constantly growing and changing.  Today’s limits, today’s struggles, are just part of the process of maturation.  Feeling stuck has no place in our families.

When we’re in the middle of a challenging phase it’s easy to forget that this is temporary, but the message from Yaakov is to see ourselves always at the heel, always climbing higher and higher.  We, and our children, keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep striving, we keep building, and one day at a time we grow.

Our job is to share this mindset with our children.  Our kids pick up on the labels and limitations, and they sometimes believe they are defined by them.  “I’m not good at learning,” “I’m irresponsible,” “I’m disruptive,” and more.  We want to be the voice that reminds our children that today’s struggles lead to tomorrow’s victories.  None of us are limited to today’s reality. There is no magic moment when we pass or fail life, rather until the day we die we are in the process, winning some, losing some, but always changing, always growing.

We can all use this reminder that life isn’t static.  However rough today was, tomorrow can be better.  Both names, Yaakov and Yisrael, remind us to embrace growth, focus on the process of development, and never succumb to the static fatalism of Eisav.  This is a message for all of us, mothers who sometimes feel stuck in a difficult stage of parenting or life, and for us to share with our children who need to be reminded that today’s mistakes are the stepping stones to tomorrow’s growth.

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What’s the Question?

November 23rd, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

There are two fascinating parallel stories about Abraham, one in Genesis 12 and one in Genesis 20.  In each of them, Abraham travels to a foreign land for a temporary stay, once in Egypt and once in Grar.  In each of them, Abraham says that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife. In both stories the king takes Sarah and God intervenes to let both Pharaoh of Egypt and Avimelech of Grar know that Sarah is really Abraham’s wife.  However, there is an interesting difference.

In Chapter 12, Pharaoh calls Abraham and he says:

“What have you done to me?  Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ even when I took her as my wife?  Well, here is your wife. Take her and go.”

Abraham says nothing in response—he doesn’t answer Pharaoh’s question; he just gets up and leaves the country.

In Genesis 20 Avimelech asks Abraham, “What did you see that you did this thing?”

This time, Abraham responds with a full, complete answer—it actually is 3 verses long.

Why the difference?  Both kings ask him for an explanation of his behavior, but Abraham ignores Pharaoh’s question and answers Avimelech.  Why?

Rabbeinu Bachye, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, notes that Pharaoh’s question wasn’t a real question.  It was a rant. The proof is that his final line is “take her and go.” Pharaoh was letting off steam with all his questioning but he wasn’t truly interested in a dialogue.  He just wanted the situation over.  And so, the polite, respectful thing for Abraham to do was to get up and leave quickly and quietly.

Avimelech on the other hand asked a meaningful question and waited for an answer, which Abraham respectfully gave him.  Isn’t that a beautiful distinction?

This balance of knowing when a question should be answered and when the situation should just be remedied without discussion is one that all mothers work on. There are many times that our children ask us something and they truly want to hear our perspective. There are other times when they ask us something but they are only letting off steam.  They don’t want our explanations; what they really want is the situation to change.  We have to work at knowing the difference, knowing when to answer a question right away, when to defer an answer until a later time when the child will be more receptive, and knowing when to not answer at all.

It also goes the other way when we question our children.  There are times we ask questions just to let off steam, “Who left the door wide open?”  or, “Why did you do that?”  Most of the time when those words come to my mouth, it isn’t because it really matters to me who or why, I’m just expressing that I’m upset.  And I work on trying to bite my tongue because I don’t want to ask my children questions that aren’t really questions.  I also don’t want to ask my children questions that they are incapable of answering such as,  “Why did you do that?”  Most kids and adults aren’t self-aware enough to answer that one without a lot of reflection.  Why ask something that they can’t answer?  We want to show our kids that when we ask them something, we are honestly engaging in dialogue. We want to hear from them, like Avimelech and unlike Pharaoh.

May God bless us with the wisdom and self-control to know when to answer our kids and when to be quiet, when and how to ask our children true questions and when to refrain.

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Kindergarten Lessons for Teens

November 15th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

Some book titles provide value even if you never read the book. (It’s quite possible that for some books, the title is the best part.) I never read All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, but the title sticks in my mind as a clever one.

I don’t know if, “Reputation Matters,” is one of the lessons that Mr. Fulghum includes, but it  is certainly one of the crucially important messages we strive to teach our children. That lesson is front and center in politics today and worth discussing.

This message resonates on both sides of the political divide. Personally, I think that President Trump has been an outstanding president when judged in terms of policy results, both domestic and international. His unique personality and methods of communicating may not be my cup of tea but his bluntness and lack of polished political skill well may be the reasons he was elected. However, he knew that he faced a hostile press and many hate-filled enemies both in politics and the general media. For four years, the president’s persona was presented as a caricature, downplaying any speeches and events that contradicted that view. In my opinion, he made a big mistake when much of his re-election campaign, including the first debate, served to emphasize the negatives that these enemies presented as the whole picture. For too much of the past six months, he didn’t recognize the need to meticulously advance the more nuanced side of himself and to aggressively promote his many accomplishments that needed to be highlighted.

On the other side, newspapers, media outlets, and Democratic politicians were openly consumed with hatred for the past four years. When California Democrat, Maxine Waters, called on Americans to “tell them [those who work in the Trump administration] they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” and that was one of the milder displays of contempt, calling for unity in a contested election is futile. When you lie to the American people, publicizing debunked stories of Russian collusion and others with little chance of veracity while suppressing stories that are undoubtedly true, you don’t get to ask people to trust your judgment about whether or not the election was fraudulent.

We explain to our five-year-old that if she upsets a board game because she is losing, her friend may not want to play with her the next day. We tell our nine-year-old how important it is not to breach a friend’s trust. These are normal opportunities to talk about developing a reputation for fair play and trustworthiness. When it comes to our teens, the stakes get higher and our lectures get heard less.

We can take advantage of the real-life examples in front of us to spark discussion and spur thought among our young adults. No matter who you supported in the last election, reputations have been shredded and trust has been eviscerated. We may not be able to stop people from lying about us or control the words and actions of those with whom we generally agree, but that only means that we need to be more careful about developing and projecting a reputation we are proud to claim.

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Are You a Noah or an Abraham?

November 8th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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.

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Faith Creates the Future

October 26th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

I have a beautiful idea to share with you today.  We know that Noach spent 120 years building the Ark in preparation for the Flood, but when the time came to actually enter the ark, he delayed.  Genesis 7:7 says:

“And Noach went in, and his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him,
into the Ark, because of the waters of the Flood.”

He waited to enter the Ark until the floodwaters forced him to delay no longer.  Ancient Jewish wisdom says here that Noach was, “miktanei emunah” – “among the small believers,” because he only entered at the very last moment when the flood had already started.  How can it be that Noach didn’t have full faith?  He spent 120 years preparing for the flood; surely he believed that it was coming?

Rabbi Shimon Schwab, a great 20th century Torah teacher, teaches here a magnificent lesson about Faith.  Faith isn’t just believing in God’s promises, but Faith is itself a creative force that has the power to actualize promises and bring potential into reality.  Rabbi Schwab points out that the root of the Hebrew word for faith is O-M-N, caring for a child, like the words in the Scroll of Esther, “Vayehi OMeiN es Hadasa” “and he [Mordechai] raised Hadassah (Esther 2:7).  An OMeiN is someone who raises a child, one who works to bring out a child’s full potential.  An OMeiN doesn’t just have faith in the future reality of a child, he works actively to actualize the promise.

Faith, it seems, isn’t only believing that something will happen, but the nature of faith is that by having faith, we actually help fulfill that future.  Faith is an active, creative force, not a passive, ‘sit back and wait to see what will happen’.  Having true faith in a future contributes to that future arriving.  When ancient Jewish wisdom says that Noach was among the small believers, it is telling us that Noach didn’t want to be part of bringing the flood to the world.  He didn’t want to be active in bringing forth the destruction.  He hoped that if he didn’t intensify his faith, perhaps he could delay or prevent the Flood.  He withheld his faith power so as not to engage it as a creative force.  And it turns out, that was the wrong thing to do.  His job, like all of ours, was to do what God commanded him to do with full energy and vigor, and let God take care of His department, so to speak.

As we’ve discussed before, faith and motherhood are deeply intertwined.  Raising a child is an act of faith, but today’s message is that having faith is also part of raising a child.  Our faith in our children’s wonderful futures helps those futures become reality.  When we look past today’s challenges and have a clear vision of our child as a successful adult, when we refuse to get bogged down in today’s messes because we have faith that our child will grow out of this stage and into maturity, we are actively influencing that future. A child who has a mother who sees him, now, not as a  Terrible Two, or a cranky teenager, or today’s ordeal, but sees him clearly as a future source of delight and joy, is fortunate.  That very faith contributes to its actualization.

This is a powerful message both in how we see and raise our children and in our own lives.  Too often we accept our limited reality instead of opening ourselves up to an expansive Faith.  Rabbi Schwab’s point to us is just as true in our own lives as in our children.  Let’s have faith—a clear vision of hope—because that faith doesn’t just expect the future, it also brings it closer.

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