A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
The first verse of the entire book of Leviticus seems to have a superfluous phrase. It begins, “And He called to Moses, and God (God) spoke to him.” One classic transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom from the 11th century focuses on that the extra phrase. Why did God call to Moses before He spoke to him? What is that calling?
The answer is truly mind-opening both in our relationship with God and with our children. For all statements, and for all sayings, and for all commands that God gave to the Jewish nation, God preceded the instruction with a “calling,” which is a language of affection, a verbal expression love. And here, at the beginning of God speaking to Moses from the newly constructed Tabernacle, is the right place to let us know that every time God spoke to Moses, He got his attention first by calling to him with love.
Ancient Jewish wisdom gives us a bit more detail. Each time God was going to speak with Moses, He didn’t just start commanding him. First God would call “Moses, Moses” and Moses would answer “Here I am,” “Here I am,” and after that God would speak to him about the commandments.
What I love about this idea is two-fold. Firstly, the reminder that commandments are not cold, calculated commands, but rather each one stems from an expression of God’s love for us. But secondly, and of vital importance for us mothers to know: God is modeling for us how to give directions and instructions to our children. First connect. Then direct.
Imagine this. Or if you’re brave you can try it yourself. Picture a family of small children at the playground. The kids are totally involved and focused on their games and activities and their mother is totally focused on her friends or her phone. All of a sudden she looks at her watch, sees that it’s dinnertime and calls to her kids, “Children! Come off the playground now. It’s time to go home.” Often, that won’t go over so well.
Now picture the alternative. The children are playing, totally engrossed in their activities. The mother may be talking to her friends, but she is watching her children, making eye contact, smiling at them, and being generally responsive to them. The mother looks at her watch, sees it’s time to go, but before giving the command, she walks over to her children, looks them in the eyes, calls each one by name, and connects with love. Maybe she takes a moment to ask them if they’re having fun, or what their favorite activity was, or maybe she shares with them what she noticed them doing that looked like fun. After 15 seconds of connection she says the exact same thing as the first mother. “Children! It’s time to go home.”
If you can’t imagine the difference I beg you to try it. Children who have been collected by their mother emotionally with warmth and love are ready to be instructed and directed, and they respond naturally and positively to that direction.
This is what we learn from the very first sentence. Before God spoke to Moses with an instruction, He always began with calling him with love and connection. This tool is a powerful strategy for parents. For today, try calling your child by name, making eye contact, smiling, giving warmth and love, before asking him to do something. You may think this will take too much time, but my experience has been that it actually saves time, because a child so instructed is usually happy to run and obey his parent right away.
Let me know how it goes!