A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
Exodus 27:20 provides the direction to crush olives to prepare clear olive oil to use in the Tabernacle. The children of Israel are often compared to olive oil. One of these ways is that just as olives need to be pressed and crushed before they release their oil, the Jewish nation also reveals its beauty and greatness after going through periods of pressure. History bears this out, where times of tragedy and oppression have led directly to periods of great spiritual greatness. After the destruction of the Second Temple came a huge period of Torah learning as happened also after the Crusades.
We know this to be true in our own lives as well. I, and I’m sure you too, can look back on periods of great difficulty with gratitude. We know that we have become stronger, bigger, better people by going and growing through hardships. Rabbi Hauer in Baltimore calls this Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome. He connects it to the month in which Purim falls, Adar, versus the month of Passover, Nissan. In Nissan the Passover redemption happens miraculously and completely. Adar is more complicated. After Haman’s plot is uncovered Esther tragically remains in the king’s palace and the Jews remain in exile. Sometimes we have to work through difficulties to reach complete redemption.
I believe that this concept is important to remember as mothers. Often the “mama bear” instinct is so strong in us, that we may want to shield our children from pain or stress. Yet, our tradition, as well as current research on resilience, or grit, stress the importance of even children persevering through difficulties and bearing discomfort to come out stronger. I recently had the opportunity to talk with school administrators who shared that due to parents complaining whenever their children feel uncomfortable because of their school workload, they respond by continually lightening the curriculum.
I know it’s painful to watch our children in pain, and I really hope you don’t misunderstand me. I am not promoting hurting our children! Yet, by allowing them to persevere and struggle through discomfort, we are giving them the greatest gift. We are helping them recognize that they have tremendous strength and resources, that they have God’s help and love, as well as our own, and that we believe in their ability to rise above their circumstances. We can build resilience in our children, but not by shielding them from discomfort.
Let’s try to share our own resilience and experience with our children. We can share with them a challenge we faced in our day and how we were able to work through it. We can share with them the strategies that helped us work through our challenge. We can share how we felt during that difficulty, and how we feel at the end of it. We can model that pressure and discomfort lead to growth and greatness, just as the pressed olive, yields pure oil that can illuminate the Tabernacle’s Menorah (candelabra).