Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TorahMama: Toldot

Esau and Jacob are the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau, the elder, is mostly interested in hunting and being outdoors. Jacob is more reserved and home-focused. Esau doesn't seem to care much for the "birthright" that is owed to him, and he sells it to Jacob for the low price of a bowl of red lentil stew.

The text tells us that when Esau comes in from the fields, he sees Jacob cooking. He is famished, hungry, starving. "Quick!" he says. "Give me some of that red stuff." He is too hungry to care what it is, too desperate for food to be polite. He demands instant gratification, instant satiation for his basic human need. My young children are so similar. When they want something, they want it NOW. When they decide that it has to happen, it must be immediate. Jacob uses this opportunity to his advantage, to negotiate with Esau for the birthright. We as parents can use this need for immediate satisfaction too. We can take the moment to remind them that, thankfully, they actually aren't starving. Thankfully, if it doesn't happen now, it's going to be okay. We help them to breathe, to consider, to think, to say please and to wait, even just a few moments, to fully understand that instant gratification may not be necessary. The thrill of waiting, of anticipation, of working hard to accomplish and earn something...this is part of our job as parents and teachers. Esau's need to be fed "right now" cost him his birthright. For our children, we hope that they will learn patience and persistence, steadfastness and determination.

TorahMama is my weekly attempt to talk about the Torah portion from a parenting perspective....

Monday, October 21, 2013

TorahMama: Chaye Sarah

Eliezer, Abraham's oldest servant, is sent to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham's son. Abraham doesn't give him a lot of criteria, so Eliezer must determine on his own what qualities are worthy in Isaac's wife. He determines for himself that, upon his arrival at the communal well, he will ask a young woman to draw water for him. Whichever young woman not only agrees but also offers to draw water for his camels will be the right one to approach on Isaac's behalf.

Eliezer realizes that the "right" person for Isaac is one who is not only kind to strangers but goes above and beyond on their behalf. (It's a lot of work to draw enough water for camels!) Eliezer holds onto the ideals that we, as parents, hope for all of our children's relationships. We hope that they will choose friends and companions who are willing to go the extra mile, who are considerate and kind, who share goodness and bring our children up, not down. And of course, we also read this story and imagine the other side -- if it were our children being tested at the well, would they rise to the occasion? If my son or daughter were asked by a stranger for water, I sincerely hope that they would say, "of course. And how about some for your camels?" On its face, this is a story about finding a partner for Isaac. But deep inside, it is about the kind of people that we want our children to be, it is the kind of story about the kind of friends we want our children to be and the kind of people with whom we want to surround ourselves.

TorahMama is my weekly attempt to talk about the Torah portion from a parenting perspective....

Monday, October 14, 2013

TorahMama: Vayeira

When God tells Abraham that Sarah will bear a child soon, the text says that Sarah laughed “within herself.”
Ah, what a way to begin parenthood, with laughter. Tradition tells that Sarah and Abraham struggled with infertility, and we know how difficult the entrance into parenthood can be for so many of us. But to begin with laughter? To lead with humor…to be able to find the funny side, the joke, the laugh-til-you-cry of it all….truly is a gift. I like to imagine Abraham and Sarah as carrying that laughter through their lives, holding onto the joy that Isaac brought to them and lifting that up.
We know that their lives weren’t perfect, and of course we know that there were struggles. But I do like to imagine that Sarah’s laughter carried them through some of it, that her ability to find even God’s words just a little bit funny helped her to use her biting wit to help her cope with some of the difficulty of her life. Sometimes you just gotta laugh….
TorahMama is a new attempt to blog weekly on the Torah portion of the week. (I had considered starting a new blog but decided to just keep moving along on this one...)