Sooner or later these words exit our mouths- to the complaining toddler, the frustrated child, the incredulous teen. This phrase is actually code for “ I have been where you are, but having lived many more years, been disappointed and hurt, a need to protect you emotionally and physically, overcome many challenges, grown in experience and perspective, and because I have overwhelming love for you, I strongly advise against your doing the ___( fill in the blank). However, no matter how often we try to explain our life experience, our perspective and long view, our having overcome challenges and our love, the weeping, exasperated, hormonal, hyper-ambitious person in our midst refuses to accept the possibility that we have actually once trod in their shoes or at least sandals similar to their own.
“It’s not fair” comes forth as a shout or whine and you and I have articulated these words perhaps much as we have heard them. Having survived our own pain and desperately wanting to limit our child’s pain, even as we recognize that he or she needs to fall in order to learn how to stand, we still want to install bubble wrap on the world. The truth is we need to learn that our kids need to fall as much as they need to learn how to fall. Protection and growth are necessary for both parent and offspring.
This week’s Parshah opens with the interesting Hebrew word Aykev which means ‘since’ or ‘because’ or ‘when-so-ever’ or ‘as a result’. Moses speaks to the People of Israel and says “Aykev listen to the mitzvot of God and fulfill the Torah…” When-so-ever you fulfill the commands of God which include keeping your promises to each other and refusing to demean yourselves by worshiping hand-made idols and lifting yourselves up to be in charge of your own lives and setting your own schedules including keeping Shabbas… Moses has seen the prior generation- a generation enslaved of body and perspective and Moses desperately wants to protect the Israelites from the mental and emotional pain which will result from lives emptied of spiritual substance; emptied by primitive pagan behavior and the inability to comprehend the enormity of a society governed by principles of justice, love, compassion, fairness and protection of the widow, orphan and stranger.
Moses quotes God and teaches us that “when-so-ever” we adhere to spiritual law we will establish a Brit of Chesed, resulting in a transformed world and people elevated in mind and heart. It’s the long view and it is of greater value and more precious than rubies and it is more contemporary than ever before –because our world is forgetting the sacred principles of fostering a covenant built upon kindness and loyalty. So it is up to us –all of us – to remind the world of the essential nature of Brit and Chesed.
Bring a Shabbat of shalom into the world this week.
May God bless you and your loved ones.
Rabbi Steve Silberman