Eikev - 5778
This week I had the bittersweet joy of sending my family off on vacation to Israel. It was a trip that my (Israeli) husband Daniel had long been awaiting: a chance to visit friends, eat favorite foods, frequent familiar haunts and immerse himself in a culture from which he is distanced while in America.
For my older son Yair, too, flying to Tel Aviv meant a homecoming of sorts: a chance to make the round of parks and playgrounds, beaches and hangouts that he has known since earliest childhood (Yair celebrated his first birthday in Israel and has been back almost every year since), and the trip provided an opportunity for both our boys to speak Hebrew with their peers. Indeed, it was, in part, because of our shared commitment to furthering our children’s fluency in Hebrew and in Israeli culture that I had agreed to have Daniel take the boys to Israel at a time when I knew that I would be unable to accompany them.
Despite my intellectual buy-in, though, I must confess I found it difficult to stay composed and upbeat while seeing the family off at Logan Airport, knowing that I would not be with them in person for more than two weeks. There was a tinge of perhaps less envy than apprehension, knowing that they – the boys, in particular – would be forging enduring, even transformative experiences in my absence, that they would be building skills and associations that I would never share.
That, I reflected as I was driving home, was parenthood in a nutshell.
For those of us who are privileged to become parents – and, indeed, differently for anyone who finds him- or herself in the role of educator or mentor or confidant – we know that the time, energy and love that we invest in another human being is, at some level, preparation for them to go off and experience things that we will not, cannot, be part of. It is not only inevitable, but indeed, desirable that our children, our protégées continue to grow and explore in ways that we never could have foreseen. And while we rejoice in their exploits and accomplishments, it is not – I believe – without some angst.
That realization impregnates the Torah readings that we are completing during these final weeks of summer – the portions Ve’Etchanan (last week), Eikev (this week), and Re’eh. Constituting the heart of the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), these portions are all part of an unbroken monologue that Moses delivers from the banks of the Jordan River, looking into a land that has long been his beacon but to which he cannot ascend. Repeatedly throughout this discourse Moses reminds his charges (and himself) of all the things that could go wrong should they fail to navigate the course before them successfully, but he inevitably then arrives at the Torah’s ultimate refrain: I have given you the instructions and tools that you need to succeed in this. Now go out and prove that you can.
Wishing you a Shabbat of expectant separations and joyous reunions.