The feeling of being in the three weeks is deepening.
This week will be Rosh Chodesh Av. The two letters of the word Av, aleph and bet, are sometimes presented as an acronym for Av, uBen. A father and a son. This month is the one in which we are in a position that is arguably like the worst of bad scenarios when you think of a parent child relationship.
Some of you have children and some of you don’t. You all once were children, and if you can take yourself back as early as you can remember, to the days when you were small, and what you wanted more than you wanted anything else was your parent’s showing you how much they love you, approve of you, and enjoy you.
I still recall my first rejection. There were many times before this incident that my parents said no to me. The way I interpreted the “no” was that they are not giving me what I want. It wasn’t about me: it was their refusal to give me what I wanted. There’s room for emotional distancing when that happens. Rejection is something else. They were playing a game of cards in my grandmother’s house. I wanted to be included, like my cousin Larry who was several years older than me. They didn’t want me. It wasn’t that there wasn’t room at the table. It wasn’t that there weren’t enough cards. They didn’t want me. I didn’t know the rules of the game, and they saw (accurately) that trying to explain poker to a four year old wouldn’t work.
I felt the unspoken message. “You aren’t smart enough, or with it enough, or fast enough. We don’t want to ruin our game by bringing down to your level”. I can still conjure up the pain. There were so many times both before and afterwards that their love was tangible, real and warm, that of course the poker game was filed away. It still gave me the means of defining the word “rejection”. Rejecting a child on any level is far worse. A friend of mine, Chasya Chana, had polio as a child. In those years (over 60 years ago) the medical community believed that the child patient had to live in a facility and see her parents only an infrequent interval. When she would speak about those years (yes, years!) there was always an edge of sadness. Surprisingly there was never embitterment; she never doubted her parents love. When you step into her parent’s shoes, you feel something else. Imagine what it is to leave a child with strangers. You know better than she knows how much your love will be missed.
There is an even worse scenario. Imagine having to ask your own child to leave your home. He is violent, dishonest, addicted to who knows what, and chronically enraged. It’s no longer safe for the other children to be around him. You did all the right moves, ranging from therapies “guaranteed” to work to those that offer a one in a million chance of success. After the door finally slams shut, there is a silence that you knew would not give you peace. Time goes on, and except for periodical calls asking you for money, there isn’t any real contact. One day there’s a knock on the door. It’s him. You open the door a crack, not knowing what will happen next. He tells you the words that you had been longing to hear for literally years. “Ma, now things will be different. I found a job. A rabbi. A therapist.”
We are so estranged! The word Zion literally means “distinct”. We were once a people who were distinctly representative of what humans could be. Our homeland was the center of all moral development. Look how far we are from what we were once. In Eichah, Eretz Yisrael was compared to a field in which the watchman’s boot has been abandoned-there is nothing worth guarding. When you look at how distant we have become, you can think that this is the story of our present life. Eretz Yisrael which should be our core and center is completely delegitimized. Our uniqueness is under fire. Calling yourself a member of the Chosen People is so politically incorrect that it is off the page.
But we are still His children.
He still loves us and knows who we are underneath the burden of thousands of years of suffering hatred, self-destructive assimilation and worst of all endless confusion both personally and as a nation.
He sees what we don’t see.
He loves us more than we will ever love ourselves.
My daughter Devora organized a tefillah for geulah trip for mothers and daughters this coming Tuesday. We will go to the tombs of tsaddikim to daven for the geulah.
The tsaddikim are the windows that open up new vistas. Their merit and their example let us rediscover ourselves. We will be going to Har Menuchos, to the graves of R. Shlomo Zalman Aurebach, R. Mordechai Eliahu, the Chida, R. Moshe Feinstein, the Belzer Rebbe and others. I will tell short stories about their lives. We will also go to the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik and the Rebbe of Zhvill. If you are in Yerushalayim, this is a good opportunity to join with other women (whether you have a daughter, are a daughter, or are “just “Hashem’s daughter) to use this time for what it is, a time of renewed closeness.
Devora’s number is 08 974 3013.