In Eikev ,this week’s Torah portion, Moses reflects on the years the Israelites spent in the Desert. There we read:
You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so the Lord your God , will chastise you.(Deuteronomy 8:5)
This parental vision of God’s relationship with the Israelites brings up a number of questions for us as people living in the modern world. While the unbridled love of a parent for his/her child might seem appealing, what happens when that relationship goes sour? Do we want to be in a relationship with a God that will abuse us? For those of us who have made that model work, that is wonderful. I can admit that I am a bit jealous. But, for the rest of us, what are we left with if we find this model to be too simplistic, childish, or abusive?
While there are many answers, as someone who used to be a Hillel Rabbi I want to share my reflections on the class of 2016 who are being dropped off at college in a couple of weeks. You are going away to college. This means that you will have to rethink and to renegotiate your relationships with your parents. Given the current state of the economy, this is not limited to the entering class, but it also includes the ones who just graduated and now have to return home. I hope that all parties involved are open to discuss what is involved in these changes. While it is difficult for parents to let their children grow up, we should have confidence that in the end they do not want their children to remain as dependent as they were as children. That is not to say that the children will ever really be independent of their parents’ love and support, but hopefully with our maturing we evolve past needing to be chastised. We can aspire for other ways of communicating. I hope to think that over the past 4000 years God might be open to renegotiating the terms of the relationship. There are pleasures and pains of growing up. Regarding our parents, this shift is predicated by our taking responsibility for ourselves and acting like adults. Regarding God, this means developing our own relationship with our heritage, people, and spirituality beyond what our parents and teachers have offered us.