The other day Yishama our 5-year-old was laying in bed with my wife and Emunah out 2-year-old. Emunah reached over and caressed his cheek. Yishama remarked to Adina :
I love it when she does that. It makes my heart hurt. You know Mami, when you heart hurts because you love someone so much.
When Adina told me this story my heart just melted. As a parent I aspire to have empathetic children.
I was thinking about it this week in the context of the story of Exodus. There we read how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. As much as I marvel at my own children learning empathy at such a young age, I am stupefied to think of a grown adult not having empathy.
There are so many issues in this world that need to be fixed. I often feel if everyone only cared a little more we could solve some of these problems. But I also realize with the sheer volume of challenges, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. To get anything done at some level we need to have focus and harden our own hearts or else we would get engulfed in the huge number of issues. As parent I hope to cultivate this empathy in my children. For myself, I think I could use a little more toughening, but not too much. Out of the mouths of babes, Yishama reminded me a precious Torah. We all need to let go and be vulnerable. Life without that hurt in the heart would be slavery.
In the Torah reading a couple of weeks ago we learned of the two dream of Joseph’s youth. One was a dream of the sheaves of wheat bowing to one. The other was of the stars and the moon bowing to one star. It was clearly experienced by all as the run away ego of spoiled child. How could they the elder brothers bow to this pisher?
Dreams continue to play a central role in Joseph’s life. By interpreting the dreams of the butcher and wine steward correctly he eventually gets the opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s two dreams. Interpreting these correctly leads to saving the known world from 7 years of famine. It was at this time that Joseph reunites with his brothers who have come to Egypt looking for food. They clearly have no idea that the stand in front of their brother Joseph. It seems that we are forced to sit through a long drama of Joseph wanting to live out his two dreams and have them all bow to him.
In Shmot, this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to Moses. When is born and before he is named we learn “Ki Tov hu- because he was good” (Exodus 2:2) On this Rashi comments that the goodness referred to when he was born the entire house becoming filled with light. Rashi was referencing Sotah12a which assumes that Moses Hebrew name was something like Tuv or Tuvia. There the Talmud plays with the reference of Moses being tov- good – with the idea expressed in creation “And God saw the light that was tov- good” (Genesis 1:4). Moses potential was depicted as unlimited so he was depicted as a primordial supernova, our rising star.
It seems that Moses and Joseph are very similar. Both saved their people from physical peril. Joseph from the famine and Moses from slavery. But unlike Joseph, Moses went on to give the people the Torah at Sinai and bring them to ( if not into) the Land of Israel. It is clear that Joseph and his brothers did act out the dream of the wheat, they came to him to get food and be saved from the famine. But is it not possible that Joseph misinterpreted his second dream? This second dream might have been referring to all of the tribes bowing to Moses, the light of both a physical and metaphysical redemption.
The New Testament depicts Jesus saying “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4) It seems that Rabbi Eliezer the son of Azariah is in conversation with this idea when he said, “If there is no flour, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour” (Avot 3:21). Neither just the physical or just the spiritual redemption are sufficient, both are critical and necessary. While Joseph provided the flour ( dream of the wheat), Moses provided the flour( matzoh) and the Torah ( revelation). And in this sense Moses was truly tov- good. Or maybe we are all just still struggling to live out the dream of living with the physical and spiritual redemption in the Land. That is a wonderful dream. As my four-year-old son Yishama says, “Wouldn’t that be gooder?”
Published June 24, 2010
Tags: Macarena, Yishama
The other day in the car I was trying to introduce my children to some Jewish music by Blue Fringe. I introduced the first song called Shma Koleinu as a serious song. Yishama who just turned four has never heard the song. He blurts out, ” I love that song, I love Shmacarena“. Without missing a beat Yadid who is six starts dancing the Macarena.
It is only when we practice listening to children that we teach them that they have a voice. It was truly a lesson in Shma Koleinu, hear our voice. And we learned it from our son named Yishama which means “he will be heard”. A seriously funny lesson in parenting and in life. We should take our work seriously, but not ourselves.
Published December 21, 2009
Tags: Adina, Yishama
This past Thursday night Adina and I were sitting around enjoying the Hanukah candles. Yishama, our middle child, is transitioning out of his day time nap. That is to say that he probably does not need a nap any more, but seeing that he is getting one at day care it did not seem so strange that he came out to sit with us. So there we were, all three of us enjoying the last moments of the candles. Yishama pointed at the candles saying, ” That one is big, that one is small, and that one is subtle.” What? How in the world might a 3 year-old know the word subtle? He repeated, ” That one is subtle”. I asked him what subtle meant? Yishama looked at me and gesticulated as he said, “Super-medium”.
I am not 100% sure what he meant, but given the fact that he is 3 years-old I will let it slide. But with further consideration, the meaning of Hanukah itself is rather subtle. Hanukah is not the story 0f David beating Goliath, us versus them, or the story of religious fanatics crushing the power play of the reformers. How can we create a new national myth that makes it possible to reconcile post civil war? For this we truly need a subtle message.
Today with all of our internecine fighting we need a more subtle meaning of the word subtle. ” Super- Medium” will just not do. To heal the wounds of all of our infighting we need to find a way to communicate ideas that are fine, delicate, requiring mental acuteness, skillful, and clever.
Nine years ago this past Shabbat an Orthodox Rabbinical student met a Reform Cantorial Student. Like a scene out of Westside Story, they were not supposed to meet, their relationship was not supposed to work out, and for sure they were not supposed to live happily ever after with three children. But, we did. And I for one assume our ability to get past the stuff that was supposed to divide us had to do with the unique nature of my wife Adina. The highest compliment is that she truly lives up to the meaning of her name, subtle. Adina is not “Super- medium”, she is just super.