Teens and Ki Tetzei: Emi’s Birthday

Today in the 13th of Elul. It is the Hebrew birthday of our daughter Emunah. Today she is 13 years old. I marvel to see the teenager standing in front of our eyes. We were particularly moved to see how much she changed after 2 months at camp this summer. She has already proven herself to be a nurturing big sister to Libi. This past summer gave her special one-on-one time with Yadid. It was great seeing her deepen her connection with her big brother before he went to Israel for the year. Emunah is curious, caring, loving, and resilient.  Here is a picture of her from when our little angel was just one:

Her birthday marks my writing this blog for 13 years. I take pause today to think ahead to what the next stage of parenting Emunah will look like for us.

In thinking about this rethought about Ki Tetzei , this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young. Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life. When you build a new house, make a fence around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.

Deuteronomy 22:6-8

First there is a law about sending away the mother bird from her nest before taking her eggs. Then we are mandated to build a fence around the roof of our houses. This juxtaposition brings interesting things to light. We see the mother bird defending her nest and then we are instructed to be like the bird and make a safer nest on our roofs to defend our young.

Once we make that connection and empathize with the mother bird, we are left asking ourselves a number of questions: How could we ever be that cruel to take the egg or young from the mother bird in the first place? What does it mean for us as parents toward our children? Are we the aggressor who is taking the eggs or the builder of fences there to protect our child? Are we the problem or the solution for our children’s development?

When Emunah was little it made sense for us to protect her in our nest/home. Amidst pandemics, climate catastrophes, War in Ukraine, and so many other things going on we have to question if we could ever build a big enough fence to protect her from the world. As we emerge from the social isolation and confront the MESSH ramifications of snowplow parenting intensified by COVID, I have to question the merit of trying to shield our children from reality. Now that Emunah is getting older and no longer a fledgling and she will experiment with leaving the nest more. As she enters into her teen years she will thirst independence, autonomy, and agency. I recall the dictum that we should prepare the child for the way and not the way for the child.

While she might be at the age of majority in Jewish law, she is far from being an adult. While my days as a builder of fences for her may be limited, I still have a mandate to make sure that she is a force for good in the world. If she is not part of the solution of removing cruelty from the world she will be part of the problem. There is still a lot to be learned from the Torah’s commandment to cultivate empathy. Even in the mundane act of how we treat a bird along the way we learn how we best treat each other with kindness.

Happy Birthday Emunah. Thank you Adina for bringing this miracle into the world and partnering in parenting her. We will do what we can to raise our little birdy and help her take flight. 

Other messages on our Emunah over the years:

  1. Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog
  2. Little Birdy: Emunah and Protecting Our Children
  3. 7 Years of Emunah: Reflections on Faith and Fidelity
  4. Emunah Second Birthday
  5. Our Type of Emunah
  6. Our Blessing for Emunah
  7. Fearless: On Emunah’s Bat Mitvah and being a Nazir
  8. Blessing of Emunah: Reflections of Faith, Fidelity, & Trust for Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah

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