Library: Parenting
Parenting Articles by Chana Weisberg

Sending A Child Away

This morning I sent my son off to yeshivah.

He is my oldest son who turned thirteen only a few months ago. He will be boarding in the yeshivah dormitory, where the boys are allowed to return home for Shabbat once every few weeks.

My rational mind knows that this is the best place for my son to be at this stage of his life, where he will learn and absorb the environment of Torah study. But inside, I am feeling chaos. My motherly instinct complains that he is so young and vulnerable; that he still needs his home and the pampering that only a mother can give.

My rational mind reassures me that the yeshiva grounds are only a short drive from my home. I can visit him whenever I please, and check up on him and his progress.

But my motherly instinct has my stomach tied up in a knot of anxiety, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since that moment that I waved goodbye to my own parents as a youngster leaving for a month-long stay in overnight camp.

My rational mind understands that this is how my son will become the person I want him to be, the person he himself wants to be. That he is reaching towards independence in a warm environment that will nurture his spirituality.

But my motherly instinct asks: Will he like the food they serve? Will he sleep well at night? Are the beds comfortable?

My rational mind counters that these are but insignificant trivialities compared to the benefits that he is sure to accrue.

But my motherly instinct questions: How often he will call home? Will I become a stranger to his thoughts and moods? Will I still be intimately involved in his growing up?

My rational mind says that he is on a new path of intellectual and spiritual discovery, surrounded by supportive teachers and friends. On his thirteenth birthday, he reached an apex, assuming the responsibilities of manhood, which he is proceeding to fulfill in the best possible manner.

But my motherly self walks passed his bedroom, now quiet and bereft, and recalls how, what seems like only yesterday, I rocked his tender, tiny body in my arms. As I set the Shabbat table, a lump forms in my throat as I bypass his regular place setting, just to the right of his father’s.

My rational mind tells me that I must let go so he can develop fully.

But my motherly instinct insists that I can, and should, be a full part of that development.

Today is a hard day for me. The two divergent selves within me are creating turmoil within as each voices its independent and true position.

I am convinced that there must be some way and some place to reach a harmony between the two. A blend of independent growth and dependent love; a fusion of the rational mind and the emotional motherly instinct.

I am convinced that there will come a time and a place when growth need not be intertwined with hardship. When an ascent need not be accompanied by a preceding descent.

I think of the exile of our soul from its heavenly abode, next to our Father in Heaven. I hear her voice crying as she descends to the corporeality of our physical world, even while she is convinced of the importance and the merit of this descent. I hear her crying in loneliness and bitterness even while she perceives how this strange and faraway world is the very place where she can make an impact and accomplish her mission.

I think of the exile of the Shechina, the Divine presence, what the Kabbalists term the feminine aspect of G-d, accompanying Her children, the Jewish people, along their lonely trek, ousted from their home into Galut (exile). I hear Her weeping voice as She descends with us to the depths of pain and misery even while She is aware that this will bring the ultimate growth and refinement to our people and our world. She watches our challenges and our pain with flowing tears.

And I hear the Shechina crying bitterly to G-d, the Master of all paradox. She begs, pleads and demands of Him to find a way and a time when growth need not be accompanied by such pain. When independence can be fused with dependence. When challenges need not be accompanied with grief and tears. When the Divine soul can feel at home in our material world. And when the physical and the spiritual can mesh in a perfect synthesis.

As She weeps, I think of my own motherly self missing her child even as I know that this is where he belongs -- until the dawn of that special time when opposites will coexist and mind and heart shall meet in harmony.

Chana_Weisberg is the author of three_books on the lives of Biblical women and on the feminine soul. She is the dean of the JRCC Institute of Torah Study in Toronto and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism.