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
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.