With two children approaching the teen years, our house has become increasingly hectic. Even during the pandemic, our daily life has been a balancing act with two parents working full-time, children in two different schools, sports and some semblance of a social life (weather permitting). When the opportunity to participate in Hebrew College’s Parenting Your Tween Through a Jewish Lens came up through our synagogue, Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, it felt like the perfect way to pause, reflect on this moment our family is in and get to know other parents in our community.
Our son started preparing for his bar mitzvah this year. As a student at Solomon Schechter Day School, he receives instruction in Hebrew and Judaics as part of his regular school day rather than through the religious school at our synagogue. This class was the first time Bil and I were able to meaningfully connect with other parents in our shul community.
In the first session, we read a text from Rabbi Isaac Luria: “God contracted … so that there remained a void, a hollow empty space. In the space of the void, God emanated, created, formed and made all the world” (Eitz Chaim).
As parents, we took collective comfort in the idea that our children need space to emerge into the adults they will be. Contextualizing the process of letting go and normalizing our children’s needs and growth through a Jewish lens, and with other parents, was such a comfort, especially as we thought about the many ways the pandemic was impacting their ability to find and make space. Our work creating these too-soon-to-be adults is a difficult process, one with which parents throughout history have struggled. For me, it helped reframe this time as a moment of wonder, rather than a period of frustration.
Last week we had a call with the families having a bar/bat mitzvah over the next year to start discussing mitzvah projects. Many of the parents had participated in the PTJL class. Though we had spoken of our fears and challenges in our PTJL sessions, we also spoke about our hope and excitement for our children. After hearing these young people speak about what they care about in the world and how they would like to actively engage with the community as they’re on the cusp of adulthood, I couldn’t help but think, “The kids are alright. And so are we.”
Rebecca Zarch lives in West Roxbury with her husband, Bil, and their two children, Raviv, 12, and Danya, almost 10.
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