Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Re'eh - You Are Children to Hashem

Parshas Re'eh refers to us as Hashem's children with the passuk:

בָּנִ֣ים אַתֶּ֔ם לַה' אֱלֹ-יכֶ֑ם לֹ֣א תִתְגֹּֽדְד֗וּ וְלֹֽא־תָשִׂ֧ימוּ קׇרְחָ֛ה בֵּ֥ין עֵינֵיכֶ֖ם לָמֵֽת׃

You are children to Hashem, your God - you shall not gash yourselves and you shall not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person.

This mitzvah teaches us not to grieve inappropriately by injuring ourselves, but it’s prefaced with, “"You are children to Hashem".  What is the connection?  The Ramban quotes the Ibn Ezra with a beautiful thought.  He says little children don’t understand the reasons behind many of their parents' decisions.  Sometimes parents limit activities or foods the child loves, and sometimes the parent makes the child do or experience painful or difficult events.  But a small child, even if he doesn’t understand why his parent is doing something, knows that his parent loves him deeply and the child trusts in that love that all is okay even when the child feels pained or confused.  So too, says the Ibn Ezra, if we first know that Hashem is our loving father, then we won’t slash ourselves in mourning, because we know that through Hashem’s tremendous love for us, everything He does is ultimately for our good even if we experience it as painful and difficult.  Even though we don’t understand His reasons, we can trust in His love, just like a small child trusts his parent’s love.  When we recall that we are Hashem’s children we will have the ability to withstand grief without self-mutilation.  

We’ve learned repeatedly that a person’s model for his relationship with Hashem stems from his early childhood relationship with his parents, particularly his mother.  When we parent our children, we aren’t only building our own relationship, we’re also laying the foundation for a healthy relationship between our children and Hashem.  We want our children to trust that everything Hashem does for them is good, and we have to begin by building their trust in us from the moment they’re born.

We build trust by being responsive and trustworthy.An infant quickly learns that when she cries, her mother comes to care for her.  That’s the beginning of trust.  A preschooler learns trust when her mother stands by what she says and follows through consistently.  But we also foster our children's trust when we project an attitude of confidence that allows them to relax in the knowledge that we are taking care of them. However we feel in the privacy of our own room, it is vitally important that we don’t give our children a message of, “I don’t know what to do with you.  I can’t handle you.  You’re too much for me.”  Even if we sometimes feel that way, we need to work through our fears away from our children. We must communicate confidence to our children so that they feel they can depend on us to carry our relationship through any and all challenges that may come.  Children, even big children, need to be able to depend on their parents and trust them.  Not only is it important for our children to know that we can handle them, take care of them, and figure out whatever needs to be worked through, but this is the foundation of their being able to know deep in their hearts that Hashem is taking care of them with goodness and love throughout their lives.