Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech - Be Strong and Courageous

Parenting requires courage. As mothers we are constantly stepping out of our comfort zone, being courageous on behalf of our kids and towards our kids, and yet there is another element of parental courage and that is the courage that our children need us to have so they can feel secure. There are many fears that can keep a mother up at night. There are many unknowns, and many scary things surrounding our families. At the same time as we can be honest and aware, even scared and vulnerable in private, our children need to see us leading bravely and courageously. 

Children’s sense of security comes from their parents. Children can be in very scary circumstances and feel safe and secure as long as they are in a warm, supportive relationship with their parents. Their anxieties and fears are much more dependent on us and how they perceive us, than they are on any external events.  Our children need us to project confidence and courage. When we exude strength, our children feel strong.


Often parents are afraid to act with courage. Sometimes we’re afraid of how our child will react if we lay down expectations, or reprimand them for something they did wrong. Sometimes we’re afraid that our children can’t withstand another no or disappointment. Sometimes, it’s not about our children, but rather we feel imposter syndrome. How can we make a brave decision when we feel like we’re still young and unsure of ourselves? Sometimes we don’t trust ourselves - what if I’m wrong, how can I make a decision when I don’t know for sure it is correct?All these are valid fears, but we need to deal with them privately, away from our children, and face our children with strength and confidence. They need to see that in us, they need bravery from us. 


Let’s go to the Parsha. Moshe Rabeinu is at the end of his life and he is preparing Bnai Yisrael for their next stage under the leadership of Yehoshua.

Devarim 31: 7-8

וַיִּקְרָ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה לִיהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו לְעֵינֵ֣י כׇל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָץ֒ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבוֹא֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע ה' לַאֲבֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם וְאַתָּ֖ה תַּנְחִילֶ֥נָּה אוֹתָֽם׃

וַה' ה֣וּא ׀ הַהֹלֵ֣ךְ לְפָנֶ֗יךָ ה֚וּא יִהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א יַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֣א יַעַזְבֶ֑ךָּ לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א וְלֹ֥א תֵחָֽת׃

Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and resolute, for it is you who shall go with this people into the land that Hashem swore to their fathers to give them, and it is you who shall apportion it to them.

And it is indeed Hashem who will go before you. [God] will be with you—and will not fail you or forsake you. Fear not and be not dismayed!”


Moshe is issuing a call for courage, but the interesting thing is that it didn’t happen in a private meeting in Moshe’s office. It was “leinei kol yisrael”, in sight of all of Israel. The Amek Davar says there are two aspects to the public call for courage depending on how you punctuate the sentence. Firstly that Moshe said this statement, “Be strong and courageous Yehoshua because you will be their leader” as the Jews watched him, and secondly that Moshe told Yehoshua, “You need to strengthen yourself in their eyes.” This to say that even if you don’t feel strong and bold privately, you must act courageously before them, because they need a leader who projects confidence.


This is a message for parents and anyone in a leadership position. Leadership requires courage. It means acting decisively and boldly, even when you don’t know that you are 100% correct. And it also means projecting an image of courage, so that the people looking up to us, seeking confidence in our confidence, can feel secure because to their eyes, it looks like we’ve got a handle on this complicated thing called life.


We don’t want our children to ever feel that they are too much for us to handle, that we don’t have what it takes to parent them. Even when we feel that way, we need to have the courage that Moshe told Yehoshua to acquire, we need to exude quiet confidence, an aura of courage that gives our children the message, “All is okay. I’m taking care of you.” We need to project courage and confidence in our children. I believe you are strong enough to handle this disappointment. I have faith in you - I’m not worried that you’re not up to the challenge. Our kids need to feel our confidence in them even when we may not feel it. L’einei kol Yisrael - in their eyes, we need to have courage.


This evening will be my Thriving With Teenagers webinar, (you can still register!). One of the big challenges many mothers experience in their children's adolescent years is a feeling of fear. When a three year old acts immaturely, we're fairly confident they'll outgrow the challenge and therefore we don't panic. When a fifteen year old acts immaturely it strikes fear in our hearts, "What if they never grow out of this?" Our teens need us to project calm confidence that they will grow and mature, and challenging adolescent years are not harbingers of their future. When they feel our courage, they are able to feel confident as well. This is the message Moshe Rabeinu gives Yehoshua and it is one relevant to parents and leaders throughout time.