Parents must realize that adult children still need them, and be wise enough to guide them properly
“And Yaakov lived in the land of Mitzrayim 17 years….” (Bereishis 47:28)
he Midrash derives from the wording here that Yaakov lived out his final years enjoying the nachas of watching his burgeoning family’s growth.
After a lifetime beset with challenges and vicissitudes, Yaakov was surely deserving of such pleasure. Yet we know what the Midrash says happened after the abduction of Dinah and the debacle of Shechem. Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility, and Hashem immediately brought upon him the test of Yosef. Rashi explains that the righteous shouldn’t request tranquility in This World.
Surely, though, Yaakov wasn’t seeking peaceful pampering. He yearned for tranquility so he could devote himself completely to avodas Hashem. What’s wrong with that noble desire?
Furthermore, apparently Yaakov did enjoy a period of blissful tranquility now at the end of his life. What changed? (Rabbi Doniel Staum, Stam Torah)
It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.
It’s the culmination of decades of dreams, of whispered tefillos and silent tears. It’s the apex of nachas.
But it also means loneliness. You walk past dark bedrooms, finally emptied of the clutter that irked you for so long, and are surprised at the pang you feel. You’ve labored so long, invested so much, only to be left behind as your children take off for new vistas.
When my girls got married, I was caught between these two extremes. I felt tremendous gratitude toward Hashem for having merited such a zechus, but an aching void as my best friends for the last 20 years flew off to their bright futures.
But then came the phone calls. “Mommy, what was Bubby’s blueberry cake recipe?”
“How do I know if the baby’s teething ?”
“Help! Cleaning raw chicken is gross!”
The ties that bound us were still tight, albeit spanning a distance.
Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l offers a novel interpretation. Just prior to leaving home, Yosef, the second to youngest of Yaakov’s sons, was 17 years old, practically an adult. All of Yaakov’s older sons had developed into righteous young men. Yaakov felt his children had passed the stage when he needed to educate them, and assumed he was now free to embark separately on his own limud. Yet it was then that Hashem sent the test of Yosef. A parent may never sit back and say he’s done educating his children. The medium may change, but the responsibility lasts for life.
Based on this, we see why there’s no complaint against Yaakov’s years of tranquility at the end of his life in Egypt. Throughout those years, the aged Yaakov channeled his remaining energies to guide his children. The pasuk says, “When Yaakov finished instructing his sons, he expired, and was gathered to his people.” Those years may may have been relatively calm, but Yaakov utilized them to direct his progeny until the end.
Last winter my daughters and I took a girls’ day out. We hit an escape room (I let them free me), ran a scavenger hunt in Ikea (seriously budgeted), and then parked ourselves on the beach in sweatshirts and scarves, snuggled together, oblivious to the light rain that pattered around us. (Winter beaches are the best!)
In the evening, we went out to supper, a final hour of togetherness before we went back to our own lives.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski writes (It’s Not as Tough as You Think): Parents become depressed when faced with empty-nest syndrome because they don’t feel useful anymore. But they’re making a great mistake. Parents are always useful. The nature of their function may change; no more diapers or braces, but the value of their involvement and roles as educators increases.
As Mark Twain quipped, “The older I got, the smarter my father became.”
Parents must realize that adult children still need them, and be wise enough to guide them properly. After all, who will be the parents of our children, if not we?
We chatted and giggled and schmoozed, and discussed topic after topic, secure and comfortable in the role we shared as frum women, each establishing her own home. The air was redolent with the scents of coffee and melted cheese, garlic and butter, but the warmth in my heart went way beyond the cozy atmosphere. I was surrounded by my girls and we were connected to each other, both at that moment and later when we’d part.
We had the best of times.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 825)
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