As with all parenting moments, we can pray and plan and prepare, but then we must let go
he clock chimes its magical 72-minute marker, and I bentsh licht, ushering in one of the happiest days of the year — Simchas Torah — and I combat the darkness rising from within.
Troubled thoughts roil in my brain, and my breath becomes shorter, ragged. Even though he won’t tell me, I know that my ten-year-old Meir is very concerned. He wonders: Who will dance with me this Simchas Torah? Will I stand outside the circle or within? Will I feel like I fit in with everyone else, or will I feel strange and different?
Harnessing the energy of my worries, I passionately beseech the only One Who truly understands loneliness. I send up my list of anxieties to the One Who can hear the silent cry of the Boy Who Comes to Hakafos Without a Father.
As a single mother, I often walk the tightrope of keeping my own sentiments under wraps while helping my children navigate their complicated world. I turn from the safety of my tefillos and tears, lock them deep inside, and paste on a smile for the sake of my children.
We head to shul.
The cozy atmosphere of the shul provides a welcome relief from the unseasonably blustery evening.
Ana Hashem, Hoshia Na....
The rav’s words ring out, and I watch Meir’s small frame hang back.
As with all parenting moments, we can pray and plan and prepare, but then we must let go. Our children must face their own realities, bitter as they may be.
This night of Simchas Torah is no different.
So I release my son — figuratively and emotionally — into the maelstrom, watching as my precious little boy cautiously dips his little toe into the big, wide sea of men.
The first hakafah begins, and my maternal angst thrums throughout my body.
All the memes I saw before Yom Tov, advocating to include those little boys who show up to shul without their fathers — have the men here seen those? Will they notice my little boy?
I blink, and Meir is nowhere to be seen. He is swept up in a swell of dancing men and bochurim, blending into the crowd.
I hadn’t given enough credit to the venerated rav, to this wonderful shul.
Meir surfaces eventually, and comes over to me. “Ma,” he says, exhilarated. “The bochurim were fighting over me by Moshe Emes!”
Another hakafah. The inclusive circle of shul members breaks apart, to be replaced by something — could it be? — even more magical. The rav is now dancing in the center, his face a fire of joy. Arms open in invitation, he’s surrounded by all the shul’s little boys. They dance, whirling around in the center circle, those who came with fathers and those who didn’t, joined as one.
I breathe in the beauty of this magnificent experience.
On our way home, Meir delightfully explains to me the difference between the way men and bochurim stamp their feet. “See, Ma, bochurim stamp their feet much harder, like this. And I” — he glows with pride — “am like one of the bochurim.”
I can’t sleep. My earlier angst is replaced by overwhelming gratitude to Hashem. My little boy lives with so much loneliness, so much struggle. As a boy without a father living in his home, he feels so different from his peers.
But tonight, he belonged.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 862)
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