Post-flood parenting
11 Oct 2018

Post-flood parenting

Dear friends and families,

A conversation I had with my five-year-old last night when I was putting him to bed has stayed with me long after he drifted off to sleep. We’re lying on the bed together, going over what happened in each of our days, and after we sang the Shma together, I told him: “You know, Hashem loves you.”

He’s quiet for a second, and then says: “Even if you’re bad?”

“Does a Mommy and a Tatty not love you if you’re bad? We always love you, regardless of how you behave.”

This exchange with my son helped me understand something in this week’s Torah portion, parshat Noach, which I want to share with you.

Parshat Noach tells the story of the world pre-flood and post-flood. Pre-flood, the world is rotten to the core, consumed by violence and bloodshed, and Hashem throws in the towel; it’s an understatement to say that things are not exactly working out the way He wanted, and He presses the reset button:

“When God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, God said to Noach, ‘I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them; I am about to destroy them with the earth… for My part, I am about to bring the Flood — waters upon the earth — to destroy all flesh under the sky in which there is breath of life; everything on earth shall perish.'”

The flooding begins, and “on that same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken open, and the windows of heaven were opened.”  A full year later, after the rains stop and the water subsides, Noach and his family, having exhausted their supply of Gravol and desperate for some fresh air, exit the Ark. Noach builds an altar and brings offerings “of every pure beast and of every pure bird” (of which he had been instructed to bring additional numbers into the ark). Then:

“And Hashem smelled the sweet savor, and Hashem said in his heart: ‘I will not again curse the earth any more because of man, for the impulse of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done… For as long as the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.'”

For Hashem, and for us, this is now the way the world works. As bad as things may get, regardless of our deeds and actions, there is no going back to His pre-flood model, where he can destroy everything. And as the many Torah stories in the weeks and months ahead will show, and which we will learn together at HFS, the following is the new model:

Ribono shel Olam Du bizt doch unzer fotter un mir zeinen daineh kinder – Master of the world- You are our Father and we are Your Children. Surely when Your children suffer, You suffer too.

If you’re a parent of a young child, you get the following instinctively – our kids can have the worst, most beastly of days, the kind of days that make you want to pull your hair out; we can fight, we can scream and lose our temper with them, go full on ugly with them, they’ll cry themselves to sleep screaming that they want a new dad, and you go to sleep hating yourself, thinking you are the Worst. Parent. Ever…. And in the morning, they shuffle in in their little pyjamas, and they cuddle next to you in bed, and it’s all OK. It’s a new day, all is forgiven, and all the love is right there again, burning with the same intensity as always.  You move forward – as a family.

I bless us always to remember this.

Shabbat Shalom u’mevorach,

Mar Abba