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Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

First Time Parents

Yechiel Shaffer

Early on in the story of human creation, the parent-child relationship is presented in a challenging frame of reference:

בראשית פרשת בראשית פרק ב

כד) על־כן יעזב־איש את־אביו ואת־אמו ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד

24) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife until they become one.

The Baal HaTurim

Immediately after creation of the world, the Torah establishes the complexity of the Parent/Child relationship. The natural order is for a child to move away from their parents and build their own, independent lives. However much we would like to rely on our parents for safety and security, there comes a moment in each of our lives when we have to move away from our parents homes, perhaps we can call this our לך־לך moment. The Ba'alHaTurim draws our attention to the verse which immediately follows our above quoted verse:

כה) ויהיו שניהם ערומים האדם ואשתו ולא יתבששו

25) Both of them were unclothed, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

The command for husband and wife to be one is juxtaposed to the description of Adam and his wife as two individuals.The Torah commands us to become one, we are not directed to be one. This language is, perhaps, similar to the American notion of the pursuit of happiness rather then being happy.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Adam and his wife are not embarrassed of their nakedness. In a non-literal examination of this verse (25), perhaps this is an encouragement to feel no shame in facing the challenges of Shalom Bayit (matrimonial harmony). This is accentuated by the deep sense of satisfaction and unabashed joy Adam and his wife express in their noble mission, the pursuit of matrimonial harmony. Adam and his wife recognize that at the present time they are both physically and spiritually naked, there are family values they need to work on, and they are not ashamed of their current status or the noble mission that has been placed before them.

The Malbim Click here for more info on R' Meïr Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Wisser
The Malbim Click here for more info on R' Meïr Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Wisser

The Malbim makes a brilliant remark. When discussing man's new mission, finding a wife and beginning a family, he is referred to as an 'איש'. For the first time Adam is no longer related to the word אדמה. He is no longer reminded of his earthly beginnings... now with a mission hes becomes a man, an 'איש'.

The name 'Adam' reminds humanity (us) of our humble, lowly start. Initially, we were formed, by G-d, from the dust of the earth. It is only when we are empowered to create our own families are we bestowed the title of איש.

As the Baal HaTurim point out though, immediately after receiving this new title, we are returned to being simple old 'Adam'.

As we begin our lives as parents we often look to the future.

What will our child be when he is older? How can we give our daughter the best education?

Our first introduction to parenthood in the Torah establishes for us an important methodology in parenthood. It is important to look forward to become an איש and אשה, the more you look ahead the more you need to remind yourself of the foundations that were set beneath your feet. You can never take the earthliness out of Adam.

The wisdom with which we were raised ultimately lay the groundwork for how we will parent.

Question for further discussion:

1) What practical methodologies did our parents use in raising us?

2) How do we want to deliberately approach our children in raising them?

3) Does there have to be a distance, as the Torah suggests, between child and parent when the child is to begin their own journey into parenthood?

4) How do we fuse the parenting attitudes imparted on us, to one unified approach to parenting?