It was my granddaughter’s first day of playgroup. My daughter had prepared her well. They had packed her knapsack, including some of my granddaughter’s favorite comfort toys.
Yesterday, I listened as my daughter described how difficult this was for her. She was filled with uncertainty. Should she wait another year to enroll her, or would that just create more separation anxiety?
I was about to console her. To tell her that although right now she is consumed with sadness and doubt, these strong emotions will pass. One day, when her all-grown-up baby eagerly waves goodbye as she runs off to play with her friends, she will vaguely remember the emotions of this day and laugh at how far away it seems.
I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I remembered my own mother listening to me as I told her about my own inner turmoil as I sent off each of my children—first to playgroup, then to overnight camp, yeshivah or even a whole year away in seminary in Israel. She listened as I detailed my worries in each of my parenting dilemmas.
At every stage of my life, each time I felt frightened, nervous, overwhelmed and incapable of meeting a challenge, I’m sure my mother wanted to tell me: “Don’t worry, it will be alright. I know it feels so huge now, but it will pass.”
But she didn’t. She just quietly infused me with her confident warmth, compassion and understanding.
Because my mother knew what I am learning: as much as you want to help a person avoid their challenge, it doesn’t work. They need to work through every experience for themselves. They need to learn its lessons on their own.
At the end of the creation story in this week’s Torah portion, we read an interesting sentence which is also part of the Friday-night Kiddush.
“Then G‑d blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it He rested from all His work which He created to do.” (Gen 2:3)
The wording is curious. Why the need for the words “to do”? G‑d created our world, but to whom or what does the “to do” refer to?
The commentaries explain that G‑d created the world intentionally unfinished, so that humanity can be actively involved in bringing it to its intended goal, to become a home for G‑d. (Bereishit Rabah 11:6)
Each of us has areas in this world which we need to finish. Each of us has areas of our personalities that we need to develop, expand, stretch and improve. While we can give advice or share wisdom with another, none of us can gift another person with the experiences that they need undergo.
Only in “doing” the work that we were meant to do, and experiencing the challenges and growing situations of our lives, do we each partake in making our world a home for G‑d.