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Intercultural Adoption & You

Intercultural Adoption & You

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There is much brouhaha presently about intercultural adoption (I wonder why). As well there should be. Studies have shown that plucking a child out of his or her native environment and culture is very traumatizing for the child. From a very young age, we become accustomed to language, tastes, smells, sounds and sights. All of these senses help create our environment, our home. As impoverished as it may have been, we miss and yearn for home.

Does this mean that we should never carry out such adoptions? At times, the very life of the child may depend on it. But even when an intercultural adoption is justified or required, there must be concern for the proper transitioning of the child. The adoptive parents are advised to learn about the child's native language, culture, food and music. They are urged to create an environment that has some elements of the child's native land.

You're not adopting the child - the child is adopting you! Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is that you are not adopting the child, rather, the child is adopting you!

This brings to mind another type of adoption. It involves a child from a more distant place, a more challenging journey and a more extreme culture difference than anything you might find in the evening news.

I'm talking about you. You don't remember? You mean your parents didn't tell you that you were adopted?

You have a soul, a neshama. This soul--your soul—comes from a very lofty place, where it is one with G‑d. It is completely self aware, and aware of the oneness of G‑d of which it is an inseparable part. It has no doubts, no worries, no conflicts, and no bills to pay... Does this sound like anywhere on Earth? It's not. (Not yet, at least.)

From this deep and lofty place of origin, the soul is adopted by your family and your body. It descends through the spiritual network, until, upon birth, it becomes firmly set in your body on planet earth. The adoption papers have gone through! Mazal Tov.

Imagine the culture chasm! Imagine the differences in language and awareness, in sounds and sights, as the soul is transported into this new dimension, into to your clueless, dull, unaware body.

But we are given ways to transition our soul, to soften the descent, and acclimate the soul to our body and our material existence.

You don't remember? You mean your parents didn't tell you that you were adopted? Language – Increase your knowledge of Torah, the G‑dly language that your soul understands.

Food and Aromas – Although in the spiritual state, the soul does not eat or smell, down here, it does need food to remain in contact with the body. And there are foods whose smells and tastes help it remember its home. The kiddush wine, challah, and other Shabbat foods, matzah on Passover, the smell of the etrog or the myrtle branch on Sukkot, all bring back memories. Certainly, the soul can only tolerate kosher foods—foods that comply with the rules of her spiritual milieu, the Torah.

Sounds – The sounds of prayer and Torah study are quite familiar to her. The shofar on Rosh Hashanah really gets her going. Jewish songs that praise the love of her life and speak of the mitzvot that we do remind her of the choruses of angels and souls above.

These adaptations might seem difficult at times, but we must remember what our soul is going through, the home she has sacrificed to become part of our lives. And when we make the effort, an interesting thing happens. As many an adoptive parent will attest, you may think that you are really going to change the life of a child, but soon you find that you are the one that has been transformed....

Rabbi Yisrael Rice is the Executive Director of Chabad of Marin, Marin County, California and Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Learning Institute. He is the creator of the "Infinite Within" seminar and author of "The Kabbalah of Now."
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Melzora Towne June 4, 2014

Can I please be adopted by a nice Jewish couple? I am 43 years old, and an orphan since I was 27, I had no real religious upbringing, but have been drawn to the Tanakh for the last 13 years. I am married with two children. My husband does not mind that I want to be Jewish and even though he does not believe in any G-d he is still a very spiritual person and even said he would be willing to go through all the conversion steps if it would help me to become Jewish in every sense of the word. My son says I am Jewish my daughter takes after her father but always calls me "My Jewish Mother" I live over 100 miles from the nearest Chabad Center, and the nearest Synagogue is about 90 miles away. I feel like a lost puppy, would someone please help me find a forever home? Reply

Marcia Naomi Berger. LCSW San Rafael, CA March 21, 2010

Intercultural Adoption and You I appreciate the thoughtful message. Now to actualize it; that is the hard part but well worth striving for.Thank you! Reply

Neshama Simcha Gainesville, FL November 9, 2006

Intercultural Adoption
This writeup very well describes the geirut who adopts and is adopted by the Jewish community. Every point describes what we feel, how we must change, learning new words, new rituals, a new lifestyle. thank you. I will be sharing this with many of my fellow converts. :-) Reply

Jeff Houston, TX November 1, 2006

Soul Tremors Just Beautiful... Reply

Anonymous San Diego, CA October 30, 2006

touches the heart Touches the heart. Thank You. Reply

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