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The Sukkah and My Son: The Sky’s the Limit

The Sukkah and My Son: The Sky’s the Limit

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My son is sitting here across from me in our sukkah, and I can’t believe that we are officially six months away from his bar mitzvah. I look straight into those big beautiful eyes of his—eyes that now meet mine. No longer does he look up at me. G‑d willing, in a short amount of time, he’ll have to tilt his head down to talk to me.

“My son, my firstborn, where does the time go?”

I remember 10 years ago when I picked him up from preschool. He used to run intoHe’s not a little child. He’s not an adult. my arms, excited to see me, wanting to be with me. Now I feel like I run after him. “Where are you going? Sit for a minute,” I tell him. Please G‑d, before I know it, I will watch his children running after him.

It’s confusing. This period of time called the teenage years, a period of time that I now only begin. It’s a time when I feel a bit like I’m in “no man’s” land—not here and not there. Or I should say he’s not here and not there. He’s not a little child. He’s not an adult. He’s not dependent, and yet he’s certainly not independent.

I thought that parenting took effort and patience before; I see now that I had no idea.

How much do I let go, and how much do I hold tight? When do I speak, and when do I keep quiet? In six months, on Passover, his obligations according to Jewish law will be as mandatory as mine. Is he a child? Is he an adult? He’s my son, my firstborn, and will always be so. I’m his mommy and will always be so.

I look at my son and I think of the past dozen years. The time and the effort, the love and the affection, the laughter and tears. Frustrations, challenges, falling and getting up. Twelve years my husband and I have spent investing and building, making mistakes and hopefully learning from them. And, of course, there’s so much more to invest and so much more to learn in the process of shaping a child into a grown man.

I sit in the sukkah, across from my son. My mind goes back to the week before when we built our sukkah in anticipation of this beautiful festival. The building of the sukkah. The building of a child. You do it with your entire being, body and mind, and when the holiday arrives, you fulfill the mitzvah like the raising of this child—with your entire being, body and mind.

I look up towards the sky, and my eyes fall upon the sechach, the roofing. It’s made of bamboo stalks and palm-tree branches. There has to be enough vegetation to keep out the sweltering sun. It keeps us cool; it protects. Like my job as a parent, sheltering my child from harm. Educating him so that he himself is aware of danger, and giving tools to help himself avoid or get away from it.

But the roof of the sukkah is temporary. If it’s permanent, then a sukkah is not a sukkah. At night, we get a glimpse of the stars and can see the sky between the branches. If I smother and try to protect him too much, I prevent him from growing—from expanding and reaching his potential. I sit in the sukkah and tell my son: “I’m here for you if you need me, and I’m giving you the space and room you need to expand and grow.”

I sit in the sukkah and realize that this is what it’s all about. It’s a balancing act of holding on and letting go.It’s a balancing act of holding on and letting go The balancing act of motherhood. A balancing act of loving your child so much that you encircle him with love and affection, and that you love him so much you make yourself flexible and let go.

It’s a balancing act that G‑d Himself teaches us when commanding us to dwell seven (eight outside of Israel) days in the sukkah. We dwell in this “hut” that’s like a home, but not. He commands us to build it to remind us, “I’m connecting to your entire being, body and soul. I created you, I took you out of Egypt [I carried you and bore you]. I gave you My Torah [I educate you and give you all the tools you need to live]. I love you. I protect you. I watch over you. And I’m giving you room to grow.”

I sit across from my son in the sukkah. I look into his eyes, and he flashes me a smile. My heart melts, and I raise my eyes to the Heavens. My eyes falling on the sechach. “Master of the Universe, help me to invest all that I have, my very being, body and mind, into raising this precious child. Give me the wisdom of finding the balance to know how and when to hold on and let go.”

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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