Dear readers,

As the youngest in my family, I always considered myself fortunate to have a special relationship with my parents. (Though I think each of my siblings feels the same!)

More than a lifetime wouldn’t suffice to repay my parents for their many gifts—from material to emotional to spiritual. Countless practical lessons and even more numerous life lessons: what was said, and sometimes what was not.

But if I had to choose their one gift that has most impacted my life, I know what it would be. They have given me the gift of a relationship with G‑d.

Hold on: let me explain. I don’t mean that my parents introduced G‑d into my life—which they did, from the first tender wakeup in the morning to the blessings recited on food, making G‑d ever-present.

I also don’t mean that they taught me what faith in G‑d means—which they demonstrated throughout life’s many ups and downs.

What I mean is far simpler.

By giving me a gift of a beautiful relationship with them, as my parents, they taught me, too, what a relationship with G‑d means.

Our earliest experiences often shape how we look at our world. If our authority figures are severely punitive, that may become how we view all hierarchy. On the other hand, if from our youngest years we are surrounded by an ever-present love, we may look more lovingly at our world. Though we aren’t ever stuck in any paradigm, it takes work to stretch ourselves beyond our natural defaults.

So, when I think of the infinite love, warmth, direction and authority that my parents have showed me, it easily transfers to a love- and awe-inspired relationship with my Creator.

And maybe that’s why I appreciate that this new Jewish month is called Av, Father. Interestingly, other months seem to have more significant name associations: Nissan, the month of nissim (miracles); the High Holidays are in Tishrei, new beginnings (tishrei is the Aramaic word for “let it begin”). What relevance does fatherhood have to this sad month, in which we commemorate the destruction of the first and second Temples, and when some of the most terrifying events in our history occurred?

Av is the month when we reached our lowest point as a nation, when we can easily feel deserted and alone. And perhaps that is precisely why this month needs to be called “Father.”

Only a father can you look you in the eye with a tenderness that says you are straying and it’s time to return. Only a parent can guide you in a better direction, when you know you are “right” but it isn’t working. Only a parent can punish without alienating, his love hidden but still apparent.

This Friday begins the month of Menachem Av, the comforting Father. May each of us finally feel our Creator’s loving, everlasting embrace.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW