Exhausted, spent, at the end of a stressful day, craving a moment’s quiet.

But tonight, more than ever before, he insists on wrapping his little arms around my legs, staring upwards with large brown eyes pleading for yet more attention, as if I hadn’t spent the past two hours giving him rides on my shoulders, building Lego houses together, animating suppertime . . .

Doesn’t he see that I am exhausted? And there is still over an hour until bedtime . . .

“Pick me up!” he insists, “I wanna go on your shoulders again!” “I wanna ride!” “I wanna . . .”

Doesn’t he see that I am exhausted?

I try distracting, reasoning, ignoring, pleading with him. Just leave me be for a few minutes, please!

Eventually I feel sufficiently irritated. Perhaps I should erupt, driving him cowering into the world of toy cars and Lego garages where boys his age rightfully thrive. No, that would prove detrimental to both of us.

He is a reasonable kid, I figure. I don’t have to actually get upset—warning him should do the trick.

“You are making Daddy upset with your kvetching. Please let go of me, leave me alone, and play nicely with your toys. Otherwise, Daddy is going to get very upset with you.”

Instantly, he redoubles his kvetching.

However, now he is really tugging at me, clinging like a lemur. Hey, I can’t even step forward!

“Daddy, daddy!” he insists.

Wow! Can he actually be that stubborn or that resolved to ruin my evening?

A little surprised, I bend down, looking him straight in the eyes . . . and immediately notice an intense aurora of fear playing in my son’s bright eyes.

Confused, I glance around for the culprit—what made him so afraid all of a sudden?

“Are you scared?” I ask gently.

He silently confirms.

“What’s making you scared?”

He replies by continuing to stare up at me wide-eyed.

My son was scared. This time, however, he was scared of meI sense the concentration in his clinging, and then it dawns: my son is terrified of me!

“Are you scared because I said I was going to get upset with you?” I asked incredulously.

With a whimper, he constricts his python’s embrace of my knees.

I’d like him to cooperate, perhaps even to understand me, but certainly not to be terrified! Suddenly, my exhaustion lifts, all irritation evaporates.

“Don’t worry, Daddy is not going to get upset with you,” I instinctively reassure the pair of us. Silently berating myself, I resolve to find better ways to manage similar situations in the future.

We hug each other, and I replay the scene in my mind:

My son was scared. This time, however, he was scared of me. And he had no one else to turn to. How did he react, where did he turn for reassurance? He clung to me, his father, the object of his present fear! He was afraid, so he clung to me. In the minute it had taken me to identify the source of his distress, he grew ever more alarmed, and therefore clung to me even tighter! To his young mind there was no contradiction, just the powerful expression of two basic instincts.

With my newfound sensitivity in parenting came a spiritual realization:

We Jews also have a Father.

We love Him and He loves us, but there are times, especially during exile, when we greatly fear Him.

We fear elements of His unfathomable road to destiny that demands terrible suffering and persecution.

We are dismayed at His patience with the wicked, helping them prosper greatly at the expense of the innocent and upright.

“I shall surely hide My face on that day . . .” Sometimes He just plain terrifies us.

But we also know that we have no one else to turn to. He is all that is. And He is our Father.

Nothing can compare to the intensity of our attachment when we encounter unfortunate cause to fear Him. Instinctively, desperately, we cling to Him tighter than ever, calling to Him from the depths of our existence, “Daddy, Daddy!”

Some abandon their gods when they encounter great misfortune. Others sell their most treasured ideals or morals to buy their way out of a dangerous impasse. But throughout history we, the Jewish people, have collectively as well as in a staggering plurality of individual sagas attached ourselves to G‑d most intensely—precisely in times of harm and fear.

Counterintuitive as it may first appear, the suffering we know and trust is orchestrated by G‑d, which serves to draw us closer to Him.

Although we believe, we can not understandIn moments of tragedy and horror, when our prayers go unanswered, the enemy shrieks victory and blasphemy, G‑d granting power to those who seek our harm—we respond by seeking G‑d ever harder, clinging to Him with unshakable determination.

When He hides His face we grasp His “legs,” the embodiments of supernal will that extend downwards into the physical realm in the form of Torah, prayer, and kind deeds, with renewed dedication and conviction.

When we fear Him most, we run to His embrace.

Not because of a particularly convincing logic or demonstration. Although we believe, we can not understand. Despite our inner sense and received traditions, we fail to see. Nor are we entirely motivated by the tender embrace and eternal reconnection that will eventually come.

Rather, our deepest, irrepressible instinct tells us that He is our loving Father and we are His little bright-eyed child.