"You do not get to make your children's choices for them. You can only choose how you will act when their choices are already made."
Those words, which appear in the afterword of Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben's manual for parents of adult children involved in interfaith marriage, summarize in two sentences the crux of his entire book.
I have three sisters, two older and one younger. My youngest sister, Debbie, was born when I was 8 years old. In the months leading up to her birth, I remember clearly the anxiety I felt over the possibility that it might turn out to be a boy and I might end up with a brother.
Draped in a deep, earthen-red shukah, adorned with circles of brightly beaded necklaces and head-to-toe with body paint made from ochre and sheep fat, the Masai warrior keeps a silent vigil in the midst of the relentless equatorial heat of East Africa. His life is a mission from his god, Ngai, to protect and care for his herd of cattle and the earth itself.
Three months ago, at age 19, my daughter made a decision that has changed her life forever. All of us make them, although often we have no idea at the time just how profoundly we will be changed.
When I was a junior in college, I spent the year in Jerusalem, studying at the Hebrew University. That year in Israel, more than any other single experience, determined the direction my life would take. I found myself taking every Judaic studies class I could, and I loved them so much that I decided to go to rabbinic school and spend my life immersed in the excitement and meaning of sacred Jewish texts.
When I was 16, I was elected president of my synagogue youth group. I will never forget that feeling of euphoria that accompanied the victory. But I also remember how I felt the very next day after the excitement and thrill of the victory had already started to wear off. I was suddenly struck by an overwhelming feeling of fear and near panic. "Oh my God," I remember thinking, "now I am the one responsible for whether this entire program and youth group is successful or not. How am I going to know what to do?"
God spoke to me once when I was 12 years old. Although it happened years ago, I remember it as clearly as if it were today. Revelation is a tricky thing. I am reminded of the Midrash that when God gave the commandments at Mt. Sinai, God speaks to the Children of Israel in a divine voice so powerful they are too terrified to hear anything beyond the very first word of the first commandment. Since even that was too much to bear, God arranged it so they only heard the first letter of the first word. The first word is Anohi ("I am"), and the first letter is an alef, which is silent. So the rabbis teach us that what the Jewish people heard when God spoke was the Divine Silence of the mitzvot. Within that Divine Silence, each woman and man experienced her or his own unique divine revelation.
I grew up the only boy in a family with three girls. Although this definitely didn't make me an expert on women, it did give me a firsthand knowledge of how women live.
A few summers ago, we went on a driving trip tothe Grand Canyon. I remember one particular day, as I stood near sometourists high up on the edge of the canyon, and looked down into adeep and beautiful gorge that seemed to stretch on forever. Amid allthe "Oohs" and "Aahs," I overheard one of the tourists remark to hisguide, "Wow, I sure would have liked to be here when this was beingmade." The park ranger turned to the man and quietly replied, "Youare."