A Parent’s Job

The past year of “engagement” simply flew by. I am writing this week’s blog at the start of the weekend of my son’s wedding. My first-born is getting married on Sunday.

Even as family members have started to arrive from out-of-town, a few of my son’s friends gathered at our home this evening. It was wonderful to see them all together joking, laughing, and telling stories. It’s been a long time since they all hung out here. There were friends from high school and from college; all grown up, getting along, and here to celebrate two of their own.  I’ve missed them. A lot.

As a parent, I sat, watched, listened, and kvelled. Given the rapidly approaching milestone event, I began to wonder and assess how my husband and I did as parents.

In the Talmud, Kiddushin 29a, we are told that a “father is bound in respect of his son, to circumcise, redeem, teach him Torah, take a wife for him, and teach him a craft. Some say, to teach him to swim too.” To fully understand this, some explanation is in order.

What is the significance of each of these obligations? Circumcise him: this is the way to welcome a baby boy into the Jewish tradition and covenant with God; the way Abraham did with Isaac. Check. Redeem him: first-born sons must be given to serve God or be redeemed. A ceremony called a pidyon haben, or “redemption of the firstborn son,” is held whereby the father redeems his son by paying a kohen (a priestly descendent of Aaron) five silver coins, thirty days after the baby’s birth. Check. Teach him Torah: a proper education and understanding of Jewish values is a must. Check. Teach him a craft (I’m taking the liberty of going a bit out of order here): help him find a career so that he can financially fend for himself. Thank goodness our son already is off the payroll! Check. Take a wife for him: help him perpetuate the value of m’dor l’dor — from generation to generation — by enabling him to get married and start his own family. Check. Why teach a son to swim too? “His life may depend on it.” A son must learn how to cope with a potentially difficult or life-threatening situation in his lifetime. Check.

So, given these parenting objectives, I confidently can claim that the basics have been attended to. In addition, we tried to wrap it all in love, understanding, and patience.

We’ve done our best. We went from birth to bar mitzvah and now to the wedding canopy. We are proud, thrilled, and looking forward to the next phase. (From what I understand, becoming grandparents is WAY more fun. And, though I’m not rushing them, I can’t wait!)  It’s been a great journey so far. Now it’s time for a long vacation.

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