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Aug 1 2014

My Family is About to Get Bigger

By at 1:18 pm

starry-night

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat D’varim. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

It’s officially my due date with baby #2, and I can feel the days of Sylvie’s only-child status slipping away.

Among all the nesting and projects (and the unexpected drama of my husband’s acute appendicitis last week–thank goodness he’s healing well, and thank goodness we had family in town waiting for the birth who could help out!) I am noticing how this time feels different from the first.

My own experience is different: This time I know how to change a diaper, and in addition to the general anticipation of birth, there’s the specific hope and uncertainty of trying for a VBAC at home. But even more, I’m noticing how this time around I’m not just thinking about me. This baby’s arrival will be a big change for Sylvie too. I’m excited for her to have a sibling, I’m nervous about balancing two kids, and of course I’m wondering how she’ll deal with suddenly having a younger brother.

(I can’t quite decide if this adorable and slightly disturbing video is an older sister best case scenario, or not.)

Of course I can’t control Sylvie’s response. I can only play it cool, not make too big a deal of it, and see what happens.

In this week’s Torah portion, D’varim, Moses is also preparing the Children of Israel for a major transition. It’s the beginning of the Torah’s fifth and final book, and Moses is getting ready to die and leave the people he’s been leading for an entire generation.

In preparation, Moses tells the people the history of their wanderings, with snapshots of all the places the Israelites have stopped in the desert, highlights along the way, and moments, both difficult and triumphant.

At first I thought this was sort of like the ancient equivalent of the slideshows people make for their kids’ bar or bat mitzvahs. But then I came upon this surprising moment, mixed in among the place names, where Moses takes a break from the details of the Israelites’ wanderings and gets personal in a way we rarely see in public, not to mention in the Torah. Moses frankly reveals his vulnerabilities and mixed feelings as a parent to the Children of Israel:

I said to you, “I cannot bear the burden of you by myself. The Lord your God has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousand fold, and bless you as He promised you. How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering! Pick from each of your tribes men who are wise, discerning, and experienced, and I will appoint them as your heads.”

I love how honest and raw and practical Moses is here. Rather than pretending to be the perfect parent/leader, looking back on the past with only sweet feelings, Moses is straight up with the Israelites. On one hand, he loves them, he knows they are miraculous, and wants only blessings for them. At the same time, with “the burden, and the bickering,” they are super hard to deal with in the moment. And even in a big public speech at the end of his life, Moses doesn’t gloss over that difficulty.

And so, no matter how much he loves them, Moses cannot lead them alone. He needs help, and he needs to teach them more self-sufficiency, and in fact this combination is part of being a good leader, or parent.

The stars in the sky. The burden and the bickering. And the need for help and support. We’re all heading into this transition together–that’s what it means to be a family.

To read the previous posts in our Torah MOMentary series, click here.

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